Why is music so powerful and moving?
If you’ve never had a feeling of deep, intense emotion after listening to music, then you’re probably not human. Or maybe your soul was stolen by a dementor.
Music has always played an important role in our lives – from tribal rituals to modern concerts. It’s the one thing that can unite people across language barriers, cultures, and time zones. But what exactly makes music so powerful? Let’s find out…
The Science Behind It
Ah yes, science! That thing we all pretend we understand but really have no clue about.
Well folks, it turns out there is actual scientific evidence behind why music can make us feel things so intensely. When we listen to music that resonates with us emotionally (e.g., sad songs when we’re going through heartbreak), our brain releases a hormone called dopamine which triggers pleasure and reward centers in the brain (cue happy dance).
But wait…there’s more! The University of Helsinki conducted a study on over 2000 participants where they found that certain types of chills caused by listening to music are actually associated with structural differences in the brain (mind blown). Apparently these differences are linked to enhanced communication between different regions of the brain related to auditory processing and emotional regulation.
In other words, when we get goosebumps while listening to Adele belt out “Someone Like You”, it’s because our brains are wired specifically for these kinds of moments (suck it evolution naysayers!).
The Feeling Factor
Okay okay…so there might be some basic scientific explanations as to how music affects us emotionally…but let’s be honest here – those clinical interpretations don’t quite do justice as to why certain types of music just hit differently (and no I’m not talking about K-Pop).
Have you ever come across a song or artist that just gets you? You’re not alone. According to a 2010 study, people prefer music that reflects their own personality traits and helps them reaffirm their sense of self (how’s that for narcissism?!?).
Music has this ability to speak directly to our souls (yep, I went there). It can articulate feelings that we may not even be able to put into words ourselves. And the best part – it makes us feel seen and heard by someone who doesn’t even know us (so take that emotionally unintelligent ex-boyfriend!).
The Cultural Connection
If you really want to see how powerful music can be, go watch an Irishman sing “The Fields of Athenry” or a Japanese woman dance a traditional fan dance while playing the shamisen (trust me on this one…go do it now!).
Music is so much more than just something pretty to listen to. It holds immense cultural significance in communities all around the world. From African tribes using rhythmic drumming during important ceremonies, Australian aboriginals communicating through songlines, or American slaves singing spirituals as a form of resistance against oppression (real talk folks) – music has helped shape our history and culture for centuries.
And think about your own life – isn’t there certain songs or genres that remind you of specific times or places? Maybe it’s listening to jazz with your grandfather or hearing country music at every family barbecue…these connections we associate with certain types of music are what make them truly powerful (and sometimes painfully nostalgic).
So why is it that some simple sounds strung together have such power over human emotion?
Maybe we’ll never fully understand it…maybe it’s meant to remain some kind of cosmic wonderment only explained by magical unicorns (okay maybe not magic unicorns but something cool like fire-breathing sloths??).
Either way, we can all agree that music has a unique ability to move us in ways we never thought possible. It holds the power to transport us back in time, connect with strangers on a profound level, or just make us feel good after a crappy day (and let’s face it…2020 was full of those).
So next time you put your headphones in or tune into your favorite radio station…take a moment to appreciate the immense value this art form brings into our lives. And then cue up some 90s boy bands and sing your heart out (no judgement here).