Music is something that virtually everyone enjoys. Music is such a big part of global culture, however, its popularity is something that the majority of the population doesn’t understand. Music theory is not very widely understood by the population, but deeper than that, there is science behind our enjoyment.
PBS had an interview with Daniel Levitin that covered this subject. Daniel Levitin is the author of, “Your Brain on Music”, a book that dives deep into the science of musical enjoyment on a neurological level. This interview discusses the history of science in music, starting with Gestalt psychologists in the 1890s. The findings have varied over the years, but a general idea of the studies is that liking music comes from a combination of all the aspects, beat, rhythm, key, pitch, and everything in between. The brain makes connections between these specific aspect combinations, and memories in life, adding to our overall enjoyment of the music.
A quote that well summarizes this interview comes from the third paragraph:
“There are a lot of different factors that go into our emotional appreciation of music. Some of it is the memories we have of a particular song… Some of it has to do with just the beat, the pulse… We do know that listening to music releases certain neurochemicals. If you listen to music that you enjoy, it releases dopamine, a so-called ‘feel-good hormone’. It can also release prolactin, the comforting hormone that’s associated with mothers lactating and feeding their infants. There’s another hormone called oxytocin that’s the so-called ‘trust hormone.'”
As a whole, music can communicate so much more than speech or writing. It conveys emotional information that’s very nuanced, and we as humans are sensitive to that. Music is able to communicate the dynamics of human emotion in a simple way. Because of this emotional communication, the brain releases hormones promoting happiness, comfort, and connection, which all make us enjoy our favorite songs that much more.