Blasting your favorite song on the highest volume through your speaker, restarting a track before it even ended or re-discovering a song you once loved but totally forgot about. If these are the type of things that can make your day, then you might appreciate music as much as I do. Music is everywhere and is an integral part of most people’s lives, so once in a while, we should stop and appreciate its existence. This is why this article is entirely devoted to music and its impact.
Killing Me Softly With His Song – The Emotion-Inducing Power of Music
Thinking about my own everyday music consumption it seems easier to list the times my most recently created playlist is not playing. I have become so used to constantly listening to music that it has become a routine to open my Spotify first thing in the morning, like a reflex.
In some instances, it might only be background music I listen to while studying or hanging out with a friend. But whenever I actively crave the sound of certain songs or come across a new song that is just so good that I cannot stop playing it on repeat, I am struck by how the sound of music can have such a powerful effect on its listener.
Music can put you in a euphoric state, make you hyped for a party during pre-drinks or remind you of the memories you made last summer with your friends. It can be a comfort, escape or distraction in times of low spirits. Nonetheless, it can equally achieve the polar opposite as music is often used to make us feel sad. This occurs most notably in movies or tv shows where the death of your favorite character is made ten times more dramatic by the music.
From whatever angle you see it, there is no question that music has the ability to convey an array of emotions. At least that is what many people would agree upon, as many will have at some point in their life felt something because of the lyrics, melody or beat of a certain song.
I Don’t Belong in This Club – Being Resistant to Music’s Effect
However, for some, this article will be in no aspect relatable. More precisely for approximately 5 per cent of the population, music has never been a source of any emotion. This is due to what is called musical anhedonia, an insensibility to any effects of music and a general indifference towards it. Interviews with people with this neurological condition reveal that it will regularly affect one’s social life, from creating feelings of seclusion to actually preventing relationships from forming.
These testimonies prove that music plays an important role by showing just how essential music is for the vast majority of people and how deeply anchored it is in our society. Music’s effects are not limited to the individual but even extend to our social interactions and, in this sense, shape our way of participating in society.
Also, musical anhedonia highlights the subjectivity of experiencing music, as is arguably the case with every form of art. Although the sentence “I don’t really like music” might be rather rare, what you probably hear more frequently is people expressing their dislike towards certain genres, artists or specific songs.
My Taste in Music Is Your Face – Shaping Your Music Library
One’s music taste can be quite complex.
People’s taste in music can be as different as their choice of pizza (who likes tuna on their pizza?!). But what is it exactly that shapes what our Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year looks like?
The psychology behind music preference has been subject to a considerable amount of studies.. Especially the affiliation of personality traits to certain music genres is a point of focus here. Most of this research relies on the concept of the Big Five, which incorporates five key traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Results show that people who are very much open to new experiences especially like rock, heavy metal and alternative music, whereas those who listen to upbeat and more conventional music are most often outgoing and cheerful. If you are forgiving and talkative you might be inclined to listen to some rap songs, electronica or soul music.
Of course, like everything these days, music preference can also be explained by star signs. Although I don’t really share the recent astrology obsession (sue me), the music preference based on my sign was at least to some degree accurate. Because I am an air sign, I like electronic music, the earth signs, however, like their music more sensual, R&B or Jazz.
Another seemingly plausible explanation is your social environment. Not only did your parents decide for *hopefully only* some years of your life what you wore, ate and when you had to go to bed, apparently, they also had a say in what music you would listen to when you grow up. So, the music you listened to as a child sitting in your parents’ car determined to some degree what you now listen to as a young adult.
These are just a selection of factors that affect what song you request from the DJ but it goes to show that the background to one’s music taste can be quite complex. For some, the inclination to listen to a certain genre over another might not be something to question. Afterall, if you like the music, what does it matter where this liking comes from? However, music preferences can, just as it is influenced by your social environment, determine what social milieu you engage with and be thus a decisive factor for some people’s life.
Music Sounds Better With You – Music as a Community
Different music tastes might separate people, in a literal sense by drawing a group of friends in a club to different themed dance floors. This is not to say that differences in music preferences is a bad thing and necessarily a dividing element between people. What can be said, however, is that the opposite, shared music taste, can create bonds, a sense of community and a feeling of belonging. Entire subcultures and movements form around specific music genres. To give just one example, the rave culture unites people that, in the first place, bond over electronic music. This cultural bond, however, also extends to the attire, way of dancing or values associated with the music style.
This uniting effect of music also explains why some clubs host music genre specific parties, playing only Latin, House, or RnB music. These parties bring together people enjoying a similar type of music (plus some people that were forced by friends to come along and those that did not know what genre the name of the party referred to). More obvious in this context are concerts which can be seen as a representation of shared beliefs within specific groups and are all about a joint experience.
Although listening to music can be a personal and individual experience, bonding over shared music taste, singing along to Oasis’ Wonderwall in a Karaoke Bar and dancing to your favorite music in a bulk of people is what makes music a social undertaking and an important element in our culture.
And to end with a wise quote to get as a tattoo, living room poster or screensaver:
“Music is life. That’s why our hearts have beats.”
~ Cecily Morgan
Cover: Aleksandr Neplokhov
Edited by: Aidan O’Reilly