February 14, 2017 — Dario Miranda
Before we dive in, please know that this is, in no way, a valentines bashing party and in no way an attempt to minimize the strong feelings some feel for others. Rather, this is an uneducated analysis of the role music has played in the development of our modern feelings of love. We are discussing the effects of music on our brain and our brains association with the “heart” and feelings of love. Because, what says Happy Valentines Day better than a uneducated, over analyzed pontification of the things we hold nearest to our hearts.
Dog Saliva and How It Relates to Emotional Love:
It is well understood that experiencing something positive will rewire our brain to associate these feelings with other experiences unrelated to the positive ones. The text book example is that of Pavlov’s Dog. In short, Pavlov would ring a bell every time he would feed his dog. After a period of time, he began to ring the bell without the reward of food, and the Dog would salivate and react is if he were about to be fed. The dog was associating the bell as a part of a positive experience, even without the reward. For the sake of this argument, consider how much time we spend with music and how music relates to the relationships in our lives? Also, how often is the music you listen to about those relationships?
Yeah, that’s right. We’re talking about dog saliva on Valentines Day. Put on a fire. Get comfy.
Bone Flutes..and Other Evidence of Ancient Music:
Now, you’ll just have to take my word for it on this next part, since I hold no degree in ancient music history and I’m mostly speaking from my extensive background as a documentary watcher and someone who has seen pictures of ancient art.
In my scientific experience, music has been around for a LONG TIME. We have found ancient bone flutes that date back to 40,000 years! Written music dates back to 2000 BC. So, we can confidently say that music has been riding right along with language, since we had the ability to do either. My only point here is that music is old. And, we often find it in cultures where romantic love is given great consideration. Of course music is in almost all cultures and maybe I’m creating a false equivalency, but hey, this is just some food for thought. Speaking of thought…let’s talk about the sexiest organ in the human body. The brain.
Be Still, My Pulsing Brain:
Again, I’m no expert, I’m just saying stuff, I’ve read a couple Oliver Sacks books, yadda yadda yadda.
Studies have found that our brains react to music in a very different way than when we participate in other activities. When we do a math problem, we access, mostly, the angular gyrus. When we access our short term memory, we see activity in the pre-frontal lobe. But, when we listen to or perform music, the whole map just lights up! We’re accessing memory, emotions, annalization, audio, visuals, creating this buzz in our skulls that seems a bit haywire and maybe a little crazy and irrational, but oh so very satisfying. Sound familiar?
Here’s what I would like to posit.
What if all the feelings of romantic love were a byproduct of our feelings for music? What if our brains were never able to develop the capacity for romantic love, without the aid of music. I would be curious to see how love is conveyed in different cultured and how the music of that culture might relate to the way these emotions are shared. Examining my own experience with music, I can definitely see a correlation in the way I listen/what I respond to and my own expressions of love (all of which are private, by the way.) How hard would it be to access these emotions if we didn’t exercise them with music. As I touched on earlier, listening to music is the ultimate workout and it creates a bridge between the many parts of our brain, to create something new and overpowering. Maybe this has served us in our capacity for love. It’s a big world of music and romance and this question might be a hard one to answer, and may be a real “chicken or the egg” subject. But, maybe it’s worth some thought.
So, if you’re spending this Valentines Day with a loved one, give a little thought into how music fits into your relationship. Do you share common interest? Do you enjoy live music more when your significant other is with you? Is your choice of music as romantic as you are? If so, maybe find a time to share some music, today.
If you’re riding out this yearly hurricane without a significant other, find solace in the idea that maybe you can experience just as many of these same emotions of love and satisfaction by just putting on your favorite albums! Music is pretty strong stuff.
Happy Valentines Day!