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  • Scientifically speaking, sound is just waves of pressure transmitted through air, water

  • or solid materials. And music is basically those same vibrations, only arranged in very

  • specific patterns. Barking dogs, jackhammers and symphony orchestras are ALL really just

  • vibrations. But I've never been overcome with emotion when listening to a jackhammer.

  • So why does music make us feel so many feelings? To answer that, I want you to imagine a world

  • without music. Don't be afraid, we'll only be here for a minute. Steven Pinker says that

  • compared to stuff like language and vision, "music could vanish from our species and the

  • rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged." But it hasn't vanished... so what gives? There

  • must be some evolutionary advantage to having music, right? Pinker says no. Instead, he

  • calls music "auditory cheesecake". What he means is we didn't evolve to love cheesecake,

  • specifically. Instead, our hungry ancestors learned to go nuts for anything sweet, high

  • calorie or high fat they could find. So cheesecake is nice, but it didn't drive our evolution.

  • Music, he says, is more like a side effect of things like language, and sensing our surroundings

  • and responding to sounds like crying or growling.

  • But not everyone agrees with the cheesecake idea. Music stimulates JUST about every region

  • of our brain, even the reward pathways that crave things like drugs. Nobody has to teach

  • babies to dance to a beat, they just DO it. I bet nobody TAUGHT you what music sounds

  • happy or sad. You just . . . know.

  • Some neuroscientists now think that music shares the same fingerprints as human movement.

  • One way early humans gained evolutionary advantages over other species is because they were so

  • good at being social. From military marches to lullabies to One Direction concerts, the

  • emotion in music can truly bind people together. But where do we get emotion from simple vibrations??

  • Thalia Wheatley, a scientist from Dartmouth College, did a very cool experiment that suggests

  • we may sense emotions in music the same way we sense emotions in human movement.

  • She gave people simple controls that would create either melodies or animations of a

  • bouncing ball. Half of them used the controls to create a melody. Other people got the very

  • same controls, only instead of controlling music they controlled the bouncing ball.

  • The results were . . . amazing. For each emotion they tested, the slider positions for the

  • melody were the same as for the bouncing ball

  • Happy bouncing balls and happy music shared the very same controls. Same with sad, angry,

  • peaceful. Emotion in music and movement seem to use the same patterns. I know what you're

  • thinking: This is just because of American pop-cultural norms that have been reinforced

  • in our society for centuries, right? Well, they did the same experiment in a culturally

  • isolated village in Cambodia, and they found out that the melodies and movements were almost

  • exactly the same as the US! Here's the angry music from Dartmouth and Cambodia, and here's

  • the peaceful animations from both groups.

  • This may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to figuring out why music can create

  • so many feelings, but it shows that motion and music go together beyond just dance moves.

  • Just like we can sense sadness by watching someone walk and we know a happy dance when

  • we see it, music seems to move us because we move. Our connection to music overlaps

  • with movement because we're running different programs using the same hardware, and those

  • programs are part of what makes it so great to be human. Let us know what YOU think in

  • the comments. Do you agree? Is music just cheesecake? Or is the link between music and

  • emotion a key to our evolution?

Scientifically speaking, sound is just waves of pressure transmitted through air, water

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B1 music cheesecake emotion bouncing movement dartmouth

Why Music Moves Us | It's Okay to be Smart | PBS Digital Studios

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/05/21
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