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The Purpose of Music


In two of my prior posts I talked about the evolution of music over the centuries and how it has constantly evolved over time. I also talked about how important music is to us in our daily lives because of music’s profound impact on our psyches. I discussed how music can change our psyches by pumping us up or calming us down. Now I would like to answer the question of why the human brain likes music as much as it does and what evolutionary purpose music serves to human beings.

            Music is heavily associated with the reward system in our brains. It is no secret that the reason we listen to music is because we find it pleasurable. So it makes sense that when our brains hear songs that we like it triggers the release of the reward chemical known as dopamine. This essentially lets us know that what we are doing is good. Now generally the dopamine system in our brain gives us the feeling of reward when we do things that are essential to survival such as eating food but music is obviously an exception to this rule as in has no obviously apparent survival value.

Neuroscientists have studied and investigated the link between music and the dopamine systems in our brains and have found some clues as to what the brain likes so much about music. Researchers have discovered that at certain points in a song we like we experience a peak amount of pleasure. In other words this is like our favorite part of the song. At the point of song where we experience maximum pleasure our brain releases dopamine. But it doesn’t just stop there. Not only does our brain release dopamine during our favorite part of a song it also releases dopamine in a different part of the brain just prior to hearing our favorite part which is particularly interesting. Neuroscientists have determined that the reason for this is because our brains is making predictions about what we are about to hear and our brains get pleasure from being able to anticipate and predict what is coming.

Now that I have given some insights as to what exactly our brains like so much about music I would like to discuss what the possible evolutionary purpose of music is. Dancing is probably the biggest complement to music. Whenever we hear our favorite songs we often like to dance, tap our feet or nod our heads to the beat of the song. Now listening to music and dancing to music is not something that we just do all by ourselves. In fact, this is something that is often done together in groups with our friends. I can’t speak for other people I personally have never gone to a concert all by myself. I always go with friends or family. Studies have shown that people who listen to music and dance together are more likely work together on non-musical tasks. I believe that the reason for this is because music bonds us together through shared experience and in my opinion this is what the ultimate purpose of music is. Music is a way to bond people together and bring us closer to on another. This explains why we like to go concert together with our friends and why we dance together in sync. When I was in I used to love to listen to my favorite tunes with my friends after school and  I can see now that the reason I enjoyed it was because it was a shared experience and memory that I have with my friends.

            Music is essentially a way to bring people closer together through a common experience. This is the evolutionary purpose of music. Music brings us together.


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About Audio8Master

Born and raised in Silicon Valley, I am a student at San Jose State and Marketing intern at Velodyne Acoustics. I am an avid San Jose Sharks and San Francisco 49ers fan. When I'm not watching sports, I'm listening to music and thinking deep thoughts about sound.

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