Do you have a favorite song? Everyone does. Of course, it is difficult to narrow it down to just one. Especially if you're like me. I don't have just ONE style of music that I like to the exclusion of others. In fact, there are fewer styles of music that I DON'T like than those that I DO like (does that even make sense??).
Right now I am writing a research paper on Music and the Brain. There is such a huge amount of research right now in the area of neuro sciences and music. I am seeking to find concrete information that can actually be used in advocacy or perhaps in teaching methods. Mostly, I am fascinated and right now, trying to find my way through the maze of facts!
One of the things that I have read in several reports is the connection between music and emotion. The researchers aren't telling us anything that we didn't already know. They are just giving us empirical evidence for something that the philosophers said long ago - that music was inherently emotional. The imaging technologies now allow scientists to peer inside the brain to see what might be going on. They can detect activity in different areas and over time, and with understanding, they have mapped the topography of the brain, if you will. Where in the brain each type of response or stimuli or information is processed and what happens.
One of the most fascinating things that I have learned is that in the auditory system, there are several routes that the message traverses from the auditory membrane to the area where the sound is processed. One is more direct than the other, and one takes a "detour" if you will, through the areas of the cerebellum where emotion, reward, addictions, and arousal are processed. At first thought, it seems to make sense because in the "fight or flight" system, a human would need sharp hearing to detect danger and then instantly respond to it without a lot of conscious processing of the sound. Hear it and turn your head to locate and sense if it is danger or not! Yet, there is more to the story.
It seems that a performer can recall the way the music made him feel and "summon" that during performance and feel a euphoria such as warmth and tingles. The amazing part of this is that the audience can sense the same experience, a sort of "binding" or "oneness" with the performer! Just how this happens is hard to tell and research hasn't answered this clearly. But it might have something to to with the "mirror neuron system" where a person can watch a movement - or in fact, hear a description of a movement, and the area that would normally be used in the processing of that movement begins to activate! to take it a step further - a pianist can watch the hands of another person playing the piano (but without any sound being emitted) and they can "hear" the sounds of the pitches inside their head. The really AMAZING part of this is that the brain actuallly emits the same frequency of that pitch!!! It buzzes!! Ok. Just think about that for a minute! The brain emits a frequency, the brain has sympathetic "vibrations" to frequencies (when sounds occur, the brain resonates with the same frequency) and could it be - we somehow have sympathetic experiences of emotion as we see another person experience a feeling! (remember the mirror neuron system?)
It is almost too mindboggling to even begin to comprehend!
Oh... and by the way, my favorite song of all time is Clare du Lune by Debussy! Wait! I can't decide for sure... it might actually be Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings) by Samuel Barber. Either one, there is a imediate response of sweetness... a relaxation, slower heart rate - close my eyes and enter another world... how can I explain?