Musical Trivia

We are a species obsessed with music.  I bet that on your transit journey to school you were either listening to the radio or plugged into your iPod/iPhone.  Music can be a number of things to different people.  Some consider only classical music to be true music; while others believe that only heavy rock is music.  Some need man-made instruments to play a note for them while others can find music in the natural world.  Music can incite emotions and thought or it can be used as a tool of persuasion and control.  How can music be so instrumental (mwahaha) in our lives?  What does it really do for us?  These are the thoughts that made me pick up This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, and Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks a few years ago.

Written for the average person, these books are enjoyable to read while being educating at the same time (sometimes it happens). In This Is Your Brain on Music, Levitin uses many examples (such as one performed by Petr Janata on barn owls) to clarify and illustrate his points on the power of music in human evolution and psychology.  Oliver Sacks focuses on the power of music to heal brain related illness in Musicophilia. Here is a little video of Oliver Sacks talking about the effects of music on Alzheimer’s.

And the consumer world is picking up on this.  As early as the 1980’s music was being used to influence our shopping and eating behaviours.  Restaurants found that if they played slower music, that the patrons stayed longer and their bill became larger (patrons more inclined to stay for a few drinks after dinner).  And those little jingles in commercials stayed with people far longer (Meow Mix anyone?).  When they finally did go do their shopping, those who had seen a commercial for a product with a jingle were more inclined to buy it than those who had not heard the jingle.  Love it.

If you enjoyed Daniel Levitin’s book, check out his latest book The World in Six Songs. This book talks about the co-evolution of music and the human brain.


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