Why Does Music Move Us?

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scientifically speaking sound is just
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waves of pressure transmitted through
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air or water or solid materials and
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music just those same vibrations only
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arranged in very specific patterns of
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barking dogs jackhammers and symphony
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orchestras are all really just
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vibrations but I’ve never been overcome
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with emotion while listening to a
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jackhammer so what is it about music
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that makes us feel so many feelings to
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answer that I want you to imagine a
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world without music don’t be afraid
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we’ll only be here for a minute so
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Steven Pinker says that compared to
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stuff like language and vision music
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advantage from our species and the rest
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of our lifestyle will be virtually
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unchanged but it hasn’t vanished so what
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gives there must be some evolutionary
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advantage to having music right well
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Pinker says no instead he calls music
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auditory cheesecake and what he means is
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we didn’t evolve to love cheesecake
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specifically instead our hungry
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ancestors learned to go nuts for
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anything sweet or high-calorie so cheese
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cake is nice but it didn’t drive our
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evolution music he says it’s more like a
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side effect of things like language
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sensing our surroundings are responding
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things like crying or growling
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but not everyone agrees with the
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Cheesecake idea music stimulates just
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about every region of our brain even the
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reward pathways that crave things like
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drugs nobody has to teach babies to
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dance to a beat they just do it
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I bet nobody taught you what music
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sounds happy you’re sad you just know
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let me show you what I mean some
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neuroscientists think that music shares
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the same fingerprints as human movement
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I mean think about the last time you
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found yourself tapping your foot to your
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favorite song or walking along to the
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beat in your headphones that’s music and
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movement together so our human ancestors
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they gained an evolutionary advantage
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over other species because they were so
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social I mean whether it’s military
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marches or lullabies or even One
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Direction concerts nothing binds people
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together quite like music but how do we
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get to emotion from just simple
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vibrations Talia Wheatley is our
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neuroscientist at Dartmouth College and
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she recently did an amazingly cool
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experiment that suggests we might read
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emotion in music the same way we read
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emotion in human movement so what she
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did was give people this really simple
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set of controls and they would either
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create a little melody or an animation
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of a red bouncing ball so using an
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emotion as a guide half of those people
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created songs to match
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and the other half made a little
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animation to match alright so what I’m
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gonna do is play you some simple little
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melodies I just want you to tell me what
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emotion comes to mind all right
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exciting scattered disjunct youth full
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joyful said happy
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pensive the results were amazing for
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each emotion they tested the slider
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positions were the same for the melody
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as they were for the bouncing ball happy
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bouncing balls share the same controls
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as happy music same with sad or angry or
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peaceful emotion in music and movements
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seemed to use the same patterns now note
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you’re thinking this is just because of
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American pop cultural norms that have
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been reinforced in our society for
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centuries right well they did the same
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experiment in a culturally isolated
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village in Cambodia they found out that
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the melodies and movements were almost
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exactly the same as the u.s. here’s the
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angry music from Dartmouth and here’s
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the angry music from Cambodia
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here’s to peaceful animations from both
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groups
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this may just be the tip of the iceberg
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when it comes to figuring out why music
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can create so many feelings but it shows
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that motion and music go together beyond
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just dance moves just like we can send
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sadness by watching someone walk and we
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know a happy dance when we see it music
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seems to move us because we move our
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connection with music overlaps with
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movement because we’re running different
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programs using the same hardware and
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those programs are part of what makes it
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so great to be human Mike over at idea
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channel wonders if culture might play a
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role is there really something about sad
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music that makes it sad here’s an idea
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I don’t over and see what he has to say

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