Flash mob character, the ‘Dancing Accountant’, leads an informal dance group during the Arcade Fire set at the 2014 Big Day Out in Sydney.

     

    Music is an organised flow of sound waves or vibrations of differing frequencies. But that description is entirely inadequate in explaining why singing in a choir, listening to a Beethoven symphony, drumming in a jazz combo, dancing in a trance club or being at a rock concert will trigger the rush of amazing effects that music is known to have on the brain. Why does music make us feel anything at all?

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    The Sydney Sings choir meets regularly at Pitt St Uniting Church in central Sydney. The group is part of a program that aims to create a sense of community and give people a voice. Participants develop leadership potential, and build self-esteem and communication and creative skills. They also learn how to work as a team. 

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    As part of a music therapy program, therapist Roxanne McLeod plays a reverie harp to baby Mona Moukachar, her mum Tanya Rynehart and brother Aiden. They are in the Grace Centre for Newborn Care at the Children’s Hospital in Westmead. 

     

    Neuroscientists have begun to realise that music has its powerful effect because it fires up cerebral zones connected with not just hearing but also vision, touch, movement, rhythm, emotion and memory.

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    “Children’s involvement in musical activity has a profound effect on the development of the child’s general learning,” says conductor Richard Gill. At a hall in Neutral Bay, these youngsters learn how to play the xylophone.

     

     

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Music has long been an expression of cultural values. Here, Tibetan children perform traditional song and dance at the Sydney Regional Youth Congress event in Forestville, Sydney.

    Sound signals hit the mesolimbic system (the hippocampus, amygdala and nucleus accumbens) n the brain, which is involved in the production of dopamine, the pleasure chemical. If the music really strikes a chord, dopamine floods into the brain. 

     

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Dr Kipps Horn, an ethnomusicologist and expert on Greek Rebetika music, engages in dance lessons conducted by Dimosthenis Manasis in the Sacred Heart Hall in Preston, Melbourne.

    “Music gets right to the heart of the emotional brain. One of the key areas is the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure centre, which is activated in addiction…” says Professor Alan Harvey, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Australia

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    The Basement Big Band performs for dancers at The Basement in Sydney. Swing dancing has its roots in the Jazz movement of the 1920s-30s.

     

    Music is “one of the living world’s greatest sexual displays,” Professor Rob Brooks, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in ­Sydney, says in the chapter “Blame it on The Stones”, of his 2011 book, Sex, Genes & Rock ’n’ Roll.

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Buskers perform for school children on Swanson Street, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. “Music is very much part of social identity,” says Professor Sarah Wilson from Melbourne University. “It plays a huge role in helping people define what they stand for, their values, what they pledged their soul to at the age of 15 or 16. It has that huge socio-cultural shaping role.”

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Prominent modern percussionist Claire Edwardes plays in her home studio in Sydney’s Inner West. Researchers now know that music has the ability to make you feel good about yourself and other people, trigger memories of emotionally significant events and make you want to move in time with it, either by just tapping out its beat with your feet or using your whole body.

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Commuters outside of Flinders Station in Melbourne listen to music to pass the time while waiting for a tram. In 2012, Australians spent $63,402,000 on digital album downloads.

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    “One way in which men have always got noticed has been through feats of musical and verbal gymnastics,” says Professor Rob Brooks from UNSW. Here, members of the Kuma Kaaru dance group perform a mixture of traditional and breakoff dance at the University of Melbourne.

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Richard Reed Parry, from Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire, performs at the 2014 Big Day Out in Sydney. 

     

     

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

    Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of Swedish rock band The Hives, whips the crowd into a frenzy at the 2014 Big Day Out in Sydney.  “Music gets right to the heart of the emotional brain,” says Professor Alan Harvey from the University of Western Australia. “One of the key areas is the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure centre, which is activated in addiction and things like that.” 

    Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia

Gallery: Why we love music

By AG STAFF | February 26, 2014

Listening to music – shimmying to it, learning it, playing it and watching it being performed – fires up more centres in your brain than almost any other activity. Music is a marvel and pervades our lives, but why we like it and where it originated puzzles the experts.