Behind the simplest of ideas are millions of electrical pulses. Neurons flashing madly at each other, trying to make sense of the information our brain is receiving from our senses.
As you’re looking at this screen there’s a tiny but intense electrical storm going on inside your skull.
Your electrons are buzzing around crazily between packets of information – looking for threats, comfort, opportunities. These are, by definition, literal connections.
Cracked screens, guilty phone addictions, intense relationships, electrical bills, storm warnings, wet socks, skulls and crossbones – a thousand random thoughts might be triggered by the words in that sentence above. Our consciousness could not possibly keep up with all of these connections – we would go mad. After all, we’re not that far removed from just scratching pictures of bison onto the wall at the back of our cave.
Music on the other hand is much simpler. Our ear drums vibrate. They vibrate fast, then they vibrate slow. If you’re listening to an 808 bass, your body might vibrate as low as 20 times a second. If you’re lucky enough to be a bat, you can sing along with notes that vibrate up near 200 000 times a second. Most humans can hear up to an annoying 20 000 times a second. Cavemen enjoyed grunting at around 200Hz.
The sound goes up, then it goes down. Very quickly of course, those little neurons are still on the edge of their seats. But they move with a different kind of order. Can you see them? Like little schools of fish rolling through a slow swell but sped up a couple of million times. There’s a nice shape to the idea and most humans do enjoy order.
Because we’re not immediately triggering words and language, with all of their baggage, the path to our emotional, primal core is more direct.
This is by no means a scientific observation, I’m an artist first and foremost. But it’s a model that helps me understand why music does such wonders with our emotions.