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Allan's Philosophy Podcast

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Music is a huge part of who we are. That got me thinking what it is about music that makes it so meaningful to us. Now I don't have any of Aristotle's work to go off of here, this is all my own. To me, music is unique in that it satisfies the most innate human desires.

Humans are creatures of habit. As much as some people may enjoy spontaneous action and change, deep down our human nature drives us to repetition. That's why humans establish habits (both good and bad) and why it is so difficult to break habits. A song never changes its words. It is comforting to be able to listen to a song and know what's coming up next. Know what line is going to be sung next. Know what chord is going to be played next. Subconsciously, it allows us to anticipate what will happen in the song and therefore establishes a sense of knowledge and comfort.

Music also plays off of people's innate desire to be able to relate themselves to situations. Even though I've never been in a position to save a life, I still take a lot out of The Fray song How to Save a Life. I relate to my life, my situation I'm in, and as my situation changes and my life changes how I see the song changes. The song doesn't judge me for it. The Fray doesn't criticize me for having the wrong interpretation of the song. There is not right or wrong. No matter what the song is actually saying, your mind establishes connections to the theme of the song and the lyrics of the song that you can find comfort in. Our connections we make with songs also make us feel more understood. Even though a song does not say exactly what we feel, we make connections to the song based on how we feel and it is tantalizing to think that the artist (a complete stranger) feels the same way as you do. Even if you completely miss the point of the song and your connection is not the same connection the artist was trying to establish, it destroys our fears of isolation and loneliness.

Working off that feeling of isolation and loneliness, music is always there for you. It's a human voice with melody and harmony (so it is pleasing to your sense of hearing) and it is always there. On demand, anytime you want it. It's not like a person. Music has nothing to do but be there. It's never too busy and never gets tired of saying the same story over and over again. We get to hear the same story over and over again, and even though it may get tiring after a while, we get the opportunity to discover something we might have missed before. It's a perfect retelling of a story we can relate to.

My final philosophy on why the human mind loves music so much is its ability to help memory. Like a photo album, music evokes a lot of emotion and remembrance from us. We all have songs that make us think of people, places, or events (at least I do anyway), and sometimes when those important people, places, or events get pushed to the back of our minds it is refreshing to remember that. Music is the easiest way to recount the memories or someone/something, good and bad. Every time someone hurts (usually a girl...actually basically always a girl) one of the first things I do is I go through my ipod. I start listening to songs. I usually only have to listen to the first few lines of a song before I find what I'm looking for. No matter how many or how few songs I have on my ipod, I can always find a song that I can easily relate to that person. And I play it over and over and over again. It gives me an opportunity to think about that person. Think of what she meant to me. I can block everything out and just focus on the words of the song and how it makes me feel. What memories start to surface and which ones fade. It may make me depressed at first, constantly thinking about such a strong pain, but it helps me re-establish myself. It helps me reflect on what happened and helps me move on, but at the same time, when I start to drift too far away from the lessons I learned from my past hurts, those songs are always there to get me back on course, keep me focused on my principles and beliefs and help me learn from my mistakes.

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