We listen to it in the car, at work, at home. Music is the fabric of our everyday life. Music has been a form of communication and frequently captures the essence of our culture and history. Songs can tell a story, inspire action, and evoke a variety of emotions in its listener.

You know that feeling you have when listening to your favorite song? It doesn’t matter whether you are in a concert hall, outdoors at the Gorge Amphitheater, or in your car listening to the radio — we all enjoy music in our own unique and personal ways.

As we prepare to celebrate at our annual Music Matters event in March, we spoke with several of our guest speakers around the topic of why we enjoy music. A few themes were universal among the group: music helps connect us to others, provides us with therapeutic qualities and gives us an emotional connection to memories from our past.

Music Connects Us All

Maybe one of the most remarkable things about music is how it can make people feel connected to one another. “Music is something that lets me share the joy of dancing and singing with my kids.” shares Rob Darling (from Roon Labs). “What I love about music is different today than it was ten years ago and I’m confident it will be different ten years from now.”

Music can be timeless and its emotion and message can connect us through multiple generations. More than 40-years ago John Lennon’s song Imagine was released. As one of the 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century, it has motivated millions of people to look at how they relate to others. This composition crosses mediums and continues to inspire younger generations through a message of  peace and friendship.

Want to connect with history? Music can help you do that too. “As most jazz fans know, this legendary club (Village Vanguard in New York) has been the site of dozens of ‘Live at the Village Vanguard‘ recordings and documents some of the greatest moments in jazz history,” says Bill McKiegan (from Dan D’agostino). He recalls his first trip to the Vanguard, “It was to see the great James Carter. As I walked down the narrow staircase, I had felt like I was walking into a jam session. This odd triangular shaped room at the bottom really added to the club’s charm. It is as if the room was put together for an impromptu instead of the setting where Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and countless others recorded some of their finest work.”

Music as an Everyday Therapy

At the end of a long day, many of us feel the urge to pop on our headphones as a way to combat the body’s response to stress. “Music has a therapeutic value to me. Even (maybe especially) after a long day of work, sitting down and immersing myself in a piece of music for even 15-20 minutes allows me to re-center myself, re-energizes me, and connects me to something larger than my day-to-day frustrations. Of course, I love to listen to music attentively for much longer periods of time. But, when things are hectic, even a brief session with music helps make me a better person,” says John Herron (from Trinnov Audio).

Why does music make us feel so great? Music is connected to the pleasure center of our brain. “Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. The more we like a song, the more we get treated to neurochemical bliss, flooding our brains with some of the same neurotransmitters that cocaine chases after.”

So, neurochemical bliss. Sounds like music might be a much better coping tool compared to a tub of ice-cream. In fact, multiple studies show that music can reduce people’s experience of stress and anxiety, and reduce symptoms of high-blood pressure and cortisol rates.

Music and Our Memories

We’ve all listened to a song and had it evoke a memory or emotion, bringing you back to an exact time and place. Mike Holzman (from McIntosh) shares his own experience, “On a recent trip to Kauai, a couple songs that I happened to be listening to, brought me back to a happy time and special place that I cherished being at with my wife, who passed away only a few years ago.”

What is the connection between our personal memories and music? Well, it appears to run pretty deep, as our brains are hardwired to connect music with long-term memory. Studies in patients with diseases that damage brain chemistry are finding the ability to reconnect to the world and gain improved quality of life from listening to personal music favorites. Dr. Sacks describes the describes the connection in this video:

John Herron of Trinnov Audio wraps this conversation up nicely, “I am hard-pressed to think of music that is important in my life without associating it with some event or memory. Different songs recall friends and places from when I was a teen, or in college, or dating the woman to whom I have been married for 34 years. Do other people not think of the music they grew up with as the soundtrack of their lives? I have a hard time understanding it any other way.”

Whatever your reason for enjoying music — just keep on listening, the benefits are tremendous. Come celebrate music with us in March at Music Matters or listen to our latest playlist, “Celebrating Women In Music“.

P.S. If you want to dive deeper, here are a few interesting reads:

  1. Neural Nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers?
  2. Music has powerful (and visible) effects on the brain
  3. Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem
  4. If You Get the Chills From Music, You May Have a Unique Brain
  5. ‘The Power Of Music’ To Affect The Brain
  6. Why Do we Enjoy Listening to Sad Music?