• Advice

Why your brain craves music

In Greek mythology, the 9 Muses are goddesses who inspire mankind to create art, poetry, music, and all the creative arts.

The mother of the 9 Muses is Mnenosyne, whose name means “memory”.

Why is memory the mother of music? Whatever the answer to that is philosophically, our brains seem to agree: memory and music are stored in the brain in such a way that we remember music when we appear to have forgotten everything else -- even who we are.

The new documentary Alive Inside, which won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, follows an organization on a mission to transform the lives of elderly nursing home residents with dementia through the power of music.

This video has gone viral, but in case you haven’t seen it, watch Henry come alive when listening to songs from his younger days:

Obviously, the implications for this research are incredibly far-reaching, beyond the amazing impact it will make on the hundreds of thousands of elderly people the MUSIC & MEMORY Organization has already reached.

It means that when we listen to music, we remember emotions and places that are fundamental to who we are.

It means that when we listen to music, this renewed sense of “I” empowers us to be present where we are now and within what we’re doing today.

It means that our brains crave music not just because it’s “pleasurable” or “sounds good”, but because it is a process of remembering -- and we crave remembering. We crave the feeling of wholeness and integration that comes when we remember who we are now and who we were then as “I”.

Perhaps this is why music -- though it doesn’t really help us to “survive” -- is one of mankind’s earliest (and most persistent) passions.

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