Levitin and the Functions of Music

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Does Music have a function?

All music has a functon to someone for some reason. THIS IS WHY WE LIKE IT!

 - "Music saved my life" 

- Background noise whilst working (radio when washing up, sea shanties etc.)

- Shows feelings; gives us a sense of belonging - "You are not alone"

- Can be used to scare, or as a torture device; The battle of Jericho, Guantanamo bay. (Loud noises you've never heard before or aren't expecting can be quite terrifying)

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Who is Daniel Levitin?

Dan Levitin is a neuroscientist with a particular interest in music and how the brain reacts to it.

He once analysed Sting's brain and discovered that music was "brain wide" (i.e centres in all parts of the brain light up)

He also discovered that music stimulates the reward pathways in the brain - it gives us an endorphin rush in the same way that we are made to feel good when we eat or have sex (Or anything that contributes to survival)

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Animals and Music

"Monkeys don't like music more than silence" - Hamlin, 2009

In fact, Monkeys seem to HATE music - Whenever any tests have been done, they tend to become very agitated and agressive. (A bit like humans when building works are going on and all you can hear is very loud drilling - To Monkeys, music seems to be JUST NOISE)

"birdsong" (Which isn't actually a song, it's usually a call of some kind i.e panic) is the most copied form of music; people have actually been known to stop, listen and notate it.

Humans are so far the only animals to make the connection that music is ORGANISED NOISE

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Is there a set of functions that music performs?

According to Levitin, music performs (or is associated with) the following functions; Friendship, comfort, joy, knowledge, religion and love.

HOWEVER, What about Sorrow, beauty, anger, hate, nostalgia, oppression, wonder etc?

Levitin underestimates the capacity for ambiguity in interpretation

He isn't completely wrong though:

" Music to get you through the day"
"Music as a sountrack to work to"
"Music that makes you feel like you belong"

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The functions of a lullaby

Lots of repetition; this makes it calming, soothing and familiar

The lullaby element is present in a lot of pop music i.e Lilly Allen; she exploits this in the way she delivers vocal lines, and the structure of her lyrics.

Hymns work in a similar way. 

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Teenagers and their connection with music

Teenagers get the comfort of belonging (or not) and finding that others feel the same through music (rebellion, stick it to the man etc.)

However, the subject matter itself does not need to be comforting; Metal, Hip hop etc. is all quite aggressive but the genre tends to have a community feel which creates that sense of belonging. 

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Adults in relation to music

Sometimes a regression to childhood

Can have a need for repetition/pattern when times are unstable (familiarity)

Need for emotional connection (even when alone)

Songs that stay with you (Serves as memory trigger)

The idea of BELONGING

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