Why music is ``music to our ears``
London: A British professor is explaining why most of us tend to enjoy music.
According to Dr John Powell, a Visiting Professor of Materials Science at the University of Nottingham, our ears are part of a "warning system" that makes sure we stay away from dangerous situations.
However, "we can quickly recognise that a musical instrument is unlikely to be lethal. When you hear music, your ear drum moves in and out in a regular, repeated way, many times a second. We recognise that it`s not dangerous, so we can focus on the harmonies and tunes - and enjoy them," he said.
"If you twang a string, it gives off several related frequencies at the same time. If you twang a second string, and organise it so that some of the frequencies of the two strings are the same, you get a very pleasant sound. We don`t always want notes to agree in this way, but we do most of the time. We appreciate a little bit of tension, but then you need to get some sort of resolution through pleasant combinations of sounds," The Independent quoted Powell, as saying.
Powell also explained why melody feels good.
He said: "There is a physical basis behind the punctuation we feel in the phrasing of melodies and harmonies. The enjoyment of music is largely down to the building up and release of tension. In a piece of music, there is a key note which is ``home``. We arrive home at the end of many of the musical phrases. Also, the note just before the home note gives us an "almost there" feeling. An easy-to-follow tune is often very clearly punctuated, meaning we can almost anticipate the notes - and follow the ``conversation``."
He went on: "There are many sorts of music, and we enjoy them in lots of different ways. In film, music echoes the action. Several clichés have been built up - like strings and piano for romantic moments - but we enjoy them. In some cases, the music builds tension and we enjoy guessing what`s going to happen next.
"If you look at "serious" music, like classical or jazz, anticipation and release are a major part of our enjoyment. The composer or improviser will set up expectations and then either reward or frustrate them. It`s like telling a joke, where the punch line either fits the story, or is a surprise: in both cases, we get pleasure."
Powell also elaborated upon natural rhythms, saying: "Drumming was probably the first sort of music; hitting things with a stick is fairly easy. Rhythm is good for dancing or entering hypnotic states, so that`s an ancient response that we have to music. Our enjoyment of dance music is simple to understand: you can`t really dance without it, and we enjoy dancing. Pop music involves short, ear-catching, easy- to-remember melodies. It`s like eating sweets: instant gratification.
"Musical systems are learned at an early age. Babies will sing several hundred different notes over a few minutes. But that song can`t be repeated, so it``s not much fun. The baby then listens to its parents singing nursery songs which only have a few notes, so the baby can learn to remember them and enjoy them"
When asked why people tend to prefer one kind of music over the other, Powell replied: "There is no scientific reason at all why you`ll prefer one type of musical to another. Everybody could enjoy more kinds of music if they gave them a chance - but sadly we tend not to do so.
"With food, if you try something properly 10 times you`ll probably come to like it. It`s the same with music, but people often close up their range of musical appreciation by the time they``re about 25. But it`s easy to increase your enjoyment of life by listening to a lot of different types of music. Mozart and the Arctic Monkeys and Dolly Parton? Go on - I dare you."