Posted by Giovanni Madonna, Fiction Reader for Issue 4.1
Have you ever read a book and found, either at the end or the beginning, a page marked “Songs that got me through this book” or other similar titles? A surprising number of the books I’ve read recently seem to have a page dedicated to the playlist that the author used while writing, which got me curious. How exactly does music effect our brains? What is it about music that triggers inspiration and motivates us to write? Even now, while writing this post, I have my headphones in and am listening to an upbeat, catchy tune. For me, this kind of active music is what gets my fingers moving, but why is that? As it turns out, we’re still not entirely sure, but there have been some interesting discoveries as to how the brain changes while listening to music.
According to Medical Daily musicis unique because it appeals to our brains in a way that random background noise doesn’t, due to its repetitiveness and organization. The brain takes in this organized noise and is able to interpret it on a number of levels, stimulating the release of dopamine while also activating the parts of the brain responsible for memory and planning.
Fast Company builds on this by explaining that the brain is even capable of allowing people to identify the emotions of a song without actually feeling them themselves. An example of this would be listening to a sad song and recognizing it as sad, but still being able to be happy listening to it because it sounds good to you. It was even found that listening to music at a moderate volume stimulates the brain in a way that is ideal for creative ventures. The explanation for this is that music at a mid-level volume puts a slight strain on the brain, making it move from ordinary reasoning to more abstract problem solving. In other words, it forces the brain to consider what’s in front of it in a more creative way.
So if you’re ever in a rut and are trying to find something to get the wheels turning, try popping in a pair of headphones and listening to some of your favorite songs on a moderate volume. While all music has an effect on our brains, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that songs we like have a much bigger impact than random pieces. Let your self be taken in by the music, don’t just passively listen to it, feel whatever emotions it brings to the surface. See what memories and ideas float by, and allow yourself to struggle till your brain can take all that input and find a solution.