Music: The drug of the masses?



Why does music have such an affect on us? Why have we evolved to appreciate, judge and rely on something that is so abstract and seemingly has no survival benefit unlike those other great sources of pleasure, food and sex?

 

The other main highway to pleasuretown that is not in the evolutionary guidebook to survival is drugs. But is it possible that listening to some quality beats can have the same effect as a line of coke? 

 

Last week I was lucky enough to go to a talk by neuroscientist Robert Zatorre, one of the world’s foremost researchers into music and the brain, who is current working on a sabbatical in the University of Barcelona. He has been studying the effect music has on people for over 30 years. The advent of neuroimaging has given people like Zatorre a remarkable new means of finding out the processes that occur in the brain when people listen to tunes they like or dislike.

 

In some of his benchmark studies, conducted with postgraduate student Valorie Salimpoor, Zatorre’s group sought out people who reliably experience ‘chills’ in response to certain pieces of music. Some of you will be lucky enough to know what I’m talking about. Your favourite song comes on, a smile comes to your face.  As you sense the climax of the tune coming your heart rate goes up, your hair stands on end and your body goes cold in a euphoric rush as the song peaks.

 

Chills have been reported in many types of music, from classical to jazz and techno (There is a list of chill-inducing tunes which I downloaded from  Zatorre’s lab’s homepage http://www.zlab.mcgill.ca/home.html at the end of this page). There are no (known) rules as to when and why people experience chills, although they are often experienced after a long build-up, or anticipation stage leading to a big climax.

 

Using PET scanners Zatorre’s team injected a radioactive tracer into music afficionados’ bodies and found that those who experienced chills had a surge of dopamine in the striatum when listening to their favourite songs. The striatum is an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain involved in reward. This is the same system that is hijacked when people take cocaine.

 

In order to find out when and exactly where these surges occur the subjects were then played the same tunes in an MRI scanner which allowed Zatorre et al. to discover that the pleasure felt in the build up or anticipation stage comes from activation of the caudate in the dorsal (upper) striatum, which forms part of our learning and memory system. The intense rush,  or peak enjoyment at the moment the subjects experienced chills was caused by strong activation of the nucleus accumbens in the ventral (lower) striatum, which it traditionally associated with reward, pleasure and addiction among other emotional reactions. At the same time the subjects were experiencing peak heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance and a drop in body temperature.

 

The discovery that music causes rushes of the brain’s most potent pleasure inducing chemical through not one but two separate systems allows us to begin to understand how an abstract series of noises can have such a powerful influence over our mood, emotions and the physiological state of our body. This also has big implications for our understanding of the brain’s desire/reward system, which until now has been the stomping ground of those necessary pleasures food (crucial for survival of the individual), sex (survival of the species) and artificial highs brought on by drugs (required for the survival of techno).

 

This, like any good piece of research leads to a whole host of new questions such as how does this dopamine system get hijacked by DJ Tiesto, and which other abstract pleasures can provoke these chills. Luckily the neuroscience of music is experiencing a surge in popularity and has many able minds working on these and many other problems.

 

If you have any questions about music and the brain please e-mail me (Seán) at thelondonmusicblog@gmail.com and I’ll answer them all to the best of my ability. For those eager to read more before my next post, the two leading groups in this area of research at the moment are probably Robert Zatorre’s group in Montreal http://www.zlab.mcgill.ca/home.html and the Gottfried Schlaug’s Music and Neuroimaging laboratory in Boston http://www.musicianbrain.com.


Here is a list of songs proven to induce chills in certain people. Go to the bottom of the page and scroll to the right to see the time in the songs in which peak responses have been found.



Composer/Artist

Title

Genre

Chills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Matthews Band

#34

Alternative Rock

1:40

 

 

Everclear

El Distorto Melodico

Alternative Rock

0:30

1:20

 

The Dissociatives

Paris Circa 2007 Slash 08

Alternative Rock - Experimental

1:30

 

 

Rutter

What Sweeter music – Choir and Orchestra

Choir

1:57

 

 

Sheremetiev

Rejoice Now Heavely Powers – Men’s Russian Choir

Choir

3:30

 

 

Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5

Classical

4:18

 

 

Bach

Cello Suite 1 - Prelude

Classical

2:29

 

 

Barber

Adagio for Strings

Classical

6:30

 

 

Barber

Adagio for Strings

Classical

0:25

3:40

5:40

Barber

Adagio for Strings

Classical

5:00

 

 

Bartok

Rhapsody No. 1 - Mov. 1

Classical

3:00

 

 

Beethoven

5th Piano Concerto - Mov. 2

Classical

0:02

 

 

Beethoven

5th Symphony - Mov 2

Classical

0:16

2:02

2:36

Beethoven

9th Symphony - Mov. 2

Classical

0:29

 

 

Beethoven

9th Symphony - Mov. 2

Classical

0:30

 

 

Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#-Minor ("Moonlight")

Classical

1:15

3:00

 

Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#-Minor ("Moonlight")

Classical

3:10

4:08

 

Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor ("The Tempest")

Classical

5:33

 

 

Beethoven

Sonata No. 8 in C Minor - Rondo Allegro

Classical

0:15

1:29

1:39

Beethoven

String Quartet in B Flat Op. 130 (Cavatina)

Classical

1:00

 

 

Beethoven

Symphony No. 7 in A Minor - Mov. 2

Classical

1:00

 

 

Beethoven

Violin Sonata, No. 5 “Spring" - Mov. 1

Classical

0:30

1:38

2:20

Berlioz

Le Carnaval Romain,  Op. 9

Classical

8:32

 

 

Berlioz

Symphonie Fantastique,  Op. 14 - Mov. 4

Classical

2:55

 

 

Brahms

String Quartet No. 1 - Mov. 2

Classical

0:39

0:47

1:12

Brahms

Symphony 4 in E Minor,  Op. 98 - Mov. 4

Classical

4:23

 

 

Buxtehude

Toccata in G

Classical

0:40

 

 

Chopin

Ballade No. 1 in G Minor

Classical

2:03

 

 

Chopin

Mazurka in A Minor Op. 17

Classical

0:59

1:57

 

Chopin

Nocture in G Minor

Classical

1:20

2:20

 

Chopin

Prelude No. 4 in E Minor

Classical

0:40

1:05

 

Copland

Appalachian Spring Suite

Classical

20:00

 

 

Debussy

Clair de Lune

Classical

2:03

 

 

Debussy

Clair de Lune

Classical

4:30

 

 

Debussy

Clair de Lune

Classical

1:26

2:09

 

Debussy

Images - i-Lent

Classical

1:00

 

 

Debussy

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Classical

4:30

 

 

Dvorak

New World Symphony - Mov. 2

Classical

2:30

 

 

Dvorak

New World Symphony - Mov. 2

Classical

1:36

2:12

 

Dvorak

New World Symphony - Mov. 4

Classical

0:20

 

 

Dvorak

New World Symphony - Mov. 4

Classical

5:30

8:30

 

Dvorak

New World Symphony - Mov. 4

Classical

8:30

 

 

Dvorak

Symphony No. 8 - Mov. 1

Classical

6:45

 

 

Dvorak

Symphony No. 8 - Mov. 4

Classical

2:15

9:00

 

Elgar

Cello Concerto - Mov. 1

Classical

2:53

 

 

Elgar

Cello Concerto - Mov. 1

Classical

1:15

4:15

 

Elgar

Elegy

Classical

0:08

 

 

Fauré

Violin Sonata in A Major - Mov. 1

Classical

0:24

0:31

0:36

Handel

Concerti Grossi, Op. 3, Concerto 2 - Allegro

Classical

1:10

 

 

Handel

Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, Concerto 4 - Allegro

Classical

2:25

 

 

Haydn

Concerto in C Major - Adagio

Classical

1:42

 

 

Haydn

Sonata No. 58 - Mov. 1

Classical

0:22

 

 

Holst

First Suite in E Flat

Classical

9:07

9:50

 

Holst

The Planets - Jupiter

Classical

4:48

5:10

 

Holst

The Planets - Jupiter

Classical

3:05

 

 

Holst

The Planets - Venus

Classical

4:27

4:39

 

Kreisler

Praeludium and Allegro

Classical

2:20

4:30

 

Liszt

Danse Macabre

Classical

0:27

3:37

4:21

Mahler

Symphony No. 1 - Mov. 1

Classical

14:00

 

 

Mahler

Symphony No. 1 - Mov. 4

Classical

5:42

9:57

15:15

Mahler

Symphony No. 2 - Mov. 1

Classical

1:47

 

 

Mahler

Symphony No. 2 - Mov. 1

Classical

13:00

10:20

 

Mahler

Symphony No. 2 - Mov. 3

Classical

7:59

 

 

Mahler

Symphony No. 2 - Mov. 5

Classical

7:45

15:29

21:57

Mahler

Symphony No. 5 - Mov. 1

Classical

0:05

 

 

Mozart

A Little Night Music

Classical

0:17

 

 

Mozart

Requiem: Lacrimosa

Classical

0:46

 

 

Mozart

Requiem: Lacrimosa

Classical

0:50

 

 

Mussorgksy

Pictures at Exhibition

Classical

5:16

 

 

Pachelbel

Canon in D Major

Classical

2:02

 

 

Penderecki

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

Classical

0:20

3:00

 

Prokofiev

Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2: Juliet the Young Girl

Classical

0:20

 

 

Prokofiev

Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 3: Juliet’s Death

Classical

4:30

 

 

Rachmaninoff

Morceaux de Fantaisie, No. 2,  Prelude in C# Minor

Classical

2:20

 

 

Rachmaninoff

Morceaux de Fantaisie, No. 2,  Prelude in C# Minor

Classical

1:31

 

 

Rachmaninoff

Piano Concerto in C Minor, No. 2 - Mov. 2

Classical

1:32

8:48

 

Rachmaninoff

Piano Concerto No. 3

Classical

1:03

 

 

Rachmaninoff

Prelude No. 4 - D Major

Classical

0:09

 

 

Rachmaninoff

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Classical

1:25

2:30

 

Ravel

Gaspard de la Nuit: Ondine

Classical

0:50

3:13

3:41

Ravel

Oiseaux Tristes

Classical

0:23

1:04

2:05

Ravel

String Quartet - Mov. 2

Classical

0:02

0:24

3:16

Respighi

Pines of Rome

Classical

6:48

 

 

Rimsky-Korsakov

Scheherazade - Mov. 2

Classical

2:50

3:17

 

Rimsky-Korsakov

Scheherazade - Mov. 3

Classical

6:13

 

 

Saint-Saens

Symphony No. 3 - Mov. 1

Classical

1:00

3:00

 

Schumann

Fantasy in C - Mov. 1

Classical

7:55

 

 

Shostakovich

11th Symphony - Mov. 2

Classical

13:45

 

 

Shostakovich

Piano Concerto No. 2 - Mov. 2

Classical

6:45

 

 

Shostakovich

Symphony No. 10 - Mov. 2

Classical

1:00

2:20

 

Shostakovich

Symphony No. 11 - Mov. 2

Classical

14:00

 

 

Shostakovich

Symphony No. 11 - Mov. 4

Classical

10:00

 

 

Shostakovich

Symphony No. 4 - Mov. 3

Classical

20:30

22:30

 

Shostakovich

Symphony No. 5 - Mov. 3

Classical

1:08

 

 

Strauss

Voices of Spring Waltz

Classical

5:20

 

 

Stravinsky

Firebird Suite

Classical

3:01

7:13

 

Stravinsky

Rite of Spring - Augurs of Spring

Classical

1:45

 

 

Stravinsky

Rite of Spring - The Adoration of the Earth

Classical

8:45

 

 

Tchaikovsky

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Classical

1:15

2:00

 

Tchaikovsky

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Classical

0:09

 

 

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 4 - Mov. 1

Classical

4:00

8:00

17:13

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 4 - Mov. 1

Classical

12:32

 

 

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 5 - Mov. 1

Classical

0:00

2:50

8:39

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 5 - Mov. 4

Classical

7:16

 

 

Tchaikovsky

Violin Concerto in D - Mov. 1

Classical

0:52

1:10

1:22

Tchaikovsky

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Classical

1:53

3:45

5:30

Vivaldi

Four Seasons - Spring

Classical

0:15

 

 

Vivaldi

Four Seasons - Spring

Classical

0:16

 

 

Vivaldi

Four Seasons - Summer

Classical

0:49

1:05

1:21

Vivaldi

Four Seasons - Winter

Classical

0:40

1:15

1:37

Vivaldi

Four Seasons - Winter

Classical

1:15

2:10

3:00

Wagner

Lohengrin Prelude to act 1

Classical

6:22

 

 

Wagner

Overture to Tannhauser

Classical

1:00

 

 

Walton

Violin Concerto - Mov. 1

Classical

0:30

0:59

1:16

Echoes

Digitalism

Electronic

0:31

 

 

Lamb

Angelica

Electronic

0:05

0:27

 

Jimmy Swift Band

80's Runaway Model

Electronic Rock

3:07

 

 

Yann Tiersen

Le Moulin

Film Score (Amelie Poulin)

2:10

 

 

Yann Tiersen

Rue des Cascades - C'etait Ici

Film Score (Amelie Poulin)

1:13

 

 

Wendy Carlos

Symphony No. 9 - Mov. 2

Film Score (Clockwork Orange)

2:15

 

 

Alexandre Desplat

By the Canal with Pieter

Film Score (Girl with a Pearl Earring)

0:04

 

 

Desplat

Griet’s Theme

Film Score (Girl with a Pearl Earring)

0:06

 

 

Hans Zimmer

Am I Not Merciful?

Film Score (Gladiator)

4:48

 

 

Jon Brion

Later Monday

Film Score (I Heart Huckabees)

1:00

 

 

Ennio Morricone

L'Arena

Film Score (Kill Bill)

1:15

2:00

3:05

Shore

A Journey in the Dark

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

2:50

 

 

Shore

Amon Hen

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

1:05

 

 

Shore

Concerning Hobbits

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

0:30

1:20

 

Shore

Riders of Rohan

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

2:20

 

 

Shore

Samwise the Brave

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

0:40

 

 

Shore

The Breaking of the Fellowship

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

0:10

0:55

 

Shore

The Uruk-Hai

Film Score (Lord of the Rings)

1:30

 

 

La Caution

The a la Menthe

Film Score (Ocean's Twelve)

1:20

 

 

Ennio Morricone

The Man with the Harmonica

Film Score (Once Upon a Time in the West)

1:06

 

 

The Lively Ones

Surf Rider

Film Score (Pulp Fiction)

1:34

 

 

Clint Mansell

Lux Aeterna

Film Score (Requiem for a Dream)

3:28

 

 

John Williams

Across the Stars

Film Score (Star Wars)

1:10

3:34

3:55

John Williams

Across the Stars

Film Score (Star Wars)

1:40

3:42

 

Clint Mansell

Death Is The Road To Awe

Film Score (The Fountain)

5:20

 

 

John Debney

Resurrection

Film Score (The Passion of the Christ)

0:45

 

 

Hans Zimmer

Hummel gets the Rockets

Film Score (The Rock)

4:27

 

 

James Horner

My Heart will go On

Film Score (Titanic)

2:27

 

 

Crowfoot

Larks in May

Folk

0:10

2:00

 

Grainger

Rutherford Park Poachers

Folk

1:40

3:40

 

Sheefra

Da Slockit Light

Folk

1:00

2:10

 

The Assembly

Cheris / Fading Light

Folk

4:01

6:14

 

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Congan

Guitar

2:09

 

 

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Mysterious Habitats

Guitar

1:21

2:20

 

Pat Metheny

Make Peace

Guitar

4:34

 

 

Agustin Barrios

Julia Florida - Barcarola

Guitar - Classical

0:56

1:45

2:07

Rodrigo Y Gabriela

Diablo Rojo

Guitar - Flamenco

2:23

 

 

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Tamacun

Guitar - Flamenco

1:58

 

 

Leo Brouwer

Danza del Altiplano

Guitar - Folk

2:11

2:23

2:51

Leo Brouwer

Sonata III (La Toccata de Pasquini)

Guitar - Latin

1:04

1:35

2:54

Children of Bodom

Vivaldi's Four Seasons

Heavy Metal

1:13

 

 

Steve Vai

Beethoven's 5th

Heavy Metal

2:00

 

 

Nik Bartsch

Ronin Stoa - Modul 33

Instrumental - Jazz

6:25

 

 

Nik Bartsch

Ronin Stoa - Modul 36

Instrumental - Jazz

3:00

 

 

Cordame

Valse Hebraique

Instrumental - Strings

0:35

 

 

Brad Mehldau

Knives Out

Instrumental Post-Rock

4:45

7:25

 

Brad Mehldau

Paranoid Android

Instrumental Post-Rock

2:32

6:13

 

Explosions in the Sky

First Breath After Coma

Instrumental Post-Rock

2:25

3:30

8:10

Explosions in the Sky

First Breath After Coma

Instrumental Post-Rock

3:34

8:27

 

Joe Satriani

Always with Me, Always with You

Instrumental Rock

2:13

 

 

Torngat

Bell Duet

Instrumental Rock

0:48

 

 

Torngat

Mouton Noir

Instrumental Rock

1:12

 

 

Alizadeh

Jamedaran

International

3:10

 

 

Alizadeh

Nahoft and Faroud

International

2:53

 

 

Komitas

Varashapat

International

0:54

 

 

Bob Mintzer Big Band

Chant

Jazz

1:35

 

 

Cannonball Adderley

One for Daddy-O

Jazz

0:40

 

 

Cannonball Adderley

Work Song

Jazz

0:52

 

 

Charles Mingus

Fables of Faubus

Jazz

0:20

7:10

 

Chick Corea

Akoustic Band – Morning Sprite

Jazz

1:30

 

 

Chris Potter

Morning Bell

Jazz

8:40

 

 

Darcy James Argues

Ferromagnetic

Jazz

6:25

 

 

Darcy James Argues

Flux in a Box

Jazz

3:15

 

 

Dave Douglas and Nomad

North Point Memorial

Jazz

1:58

 

 

Dave Holland

Claressence

Jazz

4:26

 

 

David Binney

Out Beyond Ideas

Jazz

3:10

 

 

Jaga Jazzist

Day

Jazz

1:15

 

 

Joe Lovano Nonet

Charlie Chan

Jazz

0:03

 

 

Kenny Garrett

Equinox

Jazz

2:35

 

 

Oliver Jones

Someone to Watch over Me

Jazz

0:11

 

 

Stan Getz

Round Midnight

Jazz

1:26

 

 

Thad Jones

Walkin About

Jazz

1:16

 

 

Phish

You Enjoy Mylsef

Jazz Fusion

10:50

 

 

Joe Pass

Misty

Jazz/Blues

2:00

 

 

Philip Glass

Mishima: Stage Blood is Not Enough

Opera - Instrumental

3:30

 

 

Blonde Redhead

For the Damaged

Post-Rock

0:35

1:00

 

Do Make Say Think

Horns of a Rabbit

Post-Rock

2:29

 

 

Do Make Say Think

The Landlord is Dead

Post-Rock

3:25

 

 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Static

Post-Rock

11:20

 

 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Storm

Post-Rock

3:37

 

 

Transiberian Orchestra

Nutcracker Suite

Progressive Rock

0:05

 

 

Infected Mushroom

Suliman

Psychedelic Rock

4:23

 

 

Infected Mushroom

Heavyweight

Psychedelic Rock

4:37

 

 

Pink Floyd

Shine on You Crazy Diamond

Psychedelic Rock

5:00

 

 

Infected Mushroom

Special place

Psychedelic Trance

4:01

 

 

Infected Mushroom

Vicious Delicious

Psychedelic Trance

5:50

 

 

Led Zeppelin

Moby Dick

Rock

0:32

 

 

Led Zeppelin

White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Rock

1:13

 

 

Strangely Dim

Running Song

Rock

3:50

 

 

Piazzolla

Libertango

Tango

2:51

 

 

Rodriguez

La Cumparsita

Tango

2:36

 

 

Armin van Buuren

Control Freak (Sander van Doorn Remix)

Techno

2:04

 

 

Big Room Mix

Deeper Love

Techno

1:59

 

 

Jeckyll and Hyde

Freefall

Techno

0:39

 

 

Marcel Woods

Advanced

Techno

0:08

 

 

Marcel Woods

Happy Hardcore (Sandstorm by Darude)

Techno

0:59

 

 

Misjah and Tim

Access

Techno

1:16

 

 

Sander Van Doorn

Riff

Techno

0:27

 

 

Tiesto

Adagio for Strings

Techno

3:30

3:50

 

Tiesto

Forbidden Paradise

Techno

3:07

 

 

Tiesto

Live at Godskitched Global Gathering

Techno

1:04

 

 

Tiesto

Nyana

Techno

1:00

1:30

3:20

Tiesto

Olympic Flame

Techno

0:30

1:20

2:05

Yoji Biomehanika

Hardstyle Disco

Techno

2:50

 

 

Yoji Biomehanika

Supersound

Techno

1:31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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