• hypericin
    42
    There is a lot of mystification on this topic. I have a theory, which I think is more plausible than the other theories I have seen:

    * People love predictability, music is predictable, which people enjoy
    - Obviously not! To say music is "predictable" is not praise it, quite the opposite

    * Music is an extrapolation of the musical sequences heard in everyday spoken language (i.e. "hel-loo-ooo!").
    - I think this is closer. But these sequences are more convention than anything, they do not excite people to anything like the ecstasy music can induce.

    My answer:

    Look at the original music: singing. What was the original context of singing? Religious and community rituals.

    In a song, the words are the nominal message, and sound is the medium of that message, the carrier of that signal. But in a song, that carrier was repurposed to transmit another signal, by varying the pitch and tempo of the spoken words.

    Unlike the words, this signal is not informational, it is emotional. When a listener hears a song, he is receiving two simultaneous, distinct signals, symbolic and emotional. The purpose of the second, emotional signal, is to reinforce the message of the first, symbolic one. By manipulating pitch and tempo the singer is able to induce an ecstasy in the listener which he could not otherwise achieve with mere words. Music is an evolutionary assist in transmitting religious exaltation, which ultimately reinforces the control of the religious leader.

    Every music lover will agree that their favorite music places them in a spiritual, exalted state. This concords with the function of music: to place the listener in a state of spiritual ecstasy, and impart the impression of meaning and significance which the words of the song would not otherwise possess.

    The reason why one sequence of notes may excite this, and another may not, is both personally idiosyncratic and culturally bound.

    Music has now outgrown its original function, so that an entire industry exists to stimulate the ecstasy, without the religious/spiritual content. Only the emotion remains, grasping at something which isn't there.
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