You’re not alone, and, it’s not your fault. A new book on how the human brain interprets music demonstrates that listeners rely upon finding patterns within the sounds they receive in order to make sense of it and interpret it as a musical composition.
What was that?
Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct, has drawn on the latest scientific findings from neuroscientists to show structure and patterns in music are a fundamental part of musical enjoyment. It seems the “old” masters like Bach and Mozart instinctively knew how to write music that made our brains happy, but when the moderns presented us with atonal music in the 20th century our poor little minds weren’t equipped for what they heard and we’re no closer to understanding it on an instinctive level.
The author adds “Some of the things that were done by those composers such as Schoenberg undermined this cognitive aid for making music easier to understand and follow. Schoenberg’s music became fragmented which makes it harder for the brain to find structure.
“That isn’t to say, of course, that it is impossible to listen to, it is just harder work. It would be wrong to dismiss such music as a racket.“
Professor David Huron, an expert on music cognition at Ohio State University, has studied some of the underlying reasons why listeners struggled with such modern classical pieces.
He said: “Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events.”
Read the full article featured in The Telegraph out of the UK here.
Also, scroll down to a previous post dated Jan 28, 2010 on the brains musical abilities.