An interesting study suggests that some people are physically incapable of enjoying music.
For most people, the mere suggestion that a favorite song fails to evoke an emotional response in another human being sounds preposterous. Sure, that person might not like that song as much as you do, but they’ll definitely feel something — right?
Not necessarily, says Josep Marco-Pallerés, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Barcelona and lead author of a new study that explores why some people feel indifferent to music. “Music isn’t rewarding for them, even though other kinds of rewards, like money, are,” he says. “It just doesn’t affect them.”
This makes me think of the Amusica virus from Alastair Reynolds’ Century Rain, in which an entire civilisation lost its ability to appreciate music through a genetically-engineered virus, so that the cultural heritage from Beethoven to The Beatles was reduced to tuneless scratching noises.
Amusia (Not “Amusica”) might well explain to those of us who are so passionate about music that it becomes a major part of our lives why others don’t share our interests. But sometimes I wonder if there are people within music fandom who don’t actually like music as defined by that research.
This is not actually not as strange as it sounds. I’ve met people who are totally unmoved by melody, but love the stories in the lyrics, which might explain the continued popularity of some tuneless singer-songwriters. And then there are the people who insist that it you claim to like both punk and progressive rock you “just don’t get it”; I get the impression that for them it was all about the excitement of the rock’n'roll lifestyle than any love of the actual music.
Does the same neuroscience can explain why so many of us who do share a passion for music have such widely divergent tastes?
For example, I find much fashionable indie-rock tuneless and unlistenable, yet their fans as just as passionate about it as I am for progressive rock, so they must be hearing something I’m not, and vice versa. I’ve heard it said that the variety of music you’re exposed to at an early age affects your musical appreciation later in life.
So, those of you who are (or aren’t) music fans. Why do you like the music you like? What is it you like about it? And what about the music you don’t like?