Why Do All My Friends Like the Same Music?

Your weekend was radical. Your friends loved your “Bitchin’ Summer 2014″ playlist, and together you drove around for hours, singing along. Later on, at the barbecue, you were nominated DJ. As the party progressed, you got a little bolder and threw on some deep cuts. A cute friend of a friend of a friend complimented your taste, and the two of you started talking about music. Before long the conversation drifted to other topics, and you two talked for hours.

Music has chemistry, both in maintaining friendships and helping us forge new ones. But science is still pretty far behind in understanding music’s power to create social bonds. “To this day, it hasn’t struck people that there must have been tremendous evolutionary pressure for music,” said Petr Janata, a psychologist who studies music and the brain at UC Davis. But this doesn’t mean we are completely without answers. Since at least the late ’80s, researchers have been studying how music affects peoples’ social lives.

A number of studies have used surveys and controlled experiments to confirm what seems pretty obvious: People express their identity through music. In one study, from 2007, researchers had strangers meet in a chat room with the only instruction being to learn about one another. After analyzing the transcripts, the researchers found the most common topic, by far, was musical preferences. Another study from 2003 (paywall) used a series of experiments to establish how people link their taste in musical genres to their personality characteristics. “There’s a lot of correlation between the type of music you like and your personality,” said Janata.

Other studies have found people readily make assumptions about someone else’s identity based solely on their musical preferences. Several studies asked people to describe personality aspects of fans of various music genres. It turns out there’s a lot of agreement about the various stereotypes of music fans. One study showed that many people described top 40 fans as outgoing. In another, most subjects agreed that heavy metal fans have bad moods. Yet another showed people believe classical music listeners as more likely to enjoy a glass of wine than a doobie.

These generalities don’t necessarily hold up for all places and all points in time. In a 1989 study (paywall) asking women and men to rate potential dates, heavy metal dudes rated pretty favorably among the ladies (this was the heyday of Mötley Crüe and The Scorpions, after all). The guys went for women who were into classical (no doubt a sign of classiness and intelligence). Place probably matters too: It’s hard to imagine much common ground in the public perception of a mariachi fan in Mexico versus one in Connecticut.

People project their personalities through music, and make assumptions about other peoples’ personalities based on their playlists. But, how does this equate to friendship and romance? Is it reasonable to assume that music is a shorthand for compatibility?

In 2011, a group of researchers set out to see exactly whether music actually had the power to draw people with the same values together. The researchers used pairs of college kids who had been randomly assigned as dorm room mates for around 1-2 months. They had each kid describe their musical tastes and fill out a survey to determine their values. Also, each subject was asked how much they liked their room mate, and to rate how similar their own values were with what they perceived were their room mate’s values. After controlling for factors like difference in age and study subject, the researchers found with compatible tastes in rock, hip hop, and other western musical genres tended to share similar values, and be more socially drawn to one another. (The study also included genres like K-pop, Chinese Opera, and movie soundtracks, none of which showed strong correlations with values or likability.)

Studies like these show strong indications that people use compatible musical tastes to help them choose their friends, but a lot more research is needed before we know for sure. But there’s no doubt that music is a powerful force in many people’s lives. Whether you turn it up loudly and sing along, wearing the music’s emotion like garlands of your own inner feelings, or just use it as nonintrusive background noise while you work, your choice of music may be telling the people around you more than you realize about your personality and values. Scientists still have a lot to learn about the role music plays in our social lives, Janata says. “It is something that engages the brain so strongly that the brain wants it and is willing to put energy into it, therefore it’s a significant phenomena to be understood.”

Reposted from Wired

This Is What Your Favorite Music Does To Your Brain

No matter what type of music is heating up your earbuds this summer, your brain is responding to the beat—and not just by making your head nod. Research shows the right tune can temper your feelings of anxiety, energize your limbs, and even bolster your immune system. Here’s how.

Your Ideal Beat

Scientists who study music have identified something called “preferred motor tempo,” or the theory that everybody has an ideal rhythm when it comes to the jams they enjoy. “When you hear music traveling at your favored rhythm, the areas of your brain that control movement become more excited, making you more likely to start tapping your feet or moving along to it,” explains Martin Wiener, Ph.D., a psychologist at George Mason University who has investigated preferred motor tempo.

Generally, faster beats will pump up your brain more than slow ones, Wiener adds. But there’s a limit. “If a tempo is faster than you like to hear, your brain will become less excited as you become less interested,” he explains. The older you get, the more your “preferred tempo” tends to slow, Wiener says. (That’s why you get pumped up listening to Pharrell, while your parents snap their fingers to Josh Groban.)

Your Workout Playlist

If you’re listening to your ideal groove while exercising, your brain’s amped-up motor cortex can make your workout seem less effortful, Wiener’s research suggests. Another study from Florida State University (FSU) also confirmed that, by distracting your brain, music lowered the amount of difficulty and effort people perceived while exercising. Why? Your brain regards good music as “rewarding,” which leads to an uptick in the feel-good hormone dopamine, Wiener says. “This increase in dopamine might explain the high that some people feel when they're listening to music that they greatly enjoy.” Dopamine may also dull the pain your body would otherwise experience, studies indicate.

U.K. researchers found that, just as upbeat music lights up the parts of your noodle responsible for movement, it also turns up the volume when it comes to brain activity related to attention and visual perception. Basically, up-tempo tunes can quicken your reaction time and your ability to process visual information, the FSU study suggests.

Music and Your Health

People who listened to relaxing music before surgery felt less anxious than those who swallowed anxiety-lowering drugs, found a review study from several neuroscientists including Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., of McGill University in Canada. Levitin and his colleagues have conducted lots of research on music and the brain. And they’ve found evidence that, apart from lowering levels of stress-related brain chemicals like cortisol, music also seems to boost your body’s amounts of immunoglobulin A—an immune system-strengthening antibody. There are also indications music cranks up the number of “killer cells” your body used to fight off germs and bacteria, Levitin’s research suggests.

While the mechanisms behind all of these benefits aren’t totally clear, the stress-lowering powers of music could help explain how groovy tunes bolster your body’s defenses, Levitin’s studies indicate. Even if the music is slow and somber, as long as you’re into it, you’ll feel good, shows research from Japan. When people listened to sad (but enjoyable) tunes, they actually felt positive emotions, the authors found. Why? A separate study from the U.K. that turned up similar results suggests that, because the sad music is beautiful, it may make the listener feel less bummed out.

So, fast or slow, energizing or enervating, music seems to be great for you as long as you’re listening to stuff you dig. Summing up one of his research papers on music and the brain, Levitin and colleagues hit the nail on the head when they say, “Music is one of the most rewarding and pleasurable human experiences.

Reposted from Shape

Top 10 Composers by Anthony Tommasini

Johann Sebastian Bach

Anthony Tommasini explores what makes these classical composers great.

In the first video of his series the chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini explains the importance of Bach and his influence on classical music to come.

Watch Videos Here

What Would Beethoven Do?

What Would Beethoven Do?

This is not your grandparents’ classical music. This is classical music for everyone.

For decades, this has been the story: classical music is at death’s door. With the advent of a technologically brave new world, who could be interested in this stodgy art form? Yet, classical music has enduring significance. It still stands as a pillar—if a somewhat wobbly one—of our culture today.

Although financial difficulties and declining attendance rates plague many orchestras, new technology and shifting audience demographics have inspired some artists to think creatively and step outside the box. Classical music lives.

“What Would Beethoven Do?” highlights recent innovations that are breaking down the genre’s highbrow perception and introducing classical music to a broader audience. Despite some institutional reluctance about maintaining the “purity” of the genre, many musicians and artists are taking risks to reinvent classical music for a new age.

The classical music world is at an exciting crossroads “What Would Beethoven Do?” focuses on individuals and organizations that are taking classical music to the next level and paving the way for future success.

Treble Productions, a documentary film crew that believes that there are many individuals and organizations out there doing great things to propel classical music forward. Their film, What Would Beethoven Do? shares the stories of people like Benjamin Zander, who is building the next generation of classical musicians in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra; Eric Whitacre, who is bringing classical music into the digital age with his Virtual Youth Choir; Bobby McFerrin who is challenging audiences with performances filled with fun and humor; and many more people who are doing amazing things with classical music.

What Would Beethoven Do? | New Documentary Teaser from What Would Beethoven Do on Vimeo.

Lang Lang Rocks Toy Piano During a Visit to Classic FM, London

The Instrument

Lang Lang was in the studio to tell Charlotte Green about his new Lang Lang Piano Academy and accompanying books, 'Mastering The Piano'. He was only too happy to play a snippet from the first book in the series for them

NPR Field Recording: Yuja Wang

"On A Chilly Factory Floor, Yuja Wang's Piano Sizzles"


Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang isn't one to do anything in half measures. So when NPR invited her to record a performance in a room at the Steinway & Sons piano factory, she showed up in Queens that frigid morning with her A game.

The 27-year-old ultra-glam artist wore one of her trademark dresses, significant stiletto booties and a Gucci fur stole, as well as some wrist warmers as a concession to the temperature. She played a piece that would chop shrinking violets to mulch: Prokofiev's blisteringly difficult Toccata in D minor, Op. 11.

Somehow, that combination of bling and brawn — in both the music and Wang's approach — seemed just right for the factory, where artisans labored nearby over raw material.

See more at Field Recordings