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Do We Share a Universal Melody?

Do We Share a Universal Melody? David Aiello

For me, music is a necessity, just as air, food, water, and shelter. But as important as I regard music, I have struggled to explain why I have such strong, emotional reactions to it. Such an elusive explanation about such a basic human creation made me think about how much music is a part of me — part of us all.

I’ve often wondered whether music could be part of our genetic makeup or part of our spiritual beings. If that is the case, I joyfully wonder whether our reactions to music might be based on a single tune — a universal melody that emanates from our souls like an anthem banding us together. It’s a lovely thought, and I recently stumbled across two studies that helped me refine my thinking about why a universal melody might exist and who created it.

While looking at literature regarding why humans have an intrinsic aptitude for music, I found a study that linked listening to pleasurable music to the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains. The reward response of dopamine can produce temporary feelings of euphoria. We experience this same response with having sex and eating good food. I understand why we experience dopamine rushes with sex and food. They’re about remaining strong and propagating the species. But I don’t understand why we experience the same euphoric responses when exposed to sounds. Is this a vestige of an old defense mechanism?