Why do we enjoy music?

post by metachirality · 2024-05-14T08:29:16.803Z · LW · GW · 1 comment

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Enjoying music doesn't seem to have any obvious purpose. Sure you can argue it strengthens social bonds, but why specifically sounds arranged in patterns through time over anything else?

At least with humor you can say it's about identifying the generating function of some observation which is sort of like reducing prediction error in predictive coding (and I suspect something like this is the basis for aesthetics) but I can't fit music into being anything like this.

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answer by Anna Gajdova · 2024-05-14T11:40:02.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might enjoy Kevin Simler's review of Why Do People Sing?: Music in Human Evolution. It's a beautifully written essay offering some speculative and surprising answers I don't want to spoil. 

Re: predictive error explanation: You might say that a good music piece needs the right balance of familiarity, emotional impact and surprise even when you are listening to it on repeat. 

comment by metachirality · 2024-05-14T16:32:54.883Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think I'm really looking for something like that, since it doesn't touch on the perception of music as much as it does the reasons why we have it.

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comment by Viliam · 2024-05-15T13:15:58.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

why specifically sounds arranged in patterns through time over anything else?

We already have speech, so the progression could be something like: saying the same things (repeating what the high-status person or the the person you love said)... saying the same things together (in a religious ritual)... singing together... listening to the music (and imagining that you are singing along?)