Laptop Sessions article: “Why do we listen to music?”

By Jeff Copperthite:

Before I begin my article today, I want to give you an update on my New Year’s happenings.  Obviously, if you’re a visitor to this site, chances are you have followed us throughout our excursion and foray through 2008, as we covered a song per day.  The holiday season was a good one, but it surely made me a bit under the weather for some reason.  I may not have slept as well as I thought I did.  Because this week, I’ve been fighting off a cold and (again) a lost voice.

However, I had this article in mind for quite some time, so now is the time to bring it to you.

It is a question some have wondered about.  Well, some is basically Anthropologists, Sociologists, Theorists, Philosophers, and the like.

Why do we listen to music?

It’s not the same question as “Why do we make  music?”.  I think the two have some drastically different responses.

Furthermore, you can add in the question “What determines what people listen too?”, because that also has a series of drastically different responses.  I myself am not entirely sure why I grew up listening to rock, alternative, and video game music.  I know I enjoy them.

But that’s different.  I want to examine some of the reasons that I listen to music, and some events that I recall in my mind when I think of this.

One reason I believe is for motivation.  I have glowing memories of listening to a select few albums when I was in High School on the Cross Country team.  On the bus to meets, before the meets after stretching, while eating a peeled orange and drinking a grape powerade.  I always had the CD player running.  Sometimes players would have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention to do the premeet preparation or the course walkthrough.  I listened especially to the 2nd disc of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd (fans of this album should already know the song that stuck out the most), but others were “Villains” by the Verve Pipe, “Pet Your Friends” by Dishwalla, “Master of Puppets” by Metallica (especially the track “Orion”), and “Foo Fighters” (self-titled initial release).  Those tended to psych me up for those 5k runs and made me ready to go.  I would also “listen” to the songs in my head as I ran the meet.  I’m sure people use music to psych up for sporting events, but I am sure the selection of the type of music will vary greatly.

Another reason is relaxation.  However, this is where a lot of people differ in what is considered relaxing.  Personally, I don’t find a lot of my playlist to be terribly “relaxing”.  I mean, putting on “Firestarter” just wouldn’t make me destress.  If you’re like me, you need something a bit more slow-tempo, perhaps acoustic or – dare I say it – classical.  Well, the classical station is reserved for those particlarly stressful days, like when students are overly sarcastic or not interested in making themselves smarter or being proud of their acheivements (i’ll save that for another article).  Destressing is something we all have to do.  What’s funny is the music that I listen to to relax me, may make some very stressed.  And vice versa.  That’s the really weird thing.

A good reason that people listen to music is tied to the previous two reasons.  Music can be a mood changer.  As pointed out by a friend of mine, sad people may listen to specific songs that contain sympathizing lyrics.  It is a coping mechanism that people use to help them through a tough time.  In a way, the previous paragraphs are mood changers as well.  If I wanted to feel psyched up and motivated, I had music to listen too.  When I had my first (and only) break from my then-future wife, I had specific music that I used as sympathizing music.   It does in a way make me wonder if the reason people listen to specific music, is to fit the mood that they are most comfortable with.  Perhaps there are people out there who are “content” on feeling angry, so they listen to angry sounding music.  It’s an interesting hypothesis.

Whatever your reason, I’m sure you can understand that you listen to music for perhaps drastically different reasons.  But one thing we all have in common – we listen to it.  It’s a wonderful piece of art.  We get to enjoy it throughout our lives, and in many different settings.  I hope this makes you think about why you enjoy it, and then I hope knowing that brings you greater appreciation for it.

I will see you next week!  Have a great weekend!

This is one in a series of acoustic cover songs, original music, and free mp3 downloads here on the Laptop Sessions Music Video Blog.

1 thought on “Laptop Sessions article: “Why do we listen to music?”

  1. What an interesting article. I especially like the section about moods and listening to music. I know that Chris listens to music that FITS his mood. When he’s happy or feeling love, the Beach Boys are blasting. But, when he went through his recent depressed phase, he just sank deeper and deeper in while listening to angry and sad songs. He’d literally walk around the house singing, “I dreamt of killing you last night and it was good…”

    I think that method of listening to music is particularly bad because it encourages manic/depressive behavior. Basically, if you’re happy, you listen to happy music to make you happier. If you’re sad, you listen to sad music so you can feel comforable in your misery.

    Personally, you’ll rarely find me listening to sad songs. I’m always a fan of happier songs because music is such a good thing to me that I don’t want to associate it with bad feelings. In fact, as Chris and Becky know, I’ll refuse to listen to music when I’m in a bad mood, which has made for dome pretty awkward car rides in the past. I jus know that music makes me smile and some times, you just want to cool off before you smile again.

    However, during bleak times, I find myself writing music, rather than listening to it. I always record in the sad winter months. When my mood is down, I make great music.

    I guess “to each his own” is certainly the mantra here!


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