Greetings St. Andrew’s Congregation,
Last month I discussed the concept of harmony, and how the word not only describes music as we hear it but also how it causes us to feel inner harmony. I’d like to share with you a surprising bit of science that can really deepen our understanding of why this happens.
Indeed, we do not enjoy music as we know it solely because we’re used to it, as many assume. It turns out that music literally “plays us” as if we were instruments ourselves. This is because the notes of the scale (C, D, E, F, G, etc.) correspond to a mechanism in our aural receptors. Each time we hear a particular note, say C, it makes a certain area of our aural receptor to vibrate. Each receptor can only pick up one note, so that C receptor doesn’t vibrate when an A note is sounding. This fact might not sound so remarkable in itself. However, these receptors are laid out in our brain in the same order as the piano keys, and the mechanism looks very similar to a mini keyboard. This makes the whole discovery truly amazing— it is as if we are pianos, and the way our brain lights up is subject to the pattern of the music!
Add on to that the fact that every one of us, unless we’re deaf, has the same mechanism in our ears, so we’re all being played the same way when we hear the same piece of music. It gives us a truly common experience.
Your Choir Director,