So there was this study which determined that there is a small fraction of the populace that derives no emotion from listening to music. The condition is called “anhedonia” and about five percent of the population is affected. For these people, music does not make them happy, they have no urge to tap their toe or sway to the music.
Emotion and music is an interesting thing; it seems closely related to the (perhaps unsolvable) mystery of why particular passages of music can move a person. Because I am so not like that, it’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the anhedonic. There are pieces of music out there that can move me to tears, though the “why” of that is tricky. Sometimes I’ve developed a relationship with the music over time. Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” is like that. It’s been with me a long time; it’s a part of me.
But then there are more curious examples: Dawn Upshaw’s voice sends me over the edge in several places during Górecki’s “Symphony No. 3”; the vocal harmonies that rise during The Low Anthem’s “This Goddamn House” take me there as well; there’s also that line in Dar Williams’ Miss You Til I Meet You: “It all goes by so fast, like waving hands”…for many reasons, it’s a lyric that makes me forget who I am for just a minute.
Just for fun, I took the survey that measures a person’s connection to music. You won’t be surprised to discover that I scored 60+ in nearly all the categories (60 and above is considered high). The exception was in “SENSORI-MOTOR,” where I scored a 39. No surprise there: I don’t like to dance.
Because of my own relationship to music, part of me has a hard time believing that a person can feel nothing from music. What? They don’t start pounding on the steering wheel when a song comes on that…Oh, they don’t even have the radio on.
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