Voices in the machine

I wrote most of this yesterday but fell asleep before posting it.

Music is the shorthand of emotion. ~Leo Tolstoy

There is no truer truth obtainable
By Man than comes of music. ~Robert Browning

While I'm feeling a lot better today than I was this past weekend I called in sick since I'm still having annoying hot flashes from my fever. The sweating is irritating and I figured getting more sleep and lots of fluids would be a better approach in the long run. It's very annoying that this is all due to a silly sore throat. I'm assuming it's just a cold or some other virus causing it. Damn viruses!

I mention this because I've been napping and listening to music today and that's gotten me to thinking of how our limbic system is wired into our nervous system.

Like William Congreve once said, Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast. By communicating directly to our limbic system music has the ability to change our perception of our surroundings without our active realization of it happening. This is something we note on a regular basis. A short stop in a store and we find ourselves happier or sadder for no obvious reason--until we reflect and realize that song we remember so well from our youth was playing in the background.

A good example of how the limbic system enters into this is how we react to very specific types of music or even voices. When I hear the voice of Leann Rimes, back when she was starting out around 10 years ago, I react by having a languid feeling just slip over me. It's like when you're moving slow and there's no hurry. The feeling is almost sexual but not quite--it's a at-peace-with-the-world type vibe. In an odd way it's almost a lack of emotion reaction. Unless contented peace is an emotion.

She's got such incredible pipes but that's not all it takes. Whitney Houston, when singing the right material, can do amazing things with her voice but I don't get that reaction.

The only other singers with such a strong power over my subconscious are Toni Braxton, Amy Grant, and Maria McKee. Mostly their early work though Grant can still have that effect on me.

It's not limited to women either though the effect is stronger. With male singers it tends to be voice coupled with specific songs but like with women singers, it tends to be strong resonant voices. Jim Reeves singing He'll have to go, or Roger Whittaker singing Durhamtown for example. This sort of thing would also explain women throwing panties at lounge singers in Vegas. Instead of the logo "What Happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" it could be "Blame it on the Limbic System!"

Getting back to the limbic system stuff, our limbic system processes a lot of backdoor information. The pertinent aspect of that for us is the emotions. Our feelings are mostly based in the limbic system which is a section of the brain just over the medulla oblongata. Since this section of the brain isn't under the control of the cerebral cortex, which is the seat of our "higher brain" functions including our consciousness, we have no way of knowing what happens in our limbic system. If someone were to be able to figure out how to communicate directly to our limbic systems in code, then they'd be able to manipulate us without our knowledge. In a nutshell, that is what music is. A code to manipulate our emotions without us being able prevent it. Pretty neat!


Oreo said…
So sorry to read you're sick Utenzi. There's a lot of that going around the blogs these days. Kinda put things in perspective for me though cause I was felling sorry for myself when I realized that most of the blogs I read were going through something too! Anyway, you're so right about the music that you listen too. Listen to a country song & you're depressed (HAHA, but generally true Metallica makes you feel mean, etc. That's why I love Christian music most of all, it makes me feel so happy & uplifted! Sorry to go on & on.
utenzi said…
I agree totally, Oreo, you're a very smart cat. Indeed, Amy Grant often leaves me feeling uplifted.
Heather said…
Very interesting post. Hope you feel better soon.
lisa said…
I hope you're feeling better.

My mom was sick recently until the other day, she went to the ocean which is what she thinks "cured" her.

I suppose there could be something about the salt and disinfectant and negative ions or something along those lines. She was always one for being cured by nature. I recall being told when I was little to go outside and sit in the sun once when I was sick. Of course, when you are little you think that this is good advice and is going to actually help you.
Heaven or Hell said…
What about smells? Is the same true with certain scents?
utenzi said…
Smells in most people have a much stronger pull. The olfactory bulb is very intertwined with our memory but for some reason it doesn't seem to work well with me. I rarely get those strong memory flashes with scents. Go figure.
Heaven or Hell said…
Mine is very strong. I buy a new perfume for every trip I take overseas...and when I wear that scent again, memories of Italy etc. come sweeping back to me! It's GREAT, I love it. I've never met anyone else who has the same experience though...

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