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Incense and Senility

because life is stranger than fiction

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Energy from Music
Stewie victory
rocketeddy
I haven't cycled to work for a while. Or rather, I hadn't cycled to work regularly for a while, until this week. Yesterday I was thinking "dear gods, it can't really have been THAT long" as I struggled up the hill. But then I remembered: I'd forgotten my music. So today, I cycled in listening to Disturbd, Muse, NIN and so forth ... and my lord was it easier - I practically flew in compared to yesterday. So what is it about music that gives us that extra energy?

I find it hard to believe it's entirely due to motivation, since the body is genuinely tired and complaining, rather than simply mental fatigue. Of course, it's hardly news that listening to music (or singing along) gives your energy a boost - the slaves in N.America certainly knew it, and even the galley slaves of 2000+ years ago knew it. There's a reason all military regiments have a "marching band" too. But has anybody actually got a genuine biological/medical reason for it? I'm sure somebody must have investigated it over the years.

So here's a thought for the day ... why don't you often see long-distance runners (marathons etc) listening to MP3 players? Or is that just my imagination?
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I regularly surprise myself with how much physical exertion I can put up with while dancing, as well as how much pain I can ignore when a good song comes on. I don't find it incredible that the human body can do this, but why music would be so good at it is a bit tricky to explain.

One hypothesis that springs to mind is the earliest music being a mechanism for distributing workload. I once learnt an African call-and-response folk song, which was allegedly used by agricultural workers toiling away in adjoining fields. The workers in one field would call out the first half of the song, and those in the field next to it would call out the response. This gave each group a way of ensuring the other wouldn't bugger off for a lazy afternoon snooze under a tree.

Obviously the human evolutionary environment predates agriculture by many thousands of years, but it's not a completely implausible stretch to think that the human propensity for music may in part originate from some sort of social reassurance during rhythmical group activities, and contemporary music is a sort of superstimulus which fools our mental hardware into thinking we're in the company of dozens of tribe members all doing the same thing we are.

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