In his book This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin, a rocker-turned neuroscientist, explores the connection between music and our brain, providing some interesting insights on why we love the music we do.
In particular, Levitin helped me understand why Stevie Wonder, who made his way on to my soundtrack as a pre-teen, was still on my soundtrack during my 30s, the decade of launching a career and learning to mother.
He writes, “teenage years are emotionally charged years of self-discovery. Because of the emotional component of these years, our amygdala (the seat of emotion in our brain) and neurotransmitters (transmitters of information from the brain to other parts of the body) act in concert to ‘tag' these musical memories as something important.”
What kinds of music and which artists did you love as a teenager? Now in your 20s, 30's, 40s, 50's, or 60s, do you listen to similar music?
SOUNDTRACK STORY: Career, Motherhood & 9/11
Isn't She Lovely — Stevie Wonder composed ‘Isn't She Lovely' when his daughter Aisha was born. I loved listening to this song as a teenager, cradling my newborns to it as an adult. It is a song that gave utterance for me — and no doubt millions — the importance of connectedness and caring.
Smooth — Definitely the ‘imagine and explore' song in the mix. Not surprisingly this yearning plays out for me via Latin music.
Fragile — Having read Levitin's work, it's fascinating to me that the Police who were so popular during my relatively carefree college days, could capture the sadness, the grief at innocence lost on 9/11. Gratefully, I wasn't in my World Financial Center office to witness the horror firsthand, but I needed (as we all did) to eventually grieve. It was in a taxi, on my way into Manhattan, listening to Sting's Fragile, some weeks later, when I finally cried.
Diggin' Your Scene — Smashmouth's ode to the fictional Sydney Bristow on Alias. As Psyche would have acknowledged, Sydney was about connecting and caring AND daring and dreaming. As a 30-something trying to marry these two, Sydney Bristow was my archetypal gal. Smashmouth says it all.
For those of you who want to explore musical intelligence (as defined by Howard Gardner), you will no doubt find Levitin's book interesting. Levitin also observes that if you want to be a great musician, or great at anything for that matter, practice — not talent — makes for virtuosos.
If you'd like to test Levitin's premise that we hardwire our musical preference as teenagers, check out www.pandora.com, a music genome project, which allows you to specify a song you like, and via the matching of that song's DNA to the DNA of other songs, make recommendations. For example, knowing of my fondness for Stevie Wonder, I wasn't surprised that I instantly liked the Brand New Heavies.
Tell Your Soundtrack Story: Pre-Teen – Stevie Wonder On the Scene
Seeing With New Eyes
Tell Your Soundtrack Story: High School, Cheerleading and Finding True Love
What I've Learned by Identifying My Heroes
Asking and Answering the Big Questions