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Why We Love Repetition

What is music? There’s no end to the parade of philosophers who have wondered about this, but most of us feel confident saying: ‘I know it when I hear it.’ Still, judgments of musicality are notoriously malleable. That new club tune, obnoxious at first, might become toe-tappingly likeable after a few hearings. Put the most music-apathetic individual in a household where someone is rehearsing for a contemporary music recital and they will leave whistling Ligeti. The simple act of repetition can serve as a quasi-magical agent of musicalisation. Instead of asking: ‘What is music?’ we might have an easier time asking: ‘What do we hear as music?’ And a remarkably large part of the answer appears to be: ‘I know it when I hear it again.’

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis writes on why we love repetition in music and the neurological effects repeated songs have on us. Hat tip: Brian Groat.

3 replies on “Why We Love Repetition”

Reminds me of Glass’ recent interview with Terry Gross …. see http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/06/397832333/philip-glass-on-legacy-the-future-its-all-around-us.

An excerpt:

This was in Amsterdam and I played a piece called “Two Pages.” And I guess it could drive you crazy a little bit — it only had five notes in it, but it was five notes in a lot of different ways, and I thought it was interesting. This was about 1971 and the idea of music that was so, let’s say, consciously or steadfastly repetitive was not so common then.

And someone jumped on the stage and began banging on the piano and, without thinking about it, I stood up and I punched him on the jaw or something, just like the comic books, and he fell off the stage …

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