Jay Shankar asked:
Why do songs sound better the more we listen to them?
We put this to Adrian North, Professor of Psychology at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh:
The reason why people seem to generally like music, or one of the reasons, is to do with the level of complexity in the melody. By complexity we mean basically how erratic the melody is or how varied the melody is. Basically, how weird-sounding the melody is. For example, all the modern classical music to many people would sound to be quite weird, quite complex. Whereas a lot of modern dance music has got a fairly repetitive melody and so a lot of people regard modern dance music as being low in complexity. We know in the grand scheme of things that people like moderately complex music; music that chops and changes a little bit but not too much. That's got big implications for how music fares when it's repeated. When you hear a piece of music the first time you don't really know what it's going to do next. When you hear it the second time you have a better idea of what it's going to do next. When you hear it the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh times then you start to have a very good idea how that melody's going to progress. The more often you hear a piece of music the less complex it seems to you. What that means is a piece of music that was originally too complex for you when you hear it a few too many times becomes moderately complex and you start to like it. Conversely a piece of music that was moderately complex and popular the first time you heard it, because you've heard it more times, it becomes simpler. Now it becomes too simple for you and you don't like it any more. In other words liking for music is determined by complexity but complexity decreases with the number of times you hear a piece of music. That change in the level of complexity changes how much you like the piece of music in question.
As inputs are processed by neural networks and networks work on becoming completed by finding links to other networks which the can synchronize (harmonize) with, they need some factors fulfilled: time and repetition. Time is the duration that a neural network has to gain sufficient strength to lay down all the connections to form a sensation of "liking" the song, and is limited by the one time exposure to the song. The succeeding exposure strengthens the initial synchrony, adds additional time to further link to that what is likable (those qualities laid down from all musical exposures prior to the current event) and thus through repetition overcomes the limitation of the time factor in the singular exposure to the input. wannabe, Tue, 7th Oct 2008
Is this jsut familiarity? We like things we can predict and hence as we learn a piece of music it becomes predictable and hence likeable...? chris, Sat, 11th Oct 2008
Yes and that is just how familiarity works, neuronally speaking!
Or maybe it is our ability to recognize, that lines up with what we might mistake as 'liking' something.
Sometimes though.... if i like a song to start with, i go off it quick, whereas if i hear a song i don't really like that much but i listen to it more and then i like it more and more i love it forever. I stopped buying songs that i like straight away as i know i'll just get sick of them, i wonder why that is? Morgan The Monkey, Sun, 28th Dec 2008
I don't think it works with Lady in Red. Pumblechook, Tue, 30th Dec 2008
Never heard of it, but you don't like it? I guess some songs do get a bit annoying after listening and listening to them, it depends on how much you do it though... maybe if you listened to a song once every 3-4 days you'll slowly like it, but if you listen to it 5-6 times a day, it can get up your nose... Chemistry4me, Wed, 31st Dec 2008
I've got a song that will get on your nerves
I know something you don't know,
Difficult question - why do songs "sound better" ......?
I agree here echochartruse, Wed, 7th Oct 2009