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The Method: Listening to new music

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Blame the pandemic for making us want to take refuge in better years gone by, but one of the big trends during lockdown has been a return to old TV shows, movies and music.

It’s a well-known fact that we all take comfort in and love nostalgia at the best of times, particularly the music of our misspent youth – it’s just that much sweeter sometimes.

In fact, it can be hard to listen to new music. It’s normal to go back to the old favourites. But in doing so we’re actually depriving our brain, according to science.

In a recent Pitchfork podcast editor Puja Patel and music editor Jeremy Larson discussed why it’s difficult to listen to new music and why when you do, it’s good for your brain.

Blog 6 listening lounge david matos

The science

Our brains like new things.

Specifically, areas of the reward centre of our brain become active when people hear a new song for the first time.

Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University used MRIs in a study to find that the reward centres of the brain lit up when participants listened to new music.

Dr Valorie Salimpoor explained: “Music is abstract: it’s not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food and you are really excited about it because you are going to eat it…that’s when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens. But what’s cool is that you’re anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract and that’s the next sound that is coming up.”

Larson, of Pitchfork gives us another reason to listen to new music – engaging with the present: “It’s important to engage with the present because soon that’s going to become the past and that’s going to be your future nostalgia. And that is one reason why I think new music is so vital for engaging with.”

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Putting it into practice

New music is easy - just queue it up! Don’t make it any more complicated than that.

If new music makes us happy, then start your day with a new tune before you get into the grind. Fix that 3pm slump with a spin of the new Fleet Foxes or Sufjan Stevens. Both are classic bands who’ll give you that nostalgia fix, but also that new music hit.

Blog 6 listening lounge Sufjan Stevents Garrison Reid

To really indulge that happy hit to the nucleus accumbens (that’s that reward area of the brain mentioned before), set yourself up in a surround sound listening lounge. There’s one at R.Iconic engineered for exactly this purpose (as well as for jam sessions).

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R.Iconic | Listening Lounge

And don’t forget live music. Decimated by COVID-19, bands will be returning to stages so get out there and support them.

Whatever you do, make your brain happy. The year has been tough enough. Spin some new tunes ahead of the new year!