to create and perform music is a human instinct. it is one of the true universals of our species. to take an extreme example, the neuroscientist aniruddh d. patel points to the pirahã, a small tribe in the brazilian amazon: “members of this culture speak a language without numbers or a concept of counting. their language has no fixed terms for colors. they have no creation myths, and they do not draw, aside from simple stick figures. yet they have music in abundance, in the form of songs.” patel has referred to music as a “transformative technology.” to the same degree as literacy and language itself, it has changed the way people see the world. learning to play a musical instrument even alters the structure of the brain, from subcortical circuits that encode sound patterns to neural fibers that connect the two cerebral hemispheres and patterns of gray matter density in certain regions of the cerebral cortex. music is powerful in its impact on human feeling and on the interpretation of events. it is extraordinarily complex in the neural circuits it employs, appearing to elicit emotion in at least six different brain mechanisms.
see also: 7 books on music and the brain.