Monday, September 08, 2008

listen, its our song OR just another music monday

So many couples have a special song. The first song we danced to. A song we heard on the radio when we fell in love. Our wedding dance song. An album or an artist we listened to together, staring into each other's eyes, promising love and loyalty and "every Saturday night together forever and ever."
It also may be the song we cry hardest to when we break up.

At least one hormone appears to be connected to this music-bonding experience: oxytocin. You may have heard of, or had a personal encounter or two with oxytocin's synthetic evil sister, Pitocin. You know, that friendly-as-a-pit-bull-without-lipstick, labor inducing drug.

Also known as the love and cuddle drug, oxytocin is a natural hormone released by human beings at key relationship events in our lives. Women are believed to be awash in xxytocin when we breast feed, for example. In this way, it is thought that Oxytocin helps cultivate deep bonds of affection, or attachment, as this loving phenomenon is referred to in the psychological literature.

It makes sense, doesn't it? While feeding our helpless infants, our body is sending signals that encourage us to develop one of the most intense feelings known: parental love. From an evolutionary perspective, this helps our species survive. It also makes for some of the greatest joys, and greatest sorrows, of human existence.

HugTheMonkey is a blog dedicated to understanding the role Oxytocin plays in our lives. Its a fascinating site to click around and learn about the many ways oxytocin influences our relationships.

A recent post there tells us that researchers believe we release oxytocin when we listen to and perform music. It may help explain why dancing is such a prevalent romance building ritual. Why romantic movies play such dramatic music. Why so many quarters are dropped into juke boxes for "crying in my beer songs."

I can remember enduring a heartbreaking period in my life (or two, or three) and feeling the need, nay, the compulsion to listen to sad, sappy, "you don't love me anymore" songs. The tears would fall, I would feel like the lonliest, sorriest person on earth, and repeat this masochistic ritual until I reapplied my makeup and went out on the prowl, looking for my next victim.

Some songs can be heard years later, immediately "taking us back" to a loving phase in our life, typically the beginning of a serious relationship. One such song for me is "Back on the Chain Gang" by the Pretenders (apt title, huh?). It was my senior year in college and I was in the middle of a brand new relationship with someone who lived across the continent. Oh moony me. To this day, I hear this song and it catapults me back to that semester. Even though I don't have any remnants of the same feeling now for this (louse) person, the pleasurable feelings from that period come rushing back. At least for the three minutes while the song lasts.

So the next time you and your partner run into a dry spell? Can't remember what compells you to stay with this ignoramus? Break out in song. Or, if you're not the Von Trapp Family, break out the song. Grab a glass of wine, dim the lights, turn on your CD player and dance to your favorite melodies together. Or simply listen. See if this sparks the ole memory. See if you can get some oxytocin flowing.

What are some of your oxytocin inducing songs?

Painting titled, "The Devil's Phonograph," borrowed without the owner's permission.
Can be purchased here.


bluemountainsmary said...

Back on the Chain Gang reminds me of a fellow I knew who took a drug overdose and died - it came out at the same time. Strangely I absolutely love that song.

Anything by The Cars reminds me of an old boyfriend.

Anything by The Smiths reminds me of the first months of going out with J - he loved that band!

Chicago's "If you Leave Me Now" takes me straight back to teenage years!!

I could go on forever - music and life are so intertwined for me!

AnnD said...

I either don't have any or really, really need to think about it.

I recall reading that Oxytocin was responsible for making me relaxed and sleepy when I was breastfeeding. I hated that!! I was tired enough and didn't need to be any more tired than I already was!

But, I would rather have it when I don't need it than not have it at all.

dkuroiwa said...

Due to the fact that, when we met, my husband and I literally did NOT speak the same language, music played a very important part in our relationship...still does (though I'm better at his language than he is at mine!) He likes only foreign music and can name you pretty much any person in most bands and tell you which guitar George Harrison (for example) played on what album. I can tell you who the lead singer is (usually). was the music that we could talk about...what we had in common...concerts and live shows were a lot of our dates. Like bluemountainmary, certain songs bring back memories or take me back to different places. a bumper sticker on my hub's scooter says, "Music is Life".

Vodka Mom said...

Midnight Flyer- The Eagles. for sure.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I always loved breastfeeding - maybe that was why. Just a little oasis of peace and calm at a time when everything else was manic.

As for music - there is so much. I am still at the stage where some music can reduce me to tears but it is passing. But for me - Elvis' Always on my Mind, The Pretenders' "I go to Sleep" or "Stop all your sobbing" but loads of others too.

Music has a powerful influence on me, affects my mood and sometimes helps me to see what to do/not to do. And yeah I always have music on for romantic encounters!

GoteeMan said...

back when K and I first met, there was a song...

we had just leaned close for our first kiss when "This Magic Moment" started on the radio...

J/ (

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I love that painting.

Yes, I remember the days of listening to sappy songs on the stereo--back when a needle was involved. Sometimes it was just necessary.

therapydoc said...

Here, There and Everywhere was a biggie for us. I walked down the isle to it, I think, unless I'm hallucinating (it was in there with Jewish music, don't ask).

apathy lounge said...

The songs I share now with my husband? "Northstar" by Robert Fripp. "I Don't Want to Live Without You" by Foreigner. "Amanda" by Boston. "My Baby" by The Pretenders. "You and Me" by Alice Cooper.

Alison said...

Does "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division count? Or the Leonard Cohen song, Hallejulah. Some might say they are terribly depressing and tragic songs. Well actually they are...but I love 'em.

Love Back in the Chain Gang and most of the Pretenders songs anyway. Oh I could go on and on...

flutter said...

ooohhhh Angel by Massive Attack

phd in yogurtry said...

mary -- The Cars reminds me of early college days... freedom!

ann - oxytocin made me sleepy too while I was breastfeeding, but I liked the valium effect

dkuroiwa -- you are not the first person who told me music was a big connection between two people with a language barrier. I imagine you would grab hold of that which you can both understand! thanks for your comment!

vodkamom -- midnight flier, hmmm, need to look that one up. I'm sure it's one of those songs I'll know when I hear it.

rb -- I love "I Go to Sleep" .. that whole album is a favorite. And "sobbing" as well. That's a Kinks song, no?

gotee - that's magic, alright! great song, too.

jenn - yes, necessary is right. and "back when a needle was involved" haha.. too funny.

therapydoc - here, there and everywhere? ah, the Beatles! yes! such a pretty song.

apathy -- ah Foreigner. where is Steve Perry these days?

alison - Hallelujah is a gorgeous song. I first became aware of it listening to the Shrek soundtrak. Rufus Wainwright version. Beautiful. I'm listening to it now (thank you, youtube).

flutter - that's a new one by me. mostly instrumental, right?