I Think I Have Specific Musical Anhedonia

My relationship with music has previously been discussed on my blog. I’ve described bits and pieces in Daily Prompt: A Source of Anxiety, Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo, and Do You Understand Everything When You Listen to a Song?

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To clarify something that has been misinterpreted in the past: I am NOT saying that I hate music. I don’t hate music. Music is okay.

I simply don’t need it. I feel no connection with it. Some people say things like, “That song really speaks to me!” I can’t say I’ve ever felt that way before. Most songs only interrupt my thoughts and limit my ability to concentrate.

When I drive, the radio is off.
When I study, you’ll find me somewhere is complete silence.
Even at parties, I find it extremely difficult to “feel the music.”

I don’t know what this is but I like it.

At most, I can tolerate yoga music and some classical or instrumental stuff. Anything with lyrics – I’ll pass.

My friend told me she found an interesting article online this month and it reminded her of me!

The article is called:

The Actual Neuroscience Behind Why Some People Don’t Like Music.

This article (Link removed since it was taken offline) is describing people that sound like me. There’s been a scientific study analyzing why some people’s brains respond (or don’t respond) to the sound of music. I’m fascinated and I wish this study offered a little more concrete information. I already assumed my brain doesn’t respond to music in the same way as most people’s. I want to know why. What is the specific cause?

So anyway, I guess I have “specific musical anhedonia.” None of this surprises me, I just never knew there was a term for it. At least when people ask me what my favorite song is and I have to pause, think, and make something up, I won’t feel as self-conscious about it anymore.

30 Comments

  1. Hint: a lot of the stuff they play on the radio is crap that’s designed to appeal to the greatest possible number. And classical/yoga isn’t for everyone.

    Maybe your tastes just don’t fall within the defined genres, meaning you’d have to test a lot of non-mainstream music to discover what you actually like.

    1. That’s crossed my mind but I don’t enjoy yoga music or classical songs either. It’s just that they tend to be softer and less disruptive than the stuff on the radio.

      If I ever found a song I liked even a little bit, I’d be so quick to download it and save it to my iPhone but that hasn’t happened yet.

      1. Just some things to try out on youtube off the top of my head…

        Except for one, you’ll probably never encounter any of these unless I suggest them here. (I didn’t post links because the reply would go straight to your spam folder. Plus I’m lazy.)

        Kaa Khem by Yat-Kha
        The Boy in the Bubble by Paul Simon
        Erzengel Michael by Orplid
        Sabrina by Einstürzende Neubauten
        Tomatenfisch by the Inchtabokatables
        N’ahaliroh by Dvar
        Into My Arms by Deine Lakaien
        Kopfkino by Letzte Instanz
        Almost anything pre-1990 by Brian Eno

          1. It wasn’t exactly a lot of time. My tastes are unusual so I just brainstormed a few titles from my own collection.

            And come to think of it, “Apart” by Lacrimosa should definitely be added to the list.

          2. So I gave all of the songs a listen and I’m sad to report that none of them appealed to me very much. I mean no disrespect to you or the songs in saying this – I’m merely stating the truth. I really WANTED to connect to them and like at least one or two of the songs but just like with most music, that was not the case.

            I’m going to keep exploring. Maybe I’ll come across some foreign song that I enjoy. Part of me doesn’t want to accept that I’m neurologically incapable of being moved by music.

  2. I don’t care for or relate to a lot of music with words (aka actual songs), but do relate to classical through Romantic era music, which is good, haha, since I’m a violist and violinist. I dunno. People are always saying, ‘I love this song,’ or ‘It describes me perfectly!’ and with a rare few exceptions, I don’t get it. Will have to check out the article when I have a computer to sit at!

    1. Ooh wait I actually do like the sound of violins… you may be onto something! And we’re both bird people- I like the sound of birds in nature and domestic birds too. Maybe you and I have more of an appreciation for minimalistic sounds and anything more than that gets to be too much. Yeah, definitely check it out if you get the chance!

      1. Citizen Wolf

        I’ve never been interested in listening to music. And I’m not amusic either. Amusics can’t ‘get’ melody and other aspects of music. I do hear that aspect of music and can ‘feel’ it. In fact in tests I did with researchers I scored very highly in such aspects. But I’m still not interested in it. However I am interested in what I would call basic sounds such as wind, water, bird song, simple tones (such as you might generate with a single string on a string instrument).

        It also irks me when people who do like music say something like ‘oh, have you tried……. x, y or z’. Yes I have. It’s impossible to live in society and not be exposed to music, it’s EVERYWHERE. I’m just happier without it.

  3. I completely sympathize with your point of view. That said, I LOVE music, especially classical, opera, et. al. However, I cannot listen to music and do anything productive. When music is playing, that is what I’m paying attention to. It is far too distracting to have on when I’m studying, or trying to do anything that requires intense mental focus (other than the focus required to enjoy the music). I understand that some people find it helps them concentrate and be more productive, but I DON’T understand it! How can such a divided mindset lead to anything productive? I can only suppose that these persons are extroverts, who are used to, and even like to live, breathe, and think in noisy environs that debilitate their introverted brethren.

    1. That’s an interesting take on the matter. The possibility of it being an introvert thing crossed my mind but I ruled it out when I considered the fact that many of my introverted friends are bigger fans of music than the extroverted ones!

      Who knows! It could be related. It would make for an interesting study, that’s for sure!

  4. Grace

    I just read an article about it and I completely relate to musical anhedonia. I didn’t know there was a word for it.

    It has actually tampered with my relationships. Meeting new people – almost without fail one of the first thjngs a new friend will ask is “what do you listen to?” I can’t fake that I’m really into something I’m not. I like classical music and musicals, to a degree, but music has never been something I seek out the way other people do. Loud music turns me off.

    I wouldn’t say I’m introverted. I just don’t see the appeal of music.

  5. Kat

    I’ve tried for a long time to like music, it just doesn’t work. When you do explain it to people then they try desperately to get you to like music that they love, completely bypassing what you just said. Or, they claim that something is wrong with you.

    It’s annoying. Although yes, I can tolerate classical music more than other kinds of music.

  6. mailbox

    Nice to hear I’m not the only one like this. It’s always awkward when someone asks what I listen to/favorite songs like it’s assumed you love music. I’ve listened to nearly everything and don’t “feel” anything; the only time I like to have music on is when I want to be mentally absent (i.e. when working out).

  7. Alvaro

    Hello, another one for the club! ;), No cds, no radio, no ipod, no music in my mobilephone… Music is not part of my life.
    Is like I don´´t listen the music unless I pay special atention to it.
    I can be hours in a place with music playing, and when I go, I can´t tell any song or music that was played, Looks like my brain blocks it.. as if it was traffic noise coming from outside the window.
    And for sure I have some kind of Amusia too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusia

    Interesting to keep learning about this.

  8. Harry

    Hi,
    This is really cool, I reckon I have this. I didn’t even realise that this was an actual thing. I have never owned a CD, downloaded music or listened to music in my own time. Does anyone know what percentage of people are affected by this because I have never met anyone else who is indifferent to music.

    1. Citizen Wolf

      There’s not many of us. I’ve never met anyone in real life like me. Although perhaps some people just don’t admit to it. And then there’s the issue of differentiating from those who have amusia (different from musical anhedonia).

  9. Jordan Pyles

    I need to remember this! If I’m ever asked to give a fun fact about myself while with a group of people, I might just say i have specific musical anhedonia. I will get funny looks from people for sure, but it is just one more thing that makes me unique!
    I have spent the longest time pretending to like music and I’ve lied to many people, myself included, convincing them I like it. I play the violin, it is my 7th year and i find that at times, I am not even listening to what is coming out of the thing! But the fact that I am a rather decent player tells me the difference between amusia and specific musical anhedonia. I can sing and I understand the relationship between the notes, however, no matter how hard I try, I can’t enjoy it.
    Its time to embrace who i am and SING it out to the world! Or just state it. However you prefer.

    1. Absolutely!!! What a fun thing to be able to share with others. I’m glad you’ve been fortunate enough to discover this about yourself. I hope the insight will help answer some of the questions you may have had about yourself. I know it did for me!

  10. Emily

    I distinctly remember the first time that I realized music was supposed to make me feel something. I was about eight years old, and my mom was listening to a song on the radio in the car as we drove. All of a sudden, she started crying. I asked what was wrong, and she tokd me the song “spoke to hee heart”. I was like…??? She has always been a music lover, so we are very different in that area, and I think she feels bad that I don’t experience music the same way she does.

    I do have an aditory processing disorder, which might be partly responsible for my lack of emotional response to music because I often can’t understand the lyrics (unless I print them out and read them a few times, which is what I used to do when I was a a teenager to seem more normal), but I think it’s more than that. I do think some songs are pretty, and I have a few songs saved to my tablet, but I don’t really feel anything when I listen to them. I hate it when people ask me what my favorite songs are because I don’t really have any favorite songs and no one believes me. I usually say I’m not much of a music person, so whatever’s on the radio is fine by me.

Have any thoughts on this?