Why do we love the bass so much?
A study done by the McMaster Institute for music and the mind says that it is easier for us to follow deep tones in rhythms than it is high pitched tones. In essence, when we listen to deep tones, our brains show more activity, or in other words, we become more aware.
So… in general, what is that which causes us to become this type of aroused? The answer is neurochemicals like adrenaline, norepinephrine, dopamine, etc…
The study stops explaining there, but I want to deduce even further and ask why is it that bass tones arouse us more than other tones in the hearing spectrum?
Thinking about it, wouldn’t you conclude that it may have something to do with our evolution as mammals, or even further than that down the reptilian clade? I think every aspect of ourselves is not there by accident, but came from millions and millions of years of trial and error, everything serving an adaptable purpose somehow. That said, here are some differences in our sensitivity of sound vs other animals of a different class:
Mammals < 10 Hz to 150 kHz ; sensitivity to -20 dB
Birds (more uniform than mammals) 100 Hz to 8-10 kHz; sensitivity at 0-10 dB
Reptiles (poorer than birds) 50 Hz to 2 kHz; sensitivity at 40-50 dB
Amphibians 100 Hz to 2 kHz; sensitivity from 10-60 dB
So, given this information, why is it that mammals have a longer, deeper (and higher) sensitivity than other classes? Mammals tend to live on the ground, some have adaptive spaces in trees, while others underground.
Mammals were first evolving around the triassic period (200 million years ago or so). The triassic period is the pre cursor to the next time period known as the Jurassic (we’ve all seen the movie right? Dinosaurs!) Living and surviving through one of the most vicious periods known to animals (besides humans of course) meant that they had to be very sensitive to deep tones. Why? probably for many reasons, but one of the main ones was to become AWARE of the deep tonal stomping caused by potential danger from the distance. This stomping of course came from none other than… DINOSAURS! Mammals adapted many advantageous survival skills during this time, and one of them was to be sensitive to these deep tonal (and rhythmic) stomping grounds.
So here is the progression put simply: Deep tones –> adrenal activation –> fight or flight response—> awareness —> feel good.
and as many things in modern times are a bi-product of our past, I think music captures that in an artistic way, where we can enjoy the adrenaline rush without the actual danger, aka stomping grounds from dinosaurs. But if need be, we know it’s there, and we would use it if we had to.