Your Brain Is Like Beethoven

We survive noise by transforming it into patterns, like composers create music.

The genesis of music, Leonardo might agree, is a creative urge to find patterns in noise. It’s an act of rhythm, in tune with the body’s beating heart. From the earliest days on the savanna, humans scream, they shout, they hiss. They clap their hands, they stomp feet. They create noises to chase away adversaries—threatening intruders and imaginary spirits alike.

Humans have always generated noise in the creation of their tools. The tools they create, in turn, generate noise as they perform their tasks, like chipping stones. In time, specialized tools were made whose sole function and purpose was to make noise. Among the oldest known musical instruments are noise-makers—cymbals and tambourines. The noises they make, the Bible tells us, please God. Early percussive instruments—idiophones, scrapers, and membranophones—tapped the body’s pulse as they created (sometimes painfully) loud sounds. These instruments also sounded alarms and summoned to battle.

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