A 2011 study in Nature Neuroscience – which claimed to provide some explanation for the overall value of music to human society – delineated, using MRI technology, the way that music affects chemical reward pathways in the brain. The McGill University researchers said that the brain’s response worked in two distinct ways, that “intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release” but also “the anticipation of an abstract reward can result in dopamine release in an anatomical pathway distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself.”
Ambient music, as a form, is all about anticipation; the gradual shifts between notes and slowly unfolding textures mean it is a genre of delayed gratification. If the brain can give off chemical rewards essentially for waiting, my nigh-compulsive obsession with this stuff makes a little more sense, but in 2018, I think anyone can understand the appeal of stillness.
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.