What Emotions are Elicited from Different Genres of Music?




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Music and Emotions 1

EDP 101 A

What Emotions are Elicited from Different Genres of Music?

Group 1


Laura Bezbatchenko

Sohinee Dutt

M.J. Juergens

Mary Lowery

Cassidy Pierce

Blythe Ramsay

David Ream

Dan Talpas

EDP 101A

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What is music? Is it a simple strum on the banjo or a raging squeal from an electric guitar? Why not both? In many cultures today, music is not limited to only one genre. Music can range from heavy metal, to classical, to country. The question isn’t what music is, but rather what does music do. Different types of music elicit different emotions, but “in order to be moved by music (physically and emotionally),” Daniel Levitin argues, “it helps a great deal to have a readily predictable beat” (Levitin, 2006, pp 166). Levitin refers to this beat at groove—“that quality that moves the song forward” (Levitin, 2006, 166). The emotions people feel from listening to music are interpreted by the entire brain. Negative emotions are interpreted in the right hemisphere of the brain and positive emotions are interpreted in the left hemisphere (Davis and Palladino, 2006, pp 262). Music has the power to change people’s feelings; in fact, music therapy has recently become a popular method of helping people deal with problems such as stress, anxiety, and pain (Music Therapy Makes a Difference, 2004). Therapists also recommend music as a means of “positive change in mood and emotional states” (Shinn, 2005). So what genres of music are best for enhancing one’s mood? Which genres create negative emotions in the listeners? In our paper we will explore the many faces of music, and determine what effect different genres of music have on emotions.

Jazz music originated at the turn of the 20th century in New Orleans. Often associated with Louis Armstrong and improvisation, jazz has not only played a major role in American history, it also can play a role in the emotions felt by one listening to it. Just as there are many genres of music, there are many types of jazz. Levitin lists a few: “Dixieland, boogie-woogie, big band, swing, bebop, ‘straight-ahead,’ acid-jazz, fusion, and metaphysical” (Levitin, 2006, pp 232) and these can stir up many different emotions, such as sadness, happiness, and excitement.

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One emotion often associated with jazz is chaos. Improvisation sets jazz apart from other genres of music. The act of making up music on the spot, improvisation does not always evoke positive emotions, especially for people who are unfamiliar with jazz music. For these people, jazz can seem like “an unstructured, crazy, and formless improvisation” (Levitin, 2006, pp 232). It elicits feelings of chaos and confusion. Improvisation can, however, be pleasant to listen to if the listener knows what to expect. While improvising, jazz players follow the chord progression and tune of the original song, but embellish it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Levitin argues that just “knowing that the improvisation takes place over the original chords and form of the song” makes all the difference in whether the listener hears noise or a wonderful tune.

People often choose different types of music for different activities. If one wants to relax, classical might be the choice. A party? Rock will probably be playing. A study done at Pennsylvania State University of 47 college students found that jazz is the music of choice for certain activities. The study showed that jazz was preferable during exercise (Research Links Music and Listeners' Emotions, 2003). This might be due to the fact that jazz has been shown to increase autonomic functions. In a study by Ellis and Brighouse, when people listened to jazz music, their respiration-rate and heart-rate increased (Kravitz, 1994). This isn’t only helpful during exercise, but the faster heartbeats and faster breathing might also be signs of different emotions that are felt while listening to jazz. These physiological changes are signs of anger, fear, sadness, shame, and joy (Davis and Paladino, 2006, pp 258).

Most emotions related to faster breathing and heartbeat are negative, but jazz is also very much related to positive emotions. Marcia Alvar, president of Public Radio Program Directors, spoke at the PRPD Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in 2004 regarding what is important to the listeners of jazz music on the radio. Jazz listeners, she said, are proud that jazz is unique to

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American culture and they also are interested in learning about the history of the music (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004). They feel that by listening to jazz, they are connected to “a history and tradition that is uniquely American” (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004). Improvisation is also important to jazz listeners. They enjoy the “spontaneity…and originality that make every performance of a jazz tune unique and new” (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004).

Alvar compared the effects of listening to classical music to the effects of listening to jazz. She said the “emotional benefit [of classical music] focused squarely on emotions having to do with stress relief” (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004). Jazz, however, can do much more for a person than simply relieve stress. There is a “broad and complex range of positive emotions” (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004) that jazz listeners feel. They describe jazz as “motivating, joyous, passionate, and uplifting” (The Core Values of Jazz Music Listening, 2004). Listeners say jazz can be soothing, as well as energizing, and it can cause a wide range of emotions.

To simply state music musters up certain emotions is an understatement. Music can cause multiple feelings and emotions to fire off all at once. Such as in the case of classical music. The composer may create the piece to elicit one emotion, but that does not mean the audience will interpret the piece in the same manner. For example Richard Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde” “induced sobbing fits, made people pass out, and even fear for their lives.” (Wells, 2000). Wagner’s intention was to build to a crescendo in the music, not induce fear into the audience. Although these emotions seem extreme for just one piece of music just “Imagine life without emotion. There is no joy associated with great art- without emotion, life would be listless and colorless.” (Davis and Palladino, 2007, pp 255). Wagner’s piece is just one type of reaction to come from classical music. In fact classical music is said to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and even induce sleep or activate

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the body. Although one can most certainly find classical music in the opera house, classical music is not confined to this one arena. Classical music for example can be found in rehabilitating facilities, and in learning environments.

A study done by researches from the Graduate School of Art Therapy, Daejeon University, Daejeon, South Korea, tested the theory that music improves depression, anxiety and relationships. There were two groups with 26 patients in each, one group listening to classical music for two to three times a week, and the control group continuing with their regular routines. After 15 sessions of the music therapy, the interactive group showed vast improvements in depression, anxiety and relationships. The control group remained at the same level they started with. This study just re-emphasizes the notion that classical music heals. But does this healing only extend to the humans? After doing some research, it can be found that music therapy can be utilized to the animal kingdom as well. In one case, a 45 year-old elephant named Suma became unresponsive after her mate Patna died. Suma showed all the tell tale signs of depression. Then as a classical music concert was performed for a zoo benefit, Suma immediately become absorbed by the soothing sounds, specifically the music from the famous Mozart. The day after the concert zookeepers put Suma on music therapy, and within weeks Suma was responsive and seemed to be recovering from her depression. (Natural Standard, 2008).

Speaking of the great composer Mozart, classical music is not only said to heal, but also to stimulate the brain, as in the “Mozart Effect.” This theory states that listening to classical music can actually make people smarter, or if children are exposed they are said to benefit in mental development. The Mozart Effect has in fact been tested, and the results may be somewhat surprising. Children who listened to classical music while working on a test actually had a higher score compared to the children who worked in silence. The music is said to induce short-term

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improvement on performing certain mental tasks, also known as, “spatial temporal reasoning.” But just 15 minutes after the test was completed the students who received higher scores went back to their original I.Q., therefore supporting the theory that this is only a temporary effect. No evidence has shown that listening to classical music as a baby actually makes one more intellectual.

Music and emotions seem to go hand and hand with each other. Not only does classical music heal, but it also opens up the doors for emotions to pour out. Emotions are all a state of mind, and when a powerful piece of music is heard, the mind interprets it, and codes people to feel a certain way. Granted not everyone will feel the same about that particular piece, a general emotion is almost always guaranteed. While the “Mozart Effect” is not proven to make people smarter, there is no doubt that music activates the brain. As Daniel Levitin states “things are stored more strongly and are more easily retrievable when you have an emotional involvement with them.” (Sikstorm, 2001).

We listen to music for a variety of reasons. We may listen to fast, upbeat and energetic music when we want to be pumped up for a work out at the Rec, or possibly slow, soothing music when studying for an exam at King. Maybe we just want to simply listen to music strictly for enjoyment. Whatever the activity, music has always been considered an outlet for emotions or a way to express ourselves. In fact, the beauty of music is that there is not just one type or genre of music, but an eclectic selection of songs and forms of music to please all sorts of people. One of these types of music, and in recent history very popular, is the genre of rock and roll. Rock and roll music originated in the United States in the 1950’s, and has been increasing in popularity ever since. Rock and Roll music can be classified as a form of popular music arising from and incorporating a variety of musical styles, especially rhythm and blues, country music and gospel. It also is characterized by electronically amplified instrumentation, a heavily accented beat and

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relatively simple phrase structure. While the characteristics of rock and roll music easily elicit emotions, the question remains: just what kind of emotion does rock and roll music evoke? Research into this question suggests that listening to rock and roll music evokes pleasurable and positive emotions.

In fact, numerous studies have suggested to researchers that no matter what type of music the listener listens to he or she will be affected positively. Writing in an online article, an associate professor of psychology, Valerie N. Stratton, says that “'If you like music and choose to listen to it, it's probably going to make you feel better regardless of what type it is” (Research Links Music and Listeners' Emotions, 2003, pp 1). In addition, this article describes an experiment conducted at a college. Researchers recruited 47 college students, including 25 music majors, and asked them to keep a diary for 14 days, noting the kinds of music they listened to. They were also asked to pick various moods from a list, showing their moods before, during and after listening to the music. The results showed that most students enjoyed listening to rock and roll music the most, whether it was hard, heavy or modern. The study also found that “rock, the music of choice, made just about all the students ‘optimistic, joyful, friendly, relaxed and calm’” (Research Links Music and Listeners' Emotions, 2003, pp 2). In addition, Stratton noted, “there are probably some physiological reasons. Different types of music may induce different 'brain rhythms. Fast music may cause the heart to speed up, for example” (Research Links Music and Listeners' Emotions, 2003, pp 2). In fact, David Levitin writes in his book This is Your Brain on Music that “metrical extraction, knowing what the pulse is and when we expect it to occur, is a crucial part of musical emotion. Music communicates to us emotionally through systematic violations of expectations” (pp 168). Levitin also states that “music activates the same parts of the brain and causes the same neurochemical cocktail as a lot of other pleasurable activities like orgasms or eating chocolate -- or if you're a

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gambler winning a bet, or using drugs if you're a drug user” (Wirednews, 2006, pp 2). He mentions that serotonin and dopamine are both involved as well.

Researchers have noted that rock and roll music, being particularly suited for dancing, compels its listener to move. This type of music is attractive to teenagers, filled with angst and rebellion. Rock and roll uses “basic backbeat and shuffle rhythms of rhythm and blues” to demand a physical response and offer a challenge to people to loosen up and alleviate stress and worry (Gonzalez, pp 2). Moreover, Dr. Gonzalez said that, “Its strength (has) always been rooted in the sexual energy of its rhythms; in that sense, the outraged parents who had seen rock as a threat to their children’s virtue were right. Rock and roll made you want to move and shake and get physically excited (pp 2)." It has been scientifically proven that “music with a rapid tempo, and written in a major key, correlated precisely with the induction of happiness” (The Economist, 2000, pp 2). It is no wonder that rock and roll music has, and continues to elicit such positive, happy, energetic and arousing emotions from its listeners.

Like rock and roll, rap music is a relatively new style of music. Rap music is a genre of music that has just recently been introduced and performed in our culture within the last twenty-five years. Rappers such as M.C. Hammer and Ice-T revolutionized this genre in the late eighties and early nineties, and since then rap has gained a major fan base among young Americans today. Rap music is considered a minority and unfortunately is not perceived by many Americans as an art form, but as a fad which people hope will soon fade away. With the origins of rap music being traced back to the West African professional singers/storytellers known as Griots, it can easily be seen as one of the most evolving and controversial genres of music that exists in the world today, and has been proved to bring out many emotions and feelings in people when they listen to it.

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Listening to rap music can bring out certain emotions and feelings in people and has unfortunately been linked to violence, sexuality, and drug use. According to the medical reporter, Kate Benson, “some genres of rap music were linked to more deviant behaviors including theft, violence, and drug use” (Benson, 2008). Along with these findings the article Rap Music’s Psychological Effects, Research into Mood, Behavior, Crime, Violence, and Gender Relations, “…young subjects who watched violent rap videos were more accepting of violent actions, particularly against women… after watching a rap video depicting women in sexually subordinate roles, young adolescent females were more inclined to express acceptance of violence against women in a dating situation” (Copley, 2008). These articles do display unfavorable emotions in adolescents when they listen to this genre of music, but not every teenager who listens to rap displays these violent emotions and actions.

Rap music is known for its beat and its ability to make people want to get up and move. It can be heard in many movies and television shows and numerous artists have won Grammy’s for their accomplishments in making songs that fit this popular genre. According to Daniel Levitin in his book, This is Your Brain on Music, “In order to be moved by music (physically and emotionally) it helps a great deal to have a readily predictable beat. (Levitin, 2006, pp 170). As stated above, most rap songs have an internal, predictable beat that draws people into the music and creates true rap fans.

Overall, this genre of music is very controversial and has been linked to unfavorable emotions and actions in teens and adolescents. Not all genres are going to be liked by all and it is up to the individual to decide their personal preference. If nothing else, rap has allowed freedom of expression and emotions by the artists themselves, and has given a generation of listeners a great beat to move to and words of expression to relate to.

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Certain aspects of musical genres coincide with one another allowing for frequent similarities across a broad spectrum of music. One genre that is consistently unaccompanied by traditional pop music production aesthetics is metal. This could be due to the greater appeal of the fan base upon sensing any particular metal music is overproduced. It could also be the obviousness of a metal band that has lost their edge. In accordance, metal has resurrected on multiple occasions and has continued to thrive unlike any other genre.

In “This is your Brain on Music”, Daniel Levetin explains the mastery of musicianship and how it yields the ability to transform emotion into song. Metal is one of the most difficult types of music to perform, and amongst the elite of the metal musicians exist some of the most prestigious and respected musicians encompassing all musical genres. According to Levetin, the best musicians possess the ability to translate pure emotion into harmonic sound; therefore many metal musicians would populate this group. Also, the music in itself would contain a surplus of emotion and have an immense effect on an audience that draws a relationship with some particular song.

Although metal shares little to no technical or fundamental relationships with any other types of music, metal can be broken down into specific categorizations. Each category has a temper level, which measures the edge of an explicit band. A few categories of metal, resembling screamo-metal, nu-metal and death metal have intense temper levels where the singer either screams all of the lyrics or switches between a sung voice and a scream. Other bands categorized as classical metal, hair metal and speed metal have a less intense temper level, however all bands included in these categories use extreme emotions such as anger, melancholy, ecstasy, hatred and love in an attempt to make a connection between their song and the listener. These emotions are among some of the most powerful that the human body experiences, it makes sense that these overwhelming emotions would translate into such an intense sound that only the best of musicians can perform.

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Unlike any other musical genre, a few metal bands stand out as purely original and are credited with creating new eras of music. Of these bands, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metallica and Tool have each found a way to incorporate new emotion into metal. Iron Maiden draws upon the fundamentals of classical music to mock political figureheads in disagreement with society, which relayed a rebellious emotion through their songs. Black Sabbath used a gothic and morbid feeling to darken their sound and generate an eerie negligence. Metallica was first in incorporating an edge that suggested anger and resentment. Tool originated a type of music that began a connection between culture and metal which has a dark and twisted opinion. Each of these bands however, has distinct sound and not only introduced new emotions, but new and innovative ways of playing their instruments. This is no coincidence; it is evidence that supports Leventin’s comment about the connection between musicianship expertise and emotion. In order to transfer these emotions into songs, the musicians were forced to craft new ways of playing which makes metal one of the most emotionally driven genres of music.

Techno is a form of electronic music.  Techno is characterized by synthesizers, drum machines, sequencers, keyboards and samplers. Generally the music is fast at about 180 beats per minute, but some slower forms of techno can be as slow as 100 beats per minute. Techno is a mix of funk, jazz and electronic music.  It first began in the early 1980’s in Detroit, Michigan by a group of friends Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson (Arnold, 2008).  This group would later be known as the Bellville Three, since they all went to Bellville High School together. What made techno possible was the advent of the Rolland TR-808, a small programmable drum machine.  Later the Rolland TB-303 was released which was an electronic keyboard that could have its notes distorted. Initially techno did not take off well in the states.  It was mostly an underground movement, with few artists.  However in the early 90’s it became popular in Europe, especially in

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England and Spain.  The first techno songs to become popular internationally were from the English group Prodigy in 1996 (Arnold, 2008). The songs from Prodigy were more a mixture of pop and techno than anything else. Today, techno enjoys much higher popularity internationally and is most often listened to in dance clubs.  

The best know techno artists are DJ Tiesto, Daft Punk, Darude, Eiffel 65, and Paul Okenfold. Their songs generate excitement and have been used in movies, commercials, and sampled in current songs. Techno is often used to create excitement during car chases in movies and commercials. A good example of this is found in Paul Okenfold’s song “Ready Steady Go” which has been used in movies like Borne Identity and in a SAAB commercial. “Ready Steady Go” has also been used in movies like Collateral during its club scene. Another example of techno as chase scene music is in Super Troopers, when the song “Bidibodi Bidibu” by Bubbles is played in the background during the chase scene with the Germans in the Porsche. Daft Punk’s song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" has been sampled by Kanye West for his song “Stronger”, which is so similar that he should pay them royalties. Another example of techno music being used by other artists is Eiffel 65’s song “Blue” which was recently sampled by Flo Rider for the song “Sugar”. Any time an artist or organization needs to convey excitement, tension, or have people dancing techno is sure to be found.

When people think of techno and other forms of electronic music the common images they conjure is of people dancing and having a good time. Some of my favorite memories involve spring break, clubs, and a soundtrack of dance music; which in Daytona was mostly techno.  The setting is dependent on the individual, but is usually a dance club or of people at a rave.  While many people do listen to it at home, but to get the full effects techno should be experienced at a club or rave. The differences are the volume, lighting, and social environment (Felix 2004). The observation that

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people experience the music differently, depending on their setting, is not surprising. Music affects heart rate, behavior, and expressiveness (Davis and Palladino, 2007). Each of these attributes help to influence the enjoyment a person has while listening to the music.

Techno has the ability to excite us. It is used often in popular media such as commercials and movies during intense scenes like car chases. Its ability to get people up and dance explains why it has been sampled recently for popular dance songs. The environment that one listens to it does influence how it is enjoyed, but no matter the setting techno is able to excite the listener like no other genre. Techno’s ability to evoke emotion explains its enduring popularity. 

Country music also has found a great popularity among many people. What do you get when you play a country song backwards?

You get your truck back, your dog back, and your girl back.

This is an old joke, but with many country songs it still seems to ring true. Country music is powerful because it can evoke deep heartfelt emotions about a solider going off to war, or express the everyday issues of a common man and regular people. Music in general is a way in which we can express emotions and “truthfulness” for life in way language cannot. It contains many significant forms that have ambivalence of content in which words cannot have.

Country music articulates the dynamics of our inner life, and reveals not just isolated emotions of this or that sort, but the way that our inner life unfolds over time. Music can have not only a content, but a transient play of contents. For example in the song My Last Name by Dierks Bentley explains the deep uprooted emotion and tradition that is associated with his last name. In a verse of the song the lyrics state, “Grandpa took off to Europe to fight the Germans in the war, It came back on some dog tags nobody wears no more, It's written on a headstone in the field where he was slain, It's my last name” (Bentley). To Bentley his last name is much more than just any old

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name, but something he will be able to pass down for generations to come. The emotions that come into play when hearing this song can be plentiful, but the most overpowering is pride for your own family and the tradition that you will live on to pass down. This song articulates the beauty of something deeper than just considering your last name as a name, and I think that is what country music is meant to do.

Country music’s roots of pain, sorrow, loss, and nostalgia touch close to the hearts of its listeners; but one of the most recent commonly touched on themes is patriotism. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and other subsequent global events, there has been an epidemic of country songs about patriotism and pride for ones country. Patriotic songs like, Where were you when the world stopped turning and Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue allow people to remember events in their lives, and no matter how tragic, these events can be, country music allows people to vent and express emotions of sadness and reflection through its lyrics. This is why sometimes emotions elicited can be ambiguous.

Music is powerful because it allows us to express ourselves and can sometimes be an outlet for different emotions. Country music is such a wide genre and covers so many topics, that it is impossible to completely label something with a set emotion without first realizing that blends and conflicts of emotions will occur in ever-evolving thoughts and feelings.

Alternative Rock music, otherwise known as just Alternative, is a genre of music that started in the 1980’s. It became very popular in the 90’s. This is a different type of rock music that focuses on “freshness” from traditional rock and also recontextualizes the sounds from past rock music. The Alternative music genre encompasses many subgroups including grunge, Britpop, gothic rock, indie pop, and punk rock. Some famous groups that are classified as Alternative include, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Nirvana, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, and The Cure, to just name

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a few. Alternative has always been an umbrella for underground music that has always been popular with the college culture. In the 1990’s this type of music emerged on the FM radio and gained popular recognition.

When trying to define what Alternative Music should sound like, there is no clear answer. Alternative music started as a change, or “alternate” sound to classic rock. Bands started doing things to create independent sounding music that could not be classified as the common “rock” type of music. These bands had more of a grass roots approach to gaining popularity. During the time that Alternative started hit mainstream radio, there was a big conflict. Alternative was described as music that challenged the status quo so when it started becoming the status quo, people questioned whether it could still be termed as “alternative” music.

Alternative music has always been popular among the college culture. During the 1980’s when Alternative music first started, it was also referred to as “College Rock”. This was because this type of music was very popular and always playing on college radio stations. This type of music has always related to college students because of relatability with college students. Lyrics are often about young love, the stresses of young adult life, and of living a grandiose lifestyle. The music began as a simple style, heavy dance-oriented rhythms, and uncomplicated melodies and harmonies.

Alternative music just does not appeal to people of the United States, but countries all across the world have music that they classify as “Alternative”. Mexico, Japan, Iceland, and Australia are just some of the countries where Alternative music is very popular. This reinforces the concept that Daniel Levitin speaks about. Music has the ability to transcend borders and different nationalities of people.
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Each country has their own interpretation of what Alternative music sounds like. Alternative music does not have a strict definition of what it should be. It has started as just an alternative to popular and rock music that has dominated the culture. People wanted to hear something different, they wanted to hear different rhythms, melodies and beats, and this is what Alternative music offered. Thus, in other countries, Alternative music consists of music that challenges the sounds of common and popular music. Because of this characteristic, Alternative music has become very popular in the United States as well as other countries.

In the research and creation of this paper, our group has discovered that music is a complex system in which processing and emotions are distributed throughout the brain. Through Levitin and Davis and Palladino, we discovered that no matter what the genre of music, the mind will evoke the emotions, and in turn the emotions will determine the like or dislike for the music. In a sense, music and emotions go hand in hand. Music affects the most important organ in the body, the brain, and is a powerful tool. It can calm us, excite us, depress us, and can be one of the first things we hear in the womb besides our mother’s voices. It truly is a gift to the mind and is one of the most evolving pieces of art to exist. Overall we have learned the importance of music and have come to appreciate it as more than something playing in the background of our lives.

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