Headphones may silence our city streets, runs the argument, but they also silence our social connections. To paraphrase those seminal pop philosophers from Athens, Georgia, the B-52s, we’re all living in our own private Idahos.
That, anyway, has been a refrain in sociological circles since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in the 19th century. Critics complained that the social fabric was being shredded when, rather than gathering in ballrooms to dance to Johann Strauss, we listened to recordings in our living rooms.
But recent looks at the evolution and neurology of music suggest we are not waltzing by ourselves. Musical experiences are inherently social, scientists tell us, even when they happen in private. When we listen alone, we feel together.....