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In any social situation, when hit with the occasional “So what kinda songs do you like?” or “Lemme have a look your Spotify playlists,” I will politely answer “Sorry I am not really into music” at the cost of being a social pariah. I get looks of confusion, disappointment, shock, and sometimes sheer disgust! I also get a range of responses like “You are not allowed to sit with us,” “Get a life” or my personal favorite “Are you an alien?” (All meant in good humor, I hope)

I am not sure about being an alien, but not liking music definitely makes an outcast. I cannot make casual chitchat about my favorite genre of music or even know the lyrics of songs verbatim when in a club. Okay, but this does not mean I will not enjoy the occasional song with hip and trendy lyrics and groovy beats, maybe a new drop by Taylor or Adele…but I find I like it more because it is such a massive cultural phenomenon than because of the actual music. And a couple of songs a day is where I draw my limit. Anything more than that and song-listening is no longer a pleasure…it gives me anxiety akin to withdrawal symptoms. I get jittery and my brain goes in the hyper-analysis mode of trying to figure out the meaning of the lyrics which almost always clashes with background music or the beats and gives me a splitting headache. Sometimes it feels boring and sometimes it’s distracting!

And because I am told that this reaction to music is not normal, I did what every mildly paranoid girl with smartphone and internet access would do… google my symptoms. And Google did what it does best… giving me the worst possible reasons for my distaste for music. Apparently, people who do not like music have an actual condition called “musical anhedonia.” The recurrent explanations I found in articles for this ghastly condition among my breed of music anhedoniacs were a) we are less creative (I’ll take that), b) not imaginative ( I agree unless you consider the million scenarios I make up in my head unimaginative ), c) emotionless (ouch?) and d) unable to feel pleasure (I don’t know…devouring a perfectly warm and moist chocolate cake in my bed at midnight is pretty pleasurable for me) and some simply said we have brain damage (no comment).

But hopping onto more viable research (and taking a cheeky Buzzfeed quiz… would this explain the “brain damage” part?) I found that musical anhedoniacs do not have their auditory receptors connected to the part of the brain that evokes pleasure or emotion, but this does not mean that they are not capable of experiencing pleasures and emotions in other forms. This also does not mean that musical anhedonia should be considered a mental illness that needs treatment. It simply is a condition that does not take away much from your life experiences.
And my two cents: thanks to the God-like pedestal we have placed music onto, people simply refuse to accept that while music breathes life in their souls… some people simply do not like music. Though there is no doubt that music touches lives, moves hearts, and intensifies emotions the way only a drug would… it just doesn’t cut it for some people and that’s okay! We musical anhedoniacs are a rare breed… we exist and no matter what any article might say… we are not damaged in the brain! We are as normal as normal comes…and who knows…maybe the new Adele drop might make us feel something!

Aakanksha Kirtane

Stony Brook '22

My name is Aakanksha and I am a junior at Stony Brook University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Math and minoring in Women and Gender Studies. I am an international student, born and bred in Mumbai, India. I am passionate about championing women in STEM and devouring a well made Avocado toast!
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