I just caught part of a fascinating documentary on PBS with Dr. Oliver Sacks, the popularizer and philosopher of neuroscience who wrote The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and who was portrayed by Robin Williams in the superb movie "Awakenings." In an FMRI scanner, Sacks's amygdala (a.k.a. the lizard brain, the most primitive part of your brain, the center of smell-memory and raw emotion) lit up while he was being played Bach, but not when he listened to an outwardly similar piece by Beethoven. I've long suspected we have a "personal chemistry" connection to certain kinds of music, even certain composers or songwriters. My brother has an almost mystical connection to John Coltrane's music, for example, but Coltrane has consistently left me cold over the years—I have "aColtrania," I guess. That's a neologism from amusia, defined as the inability to perceive music as music. Well, it's not that bad—I can hear and "get" Coltrane. He just doesn't grab me, is all I mean.
So I have a question. Let's say you were off to the proverbial desert island—or not a desert island, but a very beautiful and pleasant island where you're going to spend the rest of your days, but where there would be no music except what you brought with you. You can bring all the music you want, but only in one specific musical genre—classical-period classical, Jamaican reggae, 1950s doo wop, Renaissance plainsong, heavy metal, like that—for you, if you're a music lover, what would that genre be? What's the one style and kind of music that's truly your favorite, that you could least do without, that lights up the emotion center of your brain like a Christmas tree?
Featured Comment by juze: "Well, how about if we take a different approach. In mathematics, there is the so-called Erdős number. Anyone who ever co-authored a paper with Erdős has an Erdős number of 1. Anyone who co-authored a paper with someone whose Erdős number is 1 has an Erdős number of 2. Etc.
"Basically, I'd take anyone with a Tom Waits number of 3 or less."