This is really interesting and I think very intuitively plausible idea, though I've never considered it before. (I also find it encouraging as a sort-of-musician who's learning a new language. +Emma Eeyore Åström I think you may be especially interested in this; it dovetails completely into one of our discussions from yesterday.)
Obviously the sophistication of spoken language is probably the single most defining human characteristic. Music is also similarly unique to human beings, but unlike language, the importance or utility of music has never been really clear. Why exactly is it so
universal and so emotionally potent? I think this may well be one of the most satisfying and likely answers we will ever get: we love music in part because it utilizes the same abilities we need to process such complex auditory information as in spoken language.
One of the most amazing things about the human mind is how it rewards itself for becoming more adept at information processing. Humor, for example, has a lot to do with the mind rewarding itself for solving small puzzles. Similarly, I think some of the satisfaction for listening to really great music has to do with being able to make sense of it – to "reverse engineer" it on the fly, so to speak. This happens both on the level of understanding musical patterns themselves, and also on the level of signal processing: When you hear, say, a vocal sample that has been run through an effects rack that makes it sound really lush and awesome, in part what is happening is your brain deriving satisfaction from being able to recognize roughly how that sound is related to an original signal. Of course there are also many other layers to the satisfaction and I dont want to oversimplify, but I definitely think that this is a major component. At the very least I certainly think it applies to my musical brain.