You really can convince yourself to be happier, especially if you’re listening to an upbeat song while doing so.
Listening to music is an “intellectual” reward, which results from interactions between subcortical dopaminergic regions involved in forming predictions that we share with other animals, and cortically stored templates of previously heard music that are unique to each individual, along with some of the most evolved parts of the cerebral cortex involved in complex pattern recognition and sequencing. These regions ultimately work together to assign reward value to an abstract stimulus.
A new study reveals what happens in our brain when we decide to purchase a piece of music when we hear it for the first time. The study, conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University and published in the journal Science on April 12, pinpoints the specific brain activity that makes new music rewarding and predicts the decision to purchase music.
“On a really great day, it feels like I and the band are the music,” said Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard about performing live. “I feel it on a very spiritual level.”
Musicians, of course, are excused for, even expected to talk like this. Sex and drugs and rock and roll, and all that.
But if you’re familiar with the concept of flow, you’ll notice that Gibbard’s description of a great show sounds like athletes’ descriptions of a great training session or competition — total immersion in the task such that the barrier between actor and act disappears. According to a study published in Evolutionary Psychology, there’s more than a metaphorical match between Gibbard’s in-the-moment music making and the pleasing wash of a good workout. Performing music, the study’s authors say, releases endorphins, the body’s natural opiates responsible for the famous runner’s high.
Daniel Finfer, the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter behind Post Human Era, writes wildly catchy electro-pop songs about transhumanism, exponential technologies, and the Singularity. His latest EP, Help, I Invented The Internet, is a big step up from his previous work, marrying big themes with even bigger mainstream melodies. Standout tracks are Make Me Disappear Again and Building the Machine. Listen to the track below, download the EP (for free!!!) and follow him on Twitter.
If you’ve ever done Karaoke, then you know how horribly some people sing, especially when the background music is too loud for them to hear themselves. The ability to adjust to the environment is essential for all sensory systems, which use feedback mechanisms to modify behavior. Usually the environmental cues are contaminated by noise, so your brain has to decide whether to modify behavior based on sensory feedback (and risk “adapting” to signals that do not accurately reflect performance) or to ignore sensory input (and risk leaving errors uncorrected). So, how does your brain deal with this mismatch between the actual and expected sensory feedback, so you can have a better Karaoke performance?
The sound of keyboard music floats over the modern buildings in Malaga’s Technology Park, commonly known as Spain’s Silicon Valley.
But this is not a practice session, even though the musician playing is an international performer.
The pianist is stretching his hand out over the keyboard demonstrating to a software designer that he is working with how many notes one hand can span.
“We have taught a computer to write musical scores,” says Gustavo Diaz-Jerez, software consultant and pianist.
“Now we can produce modern classical music at the touch of a button.”
According to a study published by a team of psychologists, musicians playing different parts of a duet aren’t just syncing time — they synchronise brainwaves.
Johanna Sänger of Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development gathered 32 guitarists and arranged them in pairs to play Sonata in G Major by Christian Gottlieb Scheidler. Each musician was hooked up to electrodes, so Sänger and her team could monitor their brain activity the 60 times they were asked to play the composition. An earlier study from the Institute had already demonstrated that guitarists playing the exact same tune begin to share brainwave patterns. However, in this study Sänger asked the musicians to play different parts from the same piece of music. As well as playing totally different notes, one was asked to take the lead and set the tempo for the other to follow. Her hypothesis was that, if the brainwave patterns again aligned, then it would demonstrate they have an inherently important role in musicians’ “interpersonally coordinated behaviour” — or, their ability to play well as a pair. All pairs did in fact present with synchronised brain oscillations.
“When people coordinate their own actions, small networks between brain regions are formed,” said Sänger. “But we also observed similar network properties between the brains of the individual players, especially when mutual coordination is very important; for example at the joint onset of a piece of music.”
The synchronisation is known as “phase locking”, and took place largely where the frontal and central electrodes were placed (the frontal lobe is responsible for retaining long term memory, aligning emotion memory with social norms and predicting an action’s consequences).
Favorites: stay glad, don’t get lonesome, have company but don’t waste time, love everybody, wake up and fight.
Alan Light, whose new book, The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley And The Unlikely Ascent Of Hallelujah, traces the extraordinary trajectory of a song that went from almost total obscurity to one of the most famous tracks in modern music.
At the link is a fantastic video interview with Alan produced by BBC News.
Says Alan of the way in which Hallelujah is so deftly able to channel both life’s exquisite pain and beauty: “Even when you suffer the pain and heartbreak that life throws at you, in the end, you still have to kind of stand in wonder at life, and at living.”
Perfect pitch, also known as absolute pitch (AP), refers to the rare ability to identify or produce a musical tone correctly without the benefit of an external reference. AP is often considered to reflect musical giftedness, but it has also been associated with certain disabilities due to increased prevalence of AP in individuals with sensory and developmental disorders. Here, we determine whether individual autistic traits are present in people with AP.
We quantified subclinical levels of autism traits using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) in three matched groups of subjects: 16 musicians with AP (APs), 18 musicians without AP (non-APs), and 16 non-musicians. In addition, we measured AP ability by a pitch identification test with sine wave tones and piano tones.
We found a significantly higher degree of autism traits in APs than in non-APs and non-musicians, and autism scores were significantly correlated with pitch identification scores (r = .46, p = .003). However, our results showed that APs did not differ from non-APs on diagnostically crucial social and communicative domain scores and their total AQ scores were well below clinical thresholds for autism. Group differences emerged on the imagination and attention switching subscales of the AQ. Thus, whilst these findings do link AP with autism, they also show that AP ability is most strongly associated with personality traits that vary widely within the normal population.
A book from 1902 on the art and science of proper singing. Excerpt from How To Sing: Hilli Lehmann’s Illustrated Guide:
But art to-day must be pursued like everything else, by steam. Artists are turned out in factories, that is, in so-called conservatories, or by teachers who give lessons ten or twelve hours a day. In two years they receive a certificate of competence, or at least the diploma of the factory. The latter, especially, I consider a crime, that the state should prohibit. All the inflexibility and unskillfulness, mistakes and deficiencies, which were formerly disclosed during a long course of study, do not appear now, under the factory system, until the student’s public career has begun. There can be no question of correcting them, for there is no time, no teacher, no critic; and the executant has learned nothing, absolutely nothing, whereby he could undertake to distinguish or correct them.
“We’ve discovered that there’s a science behind the sing-along and a special combination of neuroscience, maths and cognitive psychology can produce the elusive elixir of the perfect sing-along song. We hope that our study will inspire musicians of the future to crack the equation for the textbook tune.”
Musicologist Dr. Alison Pawley and psychologist Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen out at the University of London came to the conclusion that there are four traits that make a song catchy:
- Longer and detailed musical phrases. The breath a vocalist takes as they sing a line is crucial to creating a sing-along-able tune. The longer a vocal in one breath, the more likely we are to sing along.
- Higher number of pitches in the chorus hook. The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes. Combining longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches was found to be key to sing-along success.
- Male vocalists. Singing along to a song may be a subconscious war cry, tapping into an inherent tribal part of our consciousness. Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs.
- Higher male voices with noticeable vocal effort. This indicates high energy and purpose, particularly when combined with a smaller vocal range (Freddie Mercury of Queen and Jon Bon Jovi).
On Twitter, you are mixing content, content that the audience you hope to engage will find—not only interesting—but, irresistible, irresistible enough to comment on, @reply, retweet, share, like, etc. Ultimately, you hope your followers will enlist their followers to follow you because of your great content. Some call it a tribe, but think of it as your own club, a club where you are the DJ and people come to have a good time. As a Content Curator, you should be entertaining. Those who follow you should have access to the best content already disseminated for them. You get to exchange ideas about this great content, learn something new, maybe even change your opinion. Ultimately, when your friends or followers share your curated content with their friends, THEY look smart and cool.
This is a technique called laryngoscopy. Check out the link above for some background, if you can stomach it. If you’re especially brave, check out this Reddit thread with even more video examples of vibrating vocal folds in all their freaky glory.
YouTuber Vsauce raises an interesting question about the future of music in the digital age: Since there are a finite number of tones distinguishable to human ears and it could only take a few notes in common for different songs to sound similar, will we ever run out of new music?