Wednesday, December 31, 2008
An 8 minute segment broadcast on National Public Radio
Excerpt: 'Musicolphilia' - Bolt from the Blue: Sudden Musicophilia - by Oliver Sacks
In the segment from the NPR's All Things Considered program, interviewer Andrea Seabrook talks with neurologist and author Oliver Sacks about his work exploring the relationship between the brain and music. Sacks writes in his book 'Musicophilia' about the stories of some of his patients. One of his first books, 'Awakenings', written in the 1970s, deals with patients who suffered from sleeping sickness. He says he is constantly amazed by the human ability to move in syncronicity to music. He recounts being at a Gratefull Dead concert and marvelling at the thousands of people all moving together in unison. Music's ability to stir up various moods and emotions interest him as does the human ability to hear music in our heads. Sacks mentions Gottfried Schlaug's research at Harvard University in imaging the brains of musicians. He says that, unlike many other professions, a musician's brain can be recognized as such just by looking at the brain patterns.
Sacks talks about his work with patients with Tourette's Syndrome and how their involuntary compulsive movements can be calmed through music therapy. He cites the example of a drum circle in New York and how 30 people's bodies can be jerking spasmodically then, after following the lead drummer, they fall into syncronicity and are no longer subject to sudden jerky movements. He fondly remembers when he first started working in New York City in the 1960s, seeing a group of 80 Parkinson's patients who had been frozen, unable to move, suddenly upon hearing music becoming 'unlocked' for a while.
In the excerpt from 'Musicophilia' entitled 'Bolt from the Blue: Sudden Musicophilia', Sacks tells the story of an orthopedic surgeon who, having been hit by lightening, suddenly became obsessively interested in piano music and composition. The man who formerly had little to no interest in music, was now engrossed heart and mind in the performance of and love for music.
Having listened to Oliver Sacks interviewed and having read this excerpt from his book, I am inspired to read more of his writing. His writing seems accessible to this unscientific mind and while I have found the many of the subjects connected to the study of Music and the Brain very interesting. It has been difficult for me to process some of the ideas because of the technical language used. I suspect I would not be intimidated by and would enjoy reading more of what Sacks has written.
The changes in behavior as exhibited by the doctor whose brain became keenly interested in music subsequent to his accident, sound as if they almost bordered on the obsessive. As one who lives with a partner who is also deeply engrossed in a hobby, I was not hugely surprised to note that the marriage did not survive the newfound musical passion!
By: Andrea Botticelli
The purpose of study 3 in this ongoing investigation was to extend the findings by using a larger and more representative sample of listeners. This round of tests examined emotion ratings provided when listeners were exposed to actual performances. Confirmatory factor analysis examined the structure of musical emotion ratings (496). Study 4 attempted to replicate the results with a different sample of listeners and musical excerpts. It also compared the differential validity of the framework in comparison with basic emotion and dimensional emotion models (497).
In the validity test, there was a good fit result for a more parsimonious 9-factor model. Subesequently, the model was reduced to include 9 factors. Also, the total number of emotion terms was reduced to 40. The 9 factors of musical emotion are: Wonder, Transcendence, Tenderness, Nostalgia, Peacefulness, Power, Joyful Activation, Tension, and Sadness (503). The results provide a domain-specific taxonomy of musically induced emotions. They make up the Geneva Emotional Music Scale (GEMS) (506).
In comparison with mainstream emotional models, such as the discrete emotion model, most musical emotions in the GEMS model are positive. Also, emotion categories such as wonder, nostalgia, and transcendence are prevalent in the model, whereas these emotions are not central in any other emotion model. There are some other more subtle differences in the emotion terms. For instance, joy in music implies a tendency to dance, which is unlike the common emotional meaning of joy. In music “joyful activation may be best seen as a form of joyful entrainment” (506). Also, musical sadness may not be like the basic emotion of sadness because respondents rarely reported feeling gloomy, depressed, or unhappy. The nine emotion factors can be classified with three larger terms: Sublimity, Vitality, and Unease. While the intercorrelations of these facets seem disturbingly high from the point of view of statistical procedure, they reveal the blended nature of musical emotions (506).
In study 4, the method to replicate the results in study 3 used only absolute music. There were some added variables gleaned from repeated suggestions by participants in free response categories of questionnaires (508). Therefore, the final taxonomy has 9 factors and 33 subfactors (509). Significantly, results using this model showed that listeners preferred to describe what they felt in these emotional terms. It also enhanced agreement across listeners in emotional ratings of music excerpts (511). Hence, the musical emotion model reflects more discrimination between musical excerpts (512). It is a step closer to developing a reliable method to evaluate musically induced emotions.
The final discussion in this seminal article makes the point that even with this more sharply discriminating model, there was still significant interindividual variability in emotional responses to a given excerpt (512). My question is what causes this variability? It is clear from this research (and my own experience as a music teacher) that not all individuals react emotionally to music. In this case, less than 50% of the sample reacted to the most common musically induced emotions. There has been research that illuminates other factors that moderate emotional reaction to music, such as performance variables, listener variables and contextual variables (516). In my opinion, there must be a domain-specific musical ability or awareness that accounts for this variability.
By: Andrea Botticelli
Empirical research has shown that music can be an effective means of mood induction. It is influential in mood manipulation to alter consumer behavior and it can also be used as a tool for treatment of emotional disorders. A pervasive element, affective reactions to music have been observed in infants as young as four months old. Moreover, brain regions activated by emotional music are similar to those activated by strong rewards such as sex, food, and drugs of abuse (494).
At present, there is no empirically derived taxonomy of musically induced emotion. This line of research strives to answer these questions: Which emotive states are most (and least) frequently induced by music? Are these “states” specific emotions? If so, how can we adequately classify and measure them? Also, how do these “music emotions” relate to extramusical emotional experience? Do music-induced emotions differ sufficiently from everyday emotions to warrant a domain-specific classification? (495).
The goal of the first study was to create a comprehensive list of suitable words to describe felt emotion. Researchers compiled a list of 515 terms of felt affect in French. They subsequently narrowed the list by using words that the majority of participants selected, eliminating unpopular words as well as repetitive, synonymous words. They reduced the list to 146 affect terms (497).
The second study examines which of these terms would be relevant in relation to music. As a basis, the researchers used 3 rating conditions, namely emotions perceived in the music, emotions induced by music, and emotions experienced in day-to-day contexts. Participants rated how often they felt a particular emotion versus how often they perceived it in music of their personal musical preferences. They also rated how often they felt these emotions in their everyday life (498).
Factor analysis yielded 10 broad factors: Tender Longing, Amazement, Tranquility, Joy, Activation, Power, Sensuality, Transcendence, Dysphoria, and Sadness. Moreover, the study demonstrated that ratings of perceived emotion differed greatly from ratings of felt emotion. Also, emotion ratings differ significantly with musical genre (499). On the whole, emotions were more perceived than felt, particularly in negative cases of sadness or dysphoria. Interestingly, tender longing and amazement were just as often perceived as felt (500).
Frequency ratings of felt musical emotions and everyday emotions differ significantly from each other. Emotions that were reported only rarely in music (despite the frequent occurrence in everyday life) were guilt, shame, jealousy, disgust, contempt, embarrassment, anger, and fear. Furthermore, the induction of positive emotions depended on the music. For instance, amazement and peacefulness were experienced more in classical music and jazz than in everyday life. In contrast, activation was more experienced with Latin American and techno music. Finally, emotions were less frequently felt in relation to music, than to be perceived as expressive properties of music
The empirical study of music and emotion is made more difficult because there is no general agreement as to what an “emotion” is. Accordingly, rather than use models from emotion research that may be too primitive to encompass the breadth of musical emotions (such as the basic emotion model), the researchers have decided to create a domain-specific model of musically induced emotions. I wholeheartedly agree that analyzing emotions in music should go further than discussions of angry, fearful, surprised, happy, or sad emotions. These cut and dry classifications cannot encompass the nuanced interplay of musical elements or the richly descriptive emotional experience induced by music.
Schellenberg, G., Peretz, I. & Vieillard, S. (2007)
Liking for happy- and sad-sounding music: Effects of exposure.
Cognition and Emotion, 22:2, 218-237
This study recruited 108 undergraduate students from University of Toronto in Mississauga and Universite de Montreal to observe their favorable/unfavorable response to music in relation to the emotional status of music, frequency of exposure, and type of exposure.
Eighteen musical excerpts (equally divided into two groups of happy- and sad-sounding) from 17th to 20th century Western European art music were selected and recorded using MIDI software. These excerpts were presented from zero to thirty-two times. The participants were assigned to two listening conditions: focused (listening attentively to each musical presentation and identifying its emotional status: happy or sad) and incidental (listening to a narrated story in the right ear and tracking certain words while listening to musical excerpts at a reduced volume in the left ear).
The findings of this study showed that: 1) participants in the focused condition preferred happy to sad music, but those in the incidental condition displayed the opposite; 2) while the liking ratings in the focused group increased between second and eighth exposures and declined steadily from eighth to thirty-second exposures, the liking ratings in the incidental group increased as the number of exposures went up; 3) the recognition ratings for happy and sad music were similar in the focused group, but the incidental group showed lower recognition ratings for happy than sad music.
The researchers brought up several existing theories to explain the findings of this study: Bornstein's perceptual fluency/attributional model (220), Berlyne's two-faced model (221, 232), and Whittlesea & Williams' discrepancy-attribution hypothesis (232). As a result of exposure, the inverted U-shape in the liking rates reflected the process in which musical challenges were recognized, met, and reduced to boredom as participants from the focused group listened to the same excerpts repeatedly. The incidental group might have preferred sad music because of their non-musical task and consequent negative mood. Sad music and its frequent use of slower tempi were linked with calming effects while the faster pace of happy music might have been too quick for processing by the incidental group, whose attention was diverted.
The researchers would like to address the following issues in their future studies: 1) how musical expertise and listeners' pre-existing preference for one genre over another may affect responses; 2) whether the observed response patterns may extend to unusual types of music, or other art forms, with or without temporal organisation; 3) how lyrics or vocal quality affects liking for music; 4) how social and cultural determinants (such as gender, ethnicity, and education) may influence effects of exposure.
Review & Reflection
As the researchers stated in this study, their interest was to observe how one's musical preferences might reflect the same individual's personal identity. What we choose to do, eat, wear, see, and hear makes up our identity and outlines who we are. While some choices are conscious, some are not. This study displays the various elements of one sample, music listening, from our everyday routine and brings to our awareness the many variations of outcomes, made possible by slight changes in the circumstances.
While the effects of exposure can be seen in many fields of life, the existence of goals helps us focus our attention and discover new sides of the same substance. This reminds me of Csikszentmihalyi's description of flow experience: one reaches this optimal experience when one focuses on the task at hand and one's skill level meets the challenge level of the task. For attentive audience, the complexity of good music offers challenges, as well as opportunities of many discoveries and rewards. The quality of our listening activity does not solely depend on the music itself, but mainly on how we listen to it and what we want from this experience, which is our attitude and motive.
Reference: Blind man 'sees' a path
Benedict Carey. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Dec 23, 2008. pg. A.2
Summary: This was a brief report I encountered in the Globe and Mail on December 23rd, 2008. The original study was published in the journal "Current Biology". The subject of this study was a doctor who was left blind by two successive strokes. In the experiment he was required to navigate an obstacle course without help. He did so successfully, managing to avoid a garbage can, a tripod and several other onbjects.
Review: Scientist have previously reported on cases of blind people with partial damage to their visual lobes. However, this is the first study to show that there is something else at work, since both visual lobes were destroyed in this patient; or in more technical terms: where there is an apparent total absence of a striate cortex(where visual processing takes place.)
This study seems to suggest that we have a sub-conscious visual system; one where we have the ability to sense things by using the brain's primitive, subcortical system.
This seems to suggest that there are various forms/ degrees of blindness. This experiment might not have worked one a patient who was born blind or on one who had damage to the ideas. In the experiment, the patient suffered from damage to the brain, not the eyes. This means that his eyes couls still see, but that the processing took place in a different region of the brain, as well as in a different fashion. To ensure that there was no activity in the cortex, researchers took brain scans and magnetic resonance images of the brain, making sure that nothing was actually happening. Researchers also ensured that the patient was not navigating by reflected sound - the way bats navigate.
The fact that our brains process information from our eyes using two sets of circuits is not a new revelation to researchers. Apparently, cells in the retina project to the visual cortex, as well as to the subcortical areas. These subcortical areas include the superior colliculus (crucial in eye movement; possibly in other sensory functions as well). It is also suspected that information is also sent through the amygdala, which registers emotion.
Response: I was able to locate some footage of the experiment, which can be viewed here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16324-blind-man-sees-his-way-past-obstacles.html
This experiment seems to demonstrate the amazing capabilities of our brains - I think that we are actually not aware of how much it can do, or how it can adapt. It would be interesting to know what the role of light played in this experiment. Would he perphaps have been less successful had it been dark? This reminds me of a blind student I taught for a while. She was born blind and it was obvious from her eyes that she could not see. I was amazed at how well she navigated her apartment and how she was able to cook us a dinner without help. She did mention however that she could sense whether or not there was light in the room. Therefore, I think it would be interesting to experiment further with levels of light in the obstacle course.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By: Andrea Botticelli
This study examines the emotional experiences of “thrills” while listening to music. This experience is divided into two categories. The first example can be described as a pleasant physical sensation, often felt as a “shiver” or “tingle” running from the nape of the neck down the spine. The second example of strong emotion involves tears or weeping. From the scientific point of view, it is advantageous to study this response because it is clear, stereotypical, memorable, clearly differentiated, and easily identifiable (110). Moreover, the “thrill” response reflects felt emotion, not judged musical mood (111). Thus, this research focuses on emotional “peaks” by analyzing their nature, frequency of occurrence, and the precise musical events which evoke them (111).
The sample of 83 respondents (the number of replies received from a pool of 500) answered a questionnaire that asked them to rate the occurrence of peak experiences during the past 5 years based on physical criteria. Participants were asked to rate their experiences using twelve physical variables: shivers down the spine, laughter, lump in the throat, tears, goose pimples, racing heart, yawning, pit of stomach sensations, sexual arousal, trembling, flushing/blushing, and sweating. Notably, the most common responses were shivers, laughter, lump in the throat, and tears (112).
Participants were also asked to nominate the works for which they had strong emotional responses. Of the pieces that were nominated, 65 were classified as classical vocal, 28 were popular vocal, 67 examples represented classical instrumental, and 6 were popular instrumental music. (It is important to note that the imbalance toward classical music may have reflected the sample, not necessarily the occurrence of strong emotions). The top five works were: Bach St. Matthew Passion, Mozart Requiem, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, Bach B minor Mass, and Tchaikovsky Overture to Romeo and Juliet. Interestingly, respondents reported that even after listening to this music upwards of 50 times over 5 years, they still felt strong emotional reactions to the music (113).
Respondents were also asked to try to pinpoint the musical event that elicited the strong response. 57 people responded to this question and all responses except 2 were from performers. 38 musical passages were chosen for structural analysis (all were from classical music because the score had to be available to study). 19 excerpts were examples of purely instrumental music and 17 examples were of vocal music. Content analysis of these emotional moments summarized ten broad groups: harmonic descending cycle of fifths to tonic, melodic appoggiaturas, melodic or harmonic sequence, enharmonic change, harmonic or melodic acceleration to cadence, delay of final cadence, new or unprepared harmony, sudden dynamic or textural change, repeated syncopation, and a prominent event that came earlier than prepared for (114).
The results of the study demonstrate a clear differentiation between musical structures by the physical reactions they provoke. In general, it was shown that tears are most reliably provoked by melodic appoggiaturas and shivers are induced by relatively sudden changes in harmony (114).
The article concludes with the point that these physical responses are part of the innate autonomic response system of all human beings. I’m wondering why all 500 people in the sample did not respond? Perhaps they simply didn’t have experiences of that nature to report?
Similarly, why don’t all of us have these responses to music? One of the possible answers could be the role of learning in music appreciation, even in emotional reaction. Since meaningful musical moments may likely be the result of disturbed expectations, musical syntax must be internalized to appreciate these features. Research has also shown that emotional responses can grow during repeated exposure as one discovers more subtle expressive features in the music (119). This point may demonstrate that music (or we) may always have more to express with each experience of listening or performing it.
by Alissa Poh
Musician Alissa Poh is a research scientist turned science journalist. She says she would rather be a storyteller of science rather than its slave.
The author has perfect pitch or absolute pitch (AP). She hears the everyday sounds around her in musical terms. Her cell phone rings in A minor. Her car horn is somewhere between an E and an F and her refrigerator hums in B flat. As long as she can remember she has been able to recognize and name the pitch of any note.
Oliver Sacks, the noted neurologist and author of Musicophilia, writes that to those of us who don't possess AP, it seems like an uncanny other sense but to those with are born with it, it seems perfectly normal.
Researchers are looking at the genetic hereditary basis of absolute pitch and how that combines with hereditary influences. Researcher Joseph Profita published a paper in 1988 in which he shows that the AP ability clusters strongly within families.
Poh spent time with absolute pitch genetic researchers Jane Gitschier and Beth Theusch from the University of California in San Francisco. Gitschier and Theusch were joined in the study by Iranian grad student Siamak Baharloo whose was interested in also examining the role of musical training on AP development.
First a survey was sent to 900 musician. Then an online test was devised where participants had to distinguish pure fundamental frequency pitches and piano tone pitches, each within three seconds. All survey and test participants had to have received formal music lessons. The results of the testing helped to produce a "relative risk estimate", the prediction that sibling were 10 times more "at risk" for AP than individuals within the general population. Children of a parent with AP were found to have a 50/50 chance of having it.
The researchers compiled data and collected DNA samples in search of genetic evidence of AP. The compilation of information continues with the team eventually hoping to find the one genetic variant linked to AP.
So far, the ACSF researchers have noted that as people get older their pitch perception tends to shift towards the sharper or higher side. Their hypothesis is that just as our eyes change with time, so do our ears. They also noted that most people with AP tend to slip up in their pitch indentification around G sharp and A. This is likely because A is the usual pitch used for tuning. A is often tuned at 440 Hertz, but depending on the type of music and geographic location, the tuning pitch can vary.
Research into AP is shedding light on the question of neuroplasticity (how the brain changes with experience) and on how long-term memory works.
Some scientists are skeptical about the genetic correlation of AP. One of these is musician turned neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. Levitin feels that without an evolutionary advantage to AP, it is unlikely to be inherited genetically. Likewise, he doesn't think the AP researchers will be able to separate "nuture from nature".
Alissa Poh's story traces the development of the various stages of the study, which I found captivating. Rather than just listing the findings of the study, it is interesting to follow the various steps involved in the evolution of the project.
It is intriguing that many of the scientists involved in this research have a musical background.
It seems very appropriate that this article is written from the perspective of someone who does possess AP. It must be a tremendous advantage as a musician to possess absolute pitch, with the exception that musicians who regularly perform early music frequently must have to get very good at mentally transposing!
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's to stroke and depression
by Matthew Shulman
Posted July 17, 2008
Oliver Sacks, a noted neurologist and professor at Columbia University, who explored the link between music and the brain in his book Musicophilia, says music can not only improve movement and speech in patients who have suffered the loss of these, but also trigger the release of mood-altering brain chemicals and help to recover once-lost memories and emotions.
Because the human nervous system has the unique tendency to go into "foot-tapping mode", the brain naturally responds to highly rhythmic music. This innate response benefits Parkinson's and stroke patients helping to initiate movement and to encourage more smooth movement, says Concetta Tomaino, cofounder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City.
Rick Bausman is a musician who founded and directs the Drum Workshop in Martha's Vineyard. He reports that after playing in his drumming workshops, participants have increased control over their physical movement, becoming more fluid in their movements and shaking less.
Research shows that Parkinson's patients who received music therapy in group improvisation sessions experienced a more significant improvement in motor control than those receiving traditional physical therapy. The positive effects tapered off after two months if the music therapy was discontinued.
When a stroke has damaged speech control centres in the left brain, "melodic intonation therapy", or singing song lyrics, can help to transfer existing neuron pathways or create new ones in the right brain. Singing existing lyrics can progress to speaking the lyrics and to creating new lyrics with similar meanings, thus aiding in the recovery of word retrieval and speech through the use of music. The case of a man whose speech was lost after a fall and a stroke was cited. Through music therapy, Trevor Gibbons, was not only been able to recover his speech and discover a talent for song-writing, but had his
depression alleviated as well.
Research at the University of Miami's School of Medicine in 1999 into the effect of music on establishing more positive moods, indicates that music increases the production of the neurotransmitters norepiniphrine and melatonin. A Spanish study showed that listening to music prior to surgery decreased anxiety, heart rate and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as much as the anti-anxiety drug diazepam. A 2006 study showed that after listening to music, anxiety levels were reduced in Alzheimer's patients. They then experienced enhanced memory recall and were able to communicate better. It is suspected that music stimulates areas deep within the amygdala and the hippocampus where emotion and long-term memory are processed. Both of these areas are less prone to the degenerative effects of Alzheimer's than the outer cortex, the centre of complex thought. Music Therapist Suzanne Hanser cautions that not all patients will respond and in those that do, it may take multiple sessions to see any effects.
With the body of research being done that shows such positive physical and psychological effects of music therapy, one would hope that health care facilities will be spending more money to hire trained music therapists. If patients can recover lost mobility and deal with pain, loss of memory and speech while experiencing a reduction in levels of stress and anxiety, all without the use of drugs, it seems like a win-win situation all around.
I would expect to see more music therapy training facilities emerging as a result of current research. It seems a shame to think that many people in chronic care facilities are not presently being offered music therapy and that their quality of life could be greatly enhanced if the therapy were more universally available.
The study of musical emotions is currently an active field in psychology. In this article, Krumhansl summarizes research in the ongoing investigation of how musical emotion relates to the cognition of musical structure (45.) A fundamental question is: what is it in the music that causes emotion? Also, are musical emotions like other emotions?
Background research in this field includes the classic study by Hevner (1936). The study was an attempt to precisely describe the musical structures that produce musical emotions. There was a remarkable agreement when listeners had to choose emotional adjective descriptions for musical excerpts. Leonard Meyer, a pioneer in the field of music cognition, theorized that expectations play a central psychological role in musical emotions. Subsequent research uses the concept of musical tension to link cognition of musical structures with musical emotions (46).
It has been shown that music can be reliably described at the level of basic emotions. For instance, there is general consensus that sad excerpts feature slow tempi, minor harmonies, and fairly constant ranges of pitch and dynamics. Fearful excerpts display rapid tempi, dissonant harmonies, and large variations of dynamics and pitch. Finally, happy excerpts employ relatively rapid tempi, dancelike rhythms, major harmonies, and relatively constant ranges of pitch and dynamics (46).
Krumhansl conducted a comparison of these descriptions with points of tension in the music. Tension correlated most strongly with fear ratings, but also with happy and sad ratings. Thus, tension is a multivalent quality, present in music expressing all three of these basic emotions. Physiological responses of the subjects were also recorded. All musical excerpts produced the same direction of change compared with base levels, indicating that music has an overall effect on emotion physiology. Sad ratings induced changes in heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance and temperature. Fear induced changes in the rate and amplitude of blood flow. Happy music showed changes in respiration. However, the correlations were fairly low (46). The greatest correlation with nonmusical emotions in other studies was seen when the manipulation was extended over time, as in the musical excerpts (47).
In yet another study, listeners heard 8 minutes of the 1st movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, K. 282. Physiological responses to the music were recorded. Another group made perceptual judgments such as how the music is segmented, when new musical ideas are introduced, and the degree of perceived tension. Significantly, tension ratings correlated with heart rate and blood pressure. Also, a number of features covaried with tension, such as pitch height of melody, density of notes, dissonance, and dynamics. More cognitive features included key changes, appearance of chromatic tones, interruption of a harmonic process, and denial of stylistic expectations (47).
Musical theory has always discussed the role of structure, harmonic progression, and non-chord notes to understand musical expression. It seems that the sheer existence of these organizational systems makes each departure from them special and meaningful. For example, in every theory class students are taught how to analyze and compose binary pieces or how to identify symmetrical phrasing. Gifted composers continually break these “rules”, but if they weren’t there as a framework, would the pieces that extend these systems and violate their cohesive structure be as meaningful?
It is fascinating for me to read about methods to assess these qualities scientifically. Also, I am happy (and relieved) to find that psychological testing often confirms theoretical thinking. I think an interesting direction for future research would be to investigate the connection of musical emotion with emotion in other areas of life. Results in this direction might strengthen the importance of music therapy.
Luis Benítez-Bribiesca, Patricia M. Gray, Roger Payne, Bernie Krause and Mark J. Tramo , Science, New Series, Vol. 292, No. 5526 (Jun. 29, 2001), pp. 2432-2433
By: Michelle Minke
Two scientists, P. M Gray and M.J Tramo, discuss the biological and evolutionary origin of musical creativity.
The diatonic scale that arrived more than three centuries ago, consists mostly of an imperfect sequence of notes that are an old, natural division of the octave. The diatonic scale has been compared to the music of whales, birds and the physiology of the human cochlea by analyzing and researching the series of musical notes. Whales might have chosen the same music intervals to communicate, and are known to compose compositions as long as symphonies. Gray believes that the roots of music lie closer to our ancient brain than our neo cortex, as opposed to Tramo who believes that music involves great cortical activity.
For many cultures still living close to a natural environment there is no separation between music and nature. In places such as Bayaka or Jivaro,there is no need to analyze equal tempered or well tempered scales. Perfection of sound is not the goal. There is no limitation of musical influences, as they use inspiration from mammals, birds, insects, fish and amphibians. In the west there is limited “acoustic expression” due to lack of unique animals in our environment. Our ears are limited by always wanting a perfect sound. The sounds that are acceptable and natural in other countries may then come across as imperfect to our western ears.
Music perception in the brain, according to Tramo, is an emotional response occurring because of phylogenetic ancient structures.
I acknowledge the musical intervals of birds and whales but never considered it to be a primal reasoning of how we began to organize music. Music of course began as sound before it was every notated, but how can music be analyzed as beautiful or not? Are western ears less likely to appreciate Indian or African music simply because of the surrounding we were brought up in?
When I analyze music purely from the natural environment it is derived from, I can hear why there is different rhythm in African music than Canadian, or Brazilian music compared to European music. The animals, trees and waters of these countries have shaped the internal ear of the people. Perhaps if I researched animals, and the natural surrounding of every piece of music that I studied or performed, It would broaden my horizon of appreciation. I find it amazing that our brain recognizes beauty and familiarity based on our personal origin of nature, and that our idea of a perfect sound is established by the environment we are a product of.
I can relate to this when I visited Ireland for the first time. My Grandfather was born and raised in Ireland, and I am Irish, third generation. When my family and I were sitting in a pub in Dublin listening to an Irish band play traditional music, I looked across the room and saw a woman who had exact physical features as mine.I remember thinking to myself, this is where I have come from. The music also had the same affect on me. Each beat of the drum resonated in my body, each harmony echoed in my ear and I emotionally responded with feelings of belonging to this culture. Although I don’t live there and have only visited on few occasions, the sound of an Irish band, flute or harp, inspires my ear to recognize it as “perfection” to me. I can hear the Irish sea, and the wind of Irish Gales. My grandfather played music for me when I was young, and my mother always has Irish music in the house, and I am a product of my environment. Phlyogentically,through musical structures, I feel a great connection to my cultural heritage.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Music listening or performing can elicit physical responses such as thrills, shivers, and changes in heart rate. Hence, “music may be a common trigger of extraordinary experiences” (433). The strong experiences of music project (SEM) collected multiple descriptions of strong emotional experiences with music for content analysis. The data collection was from over 400 people from different gender, occupation, age, and musical preferences (434).
The emotional aspects of SEM were divided into four categories: intense emotions, positive emotions, negative emotions, and mixtures of emotions/conflicting emotions (435). Physical responses included uninhibited crying, shivers/chills, changed breathing, and heart rate (441). “Quasi-physical feelings” were also described like feeling weightless, as if the music took command of the body. Other descriptions included living for what is happening right now, or feeling like the universe is in perfect harmony (442).
The factors influencing SEM have been divided into three categories: musical, personal, and situational categories. Musical excerpts that elicit strong emotional experiences can come from any genre including classical music, pop/rock, jazz, and folk music. Negative reaction factors include high volume, heavy drumming, a screaming saxophone, or a monotonous and howling song (442). For example, a report described an extremely dissonant fortissimo chord in Mahler’s 10th Symphony that explodes unexpectedly (443). Moreover, participants described more general musical elements such as timbre, loudness (dynamics), tempo (such as accelerando), mode (like the transition from minor to major), rhythm, beautiful melodies and harmonies, thick texture, and building tension followed by relaxation (443).
Personal factors that influence strong musical/emotional experiences include physical state, such as whether or not a listener was feeling well, rested, tired, or ill. Also, cognitive factors include expectations, attentiveness, receptivity, sensitivity, open-mindedness, having heard or performed the music earlier, or whether or not the listener was familiar with musical style. Emotional state was also an important factor, namely whether the person was in low or high spirits, calm, relaxed, nervous, depressed, or in crisis (444). Finally, personality-related variables such as temperament, maturity, and disposition all affected the probability of strong emotional experiences with music (445).
Situational factors included the physical space and acoustical conditions of the location of listening or performing. Also, the social aspect of performing alone or together with others influenced these experiences, along with the size of the audience. Additionally, strong emotional experiences with music were more likely to happen on special occasions, such as vacations or performing in another country. Performance conditions that influenced peak experiences included whether or not the music was well rehearsed or under-rehearsed.
Hence, musical factors are only part of the equation that can influence strong experiences in music. The researches concluded that “in many cases….personal and/or situational factors are in fact more important than the music in question”. Moreover, they argued that it may be more accurate to describe these moments as “strong experiences of and with music or strong experiences in connection with music”. Finally, the “link between cognition and emotion is blurred” because one can’t determine if SEM is a direct, immediate emotion or the result of a situational appraisal (447). It is equally difficult to make the distinction between emotions expressed in music and emotions aroused by music. Nevertheless, the “power of music” has considerable validity (448).
I can vividly remember the musical peak experiences of my life and, looking back, I can see that they were a combination of strong musical factors combined with many other physical and situational influences.
One experience was when I visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome when I was 20. I am not particularly religious, but I love visiting churches and I have often felt that their beauty and awesome architecture must have really inspired belief in churchgoers! While gaping at the marble, gazing upward toward the heavens and reflecting on the strength of belief that made possible the building of these monuments over hundreds of years, a choir entered singing Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. The sublimity and religious faith that I felt in the music moved me to my innermost depths and I started to cry uncontrollably. I will always remember that moment.
Another musical moment was at a music summer festival when I was 16 in Whistler, B.C. I was so honoured to have been accepted to this small program of 10 pianists and I worked and prepared harder than ever before. I was in a state of heightened alertness and nervousness. We had daily coachings (like performances) and master classes. I was pushed and inspired by the other pianists. We formed intense friendships in a short time. Finally, on the last three days we took a funicular up to the top of a mountain and performed chamber music together. The hall had vast windows that overlooked the mountains, stretching as far as one could see. I will always remember the natural light in the hall and the uplifting feeling of the panorama that lingered with me when I played.
I think in both of these circumstances, I was already in a heightened state of excitement and anticipation, but I don’t think I would have experienced such strong emotions without the accompaniment of the music. It was as though music infused these moments with a deeper layer of meaning, making the experience infinitely more sublime.
Past research on strong emotional experiences listening or playing music suggests that these experiences may have many properties in common with other types of strong experience, such as mystical experience (431). Notable psychologists have studied the descriptions of people who have experienced these transcendent emotions.
Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, coined the term “peak experience.” Characteristics of peak experiences include total absorption, disorientation in time and space, transcendence of ego, and fusion of the perceiver and the perceived. People who have had these experiences report a complete loss of fear, anxiety, inhibition, defence, and control. In Maslow’s words, “the emotional reaction…has a special flavour of wonder, awe, of reverence, of humility and surrender…[it] may be described as sacred”. Significantly, Maslow found music to be one of the easiest ways of having peak experiences.
Panzarella’s analysis of reports describing musical or visual art experiences revealed four major factors. ‘Renewal ecstasy’ is characterized as an altered perception of the world. ‘Motor-sensory ecstasy’ includes physical responses, including change of heart rate and breathing, and quasi-physical responses such as feeling “high” or “floating”. ‘Withdrawal ecstasy’ is a loss of contact with the physical and social environment. Finally, ‘fusion-emotional ecstasy’ denotes merging with the aesthetic object. The study showed that motor-sensory ecstasy and fusion-emotional ecstasy were more pronounced when listening to music (432).
Csikszentmihalyi’s influential concept of “flow” can be described as an intense, yet effortless involvement in an activity. The experience is ‘so enjoyable that people will do it…for the sheer sake of doing it’. Similar to the former descriptions, the state of flow also includes loss of self-consciousness. It can be felt in connection with many activities, such as rock climbing, chess, games, dancing, as well as making music. In musical terms, this concept seems most applicable to performance (432).
Many musicians have experienced these golden moments when their performance (or parts of it) seems to flow effortlessly from them. They play spontaneously, sometimes not consciously remembering the details, but feeling free and open and in harmony with their instrument and their environment. I think many would feel that this is an ideal transcendent state when musicians play with their most free and sincere expression.
Can this peak state be actively pursued? Or isn’t it a result of purposeful practice, conscious polishing of musical details, and then when these obstacles are overcome, a surrender to the rapture of the moment? I would like to paraphrase some advice from a former teacher: “freedom on stage can only be achieved when there has been enough structure in the practice room”. I also feel that other factors, including personality states, location of performance, and audience can also influence the state of mind of the performer. Then in the lucky (unsought for) moment when all of these influences come together, emotions can well up from within and stimulate peak experiences.
Perfect Pitch in Humans Far More Prevalent Than Expected
August, 26, 2008
For Dr. Lee Bartel – Music and the Brain 2122H
A Summary, Review and Response
Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have developed a unique test for perfect pitch. Tests for perfect pitch have in the past require that the subjects have already had some musical training, this new test can be used on non-musicians and is based on a technique used to discern how infants would recognize words in a language they are learning. Because of this new test, non-musicians can be tested for perfect pitch and prevalence in all humans can now be measured. The researchers have found that perfect pitch is widespread in the animal kingdom and is very rare in humans. Previous studies have shown that animals like birds can identify a series of pitches based on relation to each other. The test created by the researchers requires the participants to listen to groups of three notes with the groups played in a continuous stream in random order for more than 20 minutes. The team also transposed some of the original note groups to a different key with the knowledge of the test subjects. Students who used perfect pitch to identify notes heard the transpositions as a new group of notes they’d never heard before and students who relied on relative pitch heard the notes and automatically recognized them as familiar – seeming to sound like the same group heard before. The test results showed a number of non-musicians who used perfect pitch to identify groups of notes but did not know they had perfect pitch.
The researchers are not investigating the other cognitive abilities of the new group of listeners with perfect pitch and are trying to determine what might distinguish them from the more numerous listeners with relative pitch.
This new test to determine perfect pitch is very interesting as it now can include people who have not had any musical training. I was surprised to hear that the researchers found that many more subjects without musical training had perfect pitch. I would be interested in knowing the correlation between people with perfect pitch and genetics and cultural background. Studies have already been conducted on the prevalence of perfect pitch in people who speak using tonal languages, I wonder if there is a connection with genetics and perfect pitch as well. Perhaps there is a perfect pitch gene out there somewhere?
Study Identifies Part of Brain Responsible for Tone Deafness
September 29, 2006
For Dr. Lee Bartel – Music and the Brain 2122H
A Summary, Review and Response
A new study has discovered that people suffering from tone-deafness have brains that are lacking in white matter. Tone-deafness is a disability that prevents normal-functioning individuals from developing basic musical skills. MRI data from a group of tone-deaf people were compared with images from people with normal musical ability. The results showed that there was a reduction in white matter concentration in the right inferior frontal gyrus or amusic individuals. The study used a technology called “voxel-based morphometry” which is a procedure that allows one to search throughout the entire brain for structural differences in terms of brain tissue concentration. The participants in the study were considered tone-deaf on two criteria: difficulty recognizing familiar tunes without lyrics and the inability to detect when they are singing out of tune.
This short article was very informative and interesting. As I stated in a previous blog entry, I had never come into contact with a tone-deaf student until this year. I had always assumed that tone-deafness was something that was all in somebody’s “head” and that they could overcome it if they really tried. It seems as though the research reveals that it is indeed a real problem with the white matter of the brain. This article was a great general introduction to the science behind tone-deafness and I feel the need to do a little more research on the finding and maybe even seek out the actual study that was performed. As someone who is passionate about music and music education, it breaks my heart that some people are unable to hear and understand the world’s music and are unable to make music themselves. I think that my poor student that is struggling with the clarinet would be pleased to know that her struggles are caused by a real problem and that it is not her fault that she has troubles with music class.
Music on the brain: Researchers explore the biology of music
By William J. Cromie
March 22, 2001
For Dr. Lee Bartel – Music and the Brain 2122H
A Summary, Review and Response
This article outlines the innate capability humans have for music. Babies respond to music while inutero, and scientists believe that certain rules for music are hardwired in the brain. Culture plays a key role in this innate development.
Mark Jude Tramo, a musician, songwriter, and neuroscientist at the Harvard Medical School believes that studying the biology of music can lead to practical applications associated with learning, deafness and personal improvement like lowering blood pressure and easing pain.
No one has found a “music center” in the brain. There are sections of the brain that respond specifically to music but there does not yet seem to be any sort of center where music perception solely occurs. Both hemispheres of the brain are needed for perceiving music in regards to melody, harmony, timbre, rhythm, and memory. Tramo notes that music is just as much motor related as it is auditory related and this would explain why there isn’t just one center of the brain that deals with music comprehension.
There have been some practical applications from the study of the biology of music. For example, following heart bypass surgery patients often require blood pressure medication; however, those patients in intensive care units where background music is played require lower doses of drugs than those in units where no music played.
Music-like games have also been used to help people suffering from dyslexia. Some hospitals used soft background music in intensive care units for premature babies – this in addition to a nurse’s or mother’s humming helps these babies to gain weight faster. Music has been used to calm Alzheimer’s patients and music has been used in nursing homes to help reduce confusion. Music can also help lower blood pressure in certain scenarios and can increase the efficiency of oxygen consumption by the heart. Music has also been said to help athletes enhance their performance as well.
Tramo also believes that music and dancing came before language. Flutes made from animal bones were found in Eastern Europe and are believed to have been made more than 50,000 years ago.
Tramo realizes that there is still a lot of work to be done on how the brain processes music like how the brain decides if music is consonant or dissonant, whether music helps people master other skills like math or if listening to Mozart in the womb improves IQ.
Music therapy has been used for decades to treat neurological conditions and advances in neuroscience and brain imaging are revealing what is happening in the brain. Patients with Parkinson’s and stroke have benefited from music therapy because the brain is, “innately attuned to respond to highly rhythmic music.” Patients can move again when listening to certain types of music. Stroke victims have been able to speak again by speaking through song. Music therapy can also help improve moods of patients and can help Alzheimer’s patients remember more when using music from weddings, religious services and favourite childhood songs.
This short article was very informative and interesting though I feel the need to do further research on some of the topics outlined. It was very similar to other articles I have read about the benefits of music on the human brain. It was an excellent introduction to some of the ways that music therapy can be beneficial to a variety of patients. It would be interesting to learn more about how music is interpreted by babies because culture plays a key role in how music is interpreted. I wonder if a child is adopted from a different culture and is raised in the Western culture if music perception differs for that child. Would they be hardwired to the types of modes and melodies of their biological parent’s culture or would their preference change in their new culture?
I would also be interested in learning more about the music-like games used to help treat dyslexic people. Reading and writing is essentially pattern recognition so it would make sense that music could be a tool to help a person with dyslexia. I wonder if these same music-like games could be used to help non-dyslexic struggling readers as well.
This article introduced many interesting aspects of music and the brain, however, failed to delve deeply into any of the topics outlined and I felt that it was a great introduction, but I really didn’t learn anything new and exciting.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Kate O'Brien Vance, Kate Music Educators Journal, Vol. 90, No. 5 (May, 2004), pp. 27-31
By: Michelle Minke
Most music teachers will encounter teaching someone with Dyslexia within their career, as 20% of people can be diagnosed with some form of Dyslexia. Dyslexia is specifically a language based disorder that can be accompanied by problems in short term memory, sequencing, auditory or visual perception, and motor skills. Of particular importance to music, there is difficulty in processing symbols, making music notation very difficult to understand. These symptoms inevitably effect how a student would read music, learn to play an instrument and sing within a group.
The difference with music compared to reading, is that music as sound is different than music as notation. As taught in the Suzuki school of training, once sound is understood, comprehending the symbols that accompany it can then become easier to identify. The Kodaly method is also equally as effective in teaching rhythm. The same hemisphere of the brain that is used for language, is also associated to rhythm. In Kodaly music they use a method of speaking patterns to preassigned syllables. This method is thought to give music a type of “musical picture” that can then be applied to actual notation. If skills are broken down into smaller units and are then practiced repeatedly, it can then be build upon through time. Also by using motor skills in sequence along with repetition, struggling students can then perform just as easily with students who do not have this disability.
This article grabbed my attention right away, as the woman who wrote this article is a musician with Dyslexia that was not diagnosed until later in her career. I share the same experience.
Throughout many years of education, and struggling with rhythm, short term memory and language, I assumed I was just a “stupid singer”. It was not until a music coach in my post graduate training asked me to stop looking at the music one day, and asked me to learn a phrase by ear. Music, which involves language and symbols would expose my own struggle with Dyslexia. It is by no means debilitating, but what a world of difference it has made being able to recognize. Once I was diagnosed, I ended up applying a lot of the techniques that are addressed in this article. Simply re-organizing my learning techniques, breaking things down step by step, syllable by syllable, symbol by symbol ,the speed and efficiency in which I learned greatly increased. I no longer feel a mental block or frustration, I have just learned to look at a smaller picture as I learn. I believe that adding motor skills into my learning changed the mind to body connection as well.
The thing I like about this article, is that it does not just address the stereotypical idea of Dyslexia, that words are seen backwards. There are many symptoms to look for and as a teacher , I know I will be conscience to look for those signs. If students have difficulty processing verbally, confusion between left and right, motor sequencing problems, problems with attention, social behaviour problems, or memory problems than perhaps it could be a form of Dyslexia. It blows my mind that I went through years of being taught without anyone noticing, and it makes me wonder how many others could easily slip through the cracks.
Bronson, Po Muzak Inc.
By: Michelle Minke
Dec. 15, 2008
This article is about the main man in elevator music, Alvin Collis. 85 million Americans a day are exposed to the one hundred mood settings of Alvin Collis’s music company, Muzak. Whether in Starbucks, department stores or dentist offices, it is his music they hear.
When brainstorming on a mixed album for a new retail store, the example being a cinnamon bun company, he has to think, what kind of music will sell cinnamon buns? The company of Musak goes through many different phases of suggested material, but in order to do this they need to get a sensory and visual experience before they can assess the proper music to be provided. When it comes down to it, it comes down to why people love cinnamon buns, and the kind of memories and emotional responses are activated when having these sensory and visual experiences.
Collis says “We create experiences with audio architecture” and actually refer to themselves as being audio architects. The correct "emotional experience" consists of conjured up memories that will relate to their music. This company believes that each person’s life has their own personal soundtrack, and if you trigger a song to make them feel as though they are walking around their own book or magazine layout, there are results due to that. For example, women who enter a department store with a Martha Stewart meets Africa theme, the music accompanying makes the women who are in that store to feel as though they have just walked into a Country Living Magazine. The employees of these stores confirm the days that they have Sara McLaughlin, or Beth Orton playing, the sales are much greater. We are used to sound in stores because they believe without it we would feel disconnected, and feel like the movie has run out, or the pages in the next chapter are blank.
It sounds like Music being used as propaganda to me. For thirty years or so elevator music has existed in order to create atmosphere, mood, and yes to inspire consumers. I heard once that grocery stores play mostly love music compared to the top ten, because women usually do the shopping , and if they are feeling “loving” they generally buy more. Love songs can emotionally alter your mood, causing you to react in a loving way, and could cause you to buy more things for your family such as special items or prepare a more extravagant dinner. I am just shocked by the research and marketing that actually works behind a big company name such as Musak. They manipulate every detail behind the music choices such as: major or minor keys, songs with or without words,instrumentation and tempos settings. Then according to their employers wishes, and their research they electronically adjust the songs to make the most successful outcome.
I have personally encountered this on many occasions, for example the current time of year. As soon as Christmas music started being played in November, our minds were triggered to the gift giving season. Even though I find it manipulative and am aware that there is propaganda like tendencies behind it, I can’t say I would particularly enjoy shopping without music and I would probably not stay a long time in a store that did not have music playing. There has also probably been a time when I was drawn to a small café playing European music, taking my imagination from the faculty of music onto a street in Paris…. and yes I might have bought a cookie to go along with my coffee to enjoy the “emotional experience” a little more.
Is elevator music such a bad thing then? Probably not, but perhaps consumers trying to watch their penny during difficult economic times would have to be a more conscious shopper and not be influenced by the subtle back ground music.
Kurutz, Steve,New York Times (2008)
By: Michelle Minke
Dec. 12, 2008
“They’re playing my song. Time to work out”, is an article in the New York Times, by Steven Kurutz. This article addresses the fact that music influences your mental state and performance ability for working out. Music is ultimately optimistic and energizing, the two things you need for a successful workout. Studies have proven that with the right music during exercise, it can act as a motivator, and lessen fatigue. Music with a higher B.P.M ( beat per minute) can more easily correspond with a persons heart beat during a routine workout.
Dr. Karageorghis created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory, a questionnaire that is used to rate the motivational qualities of music in the context of sport and exercise. This questionnaire represents different demographics of people who listen to 90 seconds of a song and rate its motivational qualities for various physical activities. The best songs according to Professor Gpeller, are the ones that have both a high B.P.M and a rhythm that you can easily coordinate your movements to. A stroll walker going at a pace of around 3 miles an hour, has a count of 115 to 118 B.P.M.; for a power walker going 4.5 m.p.h., the count is 137 to 139 B.P.M., while the B.P.M. for a runner elevates to 147 to 160.
Dance music tends to be the most efficient, and has the most consistent B.P.M, averaging between 120-140 beats per minute, where as jazz, hard core punk, or indie rock have changes in rhythm throughout and can have intensity changes altering the efficiency. Not only is music beneficial for cardio workout, but is also used as a motivator for strength training. The words and brashness of rock music or heavy metal are an inspiration to a fatiguing body builder.
The information in this article has always interested me. Not only does music actually inspire me to begin my workout but also encourages me to keep going. What is it about music that does this? I believe that it must be linked to our emotional response to music. The endorphins that music produces in our body only acts to strengthen our motivational responses when listening to an upbeat and fun song. I believe there is also an element of distraction that occurs when listening to music; distraction from boredom, physical fatigue and even the monotony of working out. Steven Kurutz is aware that his studies contradict Oliver Sack’s theory, that listening to music is just as effective when imagining it and that there is no neurological difference. But I do know that when I am on the treadmill around the 27th minute there is no way imagining an upbeat song is going to make it feel easier, or motivate me to continue. I also found it interesting in this article when it brought up the rule that bars runners from using portable music players and headsets. If music really made no difference in someone’s performance than what could be the possible harm in letting a runner use their personal inspirational music? All I know is that for me, there is a reason that I stick to the classics of earth, wind and fire, and other hits of the disco era in order for me to keep a regular work out schedule.
Sacks, Oliver W. “Musicophelia: Tales of Music and the Brain” (2007) : Chapter 14.
By: Michelle Minke
Dec. 10, 2008
The chapter in Oliver Sacks book on Synethesia is about the relationship between music and colour. For most people we may see colour as a descriptive word such as “like” but for some people it is a complete sensory experience. Some people experience varies from a colour for each day of the week, or every colour having it’s own scent, own taste and every musical interval. This chapter refers to the scientist Francis Galston who became convinced that it was a physiological phenomenon, and that it was more than advanced mental imagery, but actually a part of some people’s nature. There is only one in two thousand who experience this that are known, but some people may not come forward not thinking of it as a condition. Musical synethesia is the most common, and one of the most dramatic. Musicians tend to be more aware of it, and the stories in this chapter are mostly of musicians. Musicians in this chapter such as Michael, see a different colour for every key of music. For example, D major was blue, G minor was even a more exact colour than just yellow, but ochre. The musicians in these examples have colours for different arpeggios, exercises, and scales as well. These colours are something very natural for someone like Michael, and have been there since a very young age, and are seen as very intense and real. Each person has a different colour palate that they see depending on the focus on the musical theme, idea, or pattern. Researchers in Zurich have come across a woman who has music-taste synethesia where each musical interval is linked to a taste on her tongue, for example a minor second is sour, a major third is sweet, and an octave has no taste. There is also a writer,Christine Leahy, who experiences colour through numbers and letters. When applied to music, if she looks at the note D on the music page, a colour will be associated with it. There are also other cases in this chapter of colour experienced through other sounds such as horns, alarms, and telephone rings. Scientists, Baron-Cohen and Harrison suggest that we all may be coloured-hearing synthesthetes in the first three months of life, and throughout time due to cortical maturation we are able then to separate the senses. The musicians who were studied in this chapter believe that their synethesia is the central process for their music making.
How fascinating it would be to see music as colour in your mind. As a singer, we are approached with modern techniques of teaching at times, and a clinician will suggest that we sing “Yellow” or feel “ Green” in order to express ourselves or achieve a certain technical task while using colour imagery as a tool. This concept was difficult for me, as I am not a visual learner, but I can acknowledge the influence that colour has on our emotion and perception. Yellow is generally a more optimistic colour than grey, and perhaps associating certain composers, or a piece with colour, it could offer a new palate for expression. Music often has descriptive words that are associated with shading of colour; such as bright, dark, muddy, brilliant, shiny, clear, rich, or tarnished but these could potentially all be translated into more specific colours if we really thought about it. I know that for artists, colour and emotion are very closely linked, the shading of colour is how they express the emotion behind that piece. In comparing that to a musician who hears music through colour, of course they would feel that colour is one of the main processes for them to experience and express music. If the use of colour imagery and association could be a tool for expressing emotion, and musicians usually act as a medium for emotion, perhaps we could use a little colour in our practice and performance.
Reading Response #1
Music and the Brain, Lee Bartel
Dec. 7, 2008
The Coloring of Life: Music and MoodCopyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinbergerand the Regents of the University of California
The article by Norman Weinberger states the possibility that everything we experience and observe is objective to the music that we listen to. He believes that “we see objectively, remember accurately, think rationally and act appropriately” but throughout the day, our perceptions and memories are strongly influenced by outside factors that change our mood, music being the topic of discussion. If you listen to happy music, you are more likely to feel happy, and if it is a sad song, your mood can be altered into feeling sad or depressed.
The Optimism/Pessimism Questionnaire (OPQ), the Multiple Affect Adjective Check List, and the Wessman-Ricks Elation and Depression Scale have shown that the mood of a piece invokes the same mood in the listener. He applied this to a language study where happy and sad music was played to a group and then tested for word memory, positive words were remembered from the happy songs, and negative words from the sad songs. In a study of art and music, neutral paintings were shown while different music was played for the observer. When asked what “mood” the painting created, the people who heard happy music, said that it was a happy painting, the people who heard sad music, saw a sad painting. The same test was also done not only for language, and for objects, but also on our first impressions of faces. When shown a picture of someone with a neutral face and happy music was played, they saw a pleasant easy going person, when the neutral face was seen with sad music, people generally saw a rejected and sad individual. He believes this research should give us a reason to pause and think about what “real life” is . Music is inevitably complex and has powerful influences therefore it is important to acknowledge the affect that music has on our daily transactions. To reflect on how music alters our memory, attention, perception, and how we judge situations and other people.
This article brought up an interesting point besides the basic idea that happy music makes us happy and vise versa. I have personally experienced each of these “transactions” where I am sure the musical influence at that time altered my perspective. There have been songs on the radio that I don’t necessarily like but because they put me in a certain mood, I could be caught singing the cheesy chorus with uplifting words at the top of my lungs in my car. I have been to art openings where the artists choice of music made me feel a greater connection to their work. I have been in a positive mood and gone to a class where someone brought tears to my eyes while singing Mahler, giving me a feeling of reflection and sadness that stayed with me the rest of the day. The music that light shines on our perception of people probably plays more of a role than we think it does. When I am listening to music on my Ipod on the subway, depending on my choice of music, the people that rush through the doors can either look weary and tired or look like they are living the big city life in the energized hustle and bustle of Young and Bloor station. When I listen to the classic music of Frank Sinatra in a Starbucks and look over at a young couple, they could be talking about grocery shopping but the sentimental music has influenced me to think they are having an intimate conversation. What would life be like if we observed it without musical influence? Would that make life more real? How much of an influence does the radio station we choose in the morning as our alarm have over us and our mood for that day?
According to Norman Weinberger’s theory of music’s influence on our mood , perhaps music offers us some control over our lives, by affecting our mood, motivation, positivity, productivity, social awareness, and overall stress of life.
Chang, Joanne, Peter Lin, Elizabeth Midlarsky, and Vance Zemon. "Silent Illumination: a Study on Chan (Zen) Meditation, Anxiety, and Musical Performance Quality." Psychology of Music 36.2 (April 2008): 139-155.
By Megumi Okamoto
This article is regarding the study that investigated the effects of Zen meditation on performance anxiety and on performance quality. The study was done as follows: nineteen participants were assigned to either the control group or the meditation group for the period of eight weeks, and they were asked to perform in a concert after this period. Their anxiety levels and the performance qualities were measured. The results indicated that the effects of Zen might help the performers channel the anxiety to improve their performances.
As performance anxiety is serious problem that affects a great number of musicians, there has been numerous studies on the types of approaches that may help the issue, including systematic desensitization, music analysis, and cognitive restructuring, to name a few. Some researchers recommend that we combine different treatment techniques. Among these approaches is meditation, which became popular in the past two decades. Meditation teaches one to experience life fully as it unfolds from moment to moment. Its effects have been widely investigated in the recent past, although its relevance in the field of musical performance is still largely unexplored.
There are two components to the Zen meditation, which is concentration and mindfulness. This has been referred to as "silent illumination" since the 11th century. This is the mindfulness of both inner mental states and the outer state, with a calm and non-judgmental attitude. The goal is not to change or challenge undesired thoughts, but to observe them with an open attitude. It is considered to be a meta-cognitive skill, which can be described as "cognition about one's cognition." By becoming a detached observer of one's own mental activity, one is able to create a conceptual flexibility. According to research, during meditation, the brain is calm, thereby producing more delta and theta waves, but is also alert, thus producing alpha and beta activity. Also, brain regions that are associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants.
After describing the concept of meditation and its effects, the article progresses to part two, which consists of detailed depiction of the procedure of their study, including methods, measures of anxiety and of performance quality, contents of the meditation classes, analysis, and the results. An important point to note is that although their hypothesis stated that participants in the meditation group would have less anxiety and better musical performance, the data did not support this. Instead, a positive correlation is found for performance anxiety and for performance in the meditation group. This may indicate that the high anxiety scores of the meditation group reflect the higher awareness of the internal states that are typically associated with feelings of anxiety.
This article reminds me that the utmost importance in playing is that the musicians themselves learn to appreciate their own performances on stage, because that would lead to self-satisfying performances. I think that audiences not only enjoy the music itself, but the way in which the performer seems to feel about it.
Although I am from Japan, I am not at all familiar with the concept of Zen (although I came across it in books by reputable authors such as Eckhart Tolle). I feel that the majority of the people in Japan are as ignorant as I am. And it is the same case in the West. It seems to me that it is the exotic flavor of the Zen concept that sold itself to the Western culture. I hear more about Zen in U.S. and Canada than I did in Japan, but it seems to be a rather superficial trend. I am not surprised that the researchers found that eight weeks did not make a drastic difference in the performance quality- this approach is definitely not meant to be a short-term commitment.
As performers, we each have our individual needs, and thus differ in the approaches that can click with our personalities when it comes to dealing with performance anxiety. And I agree that we must keep our eyes open to discover the approaches that are the most effective and suitable. Our responsibility is not only to practice music, but to keep on rediscovering ourselves so that we can keep on learning how to maintain ourselves at the desired mental state. Zen and meditation might work well on some, and not as well on others. But it is worth the attempt.
Now that the Western music tradition became more worldwide, the Eastern philosophies are making its way to become popular. I think that we can take the advantage of living in this unique era where we have access to countless sources, and enrich ourselves and the humanity.