[Dixielandjazz] Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll . . . & OKOM
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 2 09:09:42 PDT 2007
This article from Norman on another list. A neurological explanation of why
folks love music. (and why we should play recognizable tunes, including
those of The Beatles and When The Saints Come marching In)
From: "Norman Vickers" <nvickers1 at cox.net>
Subject: Part of brain--sex, drugs & rock-and-roll......
³In my laboratory, we've found that listening to a familiar song that you
like activates the same parts of the brain as eating chocolate, having sex
or taking opiates. There really is a sex, drugs and rock-and-roll part of
the brain: a network of neural structures including the nucleus accumbens
and the amygdala. But no one song does this for everyone, and musical taste
is both variable and subjective.²
NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, SEE THE FOLLOWING WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE BY
THE NEUROSCIENTIST AUTHOR
Thanks to Jackie Brooks of Pensacola for bringing this to my attention.
It Was 40 Years Ago Today - Daniel J. Levitin
Washington Post - Friday, June 1, 2007; A15
Yes, it's been 40 years exactly since Sgt. Pepper, having labored the
previous 20 years teaching his band to play, arranged for its debut in full
psychedelic regalia. He leveraged a little help from his friends, notably
the vocalist Billy Shears and a riverboat owner named Lucy who had
apparently made her fortune in the diamond business. Pepper realized that
good music-making requires the expanding of horizons. A recent "trip"
inspired him to incorporate tabla and sitar into the music. The band
exhorted us to sit back and let the evening go so that they could turn us
on, musically, lyrically, and blow our minds for the next several decades.
It has been 45 years since Mitch Miller, head of A&R (artists and repertory)
at Columbia Records, dismissed the Beatles as "the hula hoops of music."
Will Beatles songs still be loved when baby boomers are 64? Will they
inspire future generations? Or will their music die with those who became
intoxicated by their wit and charisma during the mind-expanding '60s?
A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well
known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people
won't know who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in
popular culture that it will seem as if they've always existed, like "Oh!
Susanna," "This Land Is Your Land" and "Frère Jacques."
Great songs seem as though they've always existed, that they weren't written
by anyone. Figuring out why some songs and not others stick in our heads,
and why we can enjoy certain songs across a lifetime, is the work not just
of composers but also of psychologists and neuroscientists. Every culture
has its own music, every music its own set of rules. Great songs activate
deep-rooted neural networks in our brains that encode the rules and syntax
of our culture's music. Through a lifetime of listening, we learn what is
essentially a complex calculation of statistical probabilities (instantiated
as neural firings) of what chord is likely to follow what chord and how
melodies are formed.
Skillful composers play with these expectations, alternately meeting and
violating them in interesting ways. In my laboratory, we've found that
listening to a familiar song that you like activates the same parts of the
brain as eating chocolate, having sex or taking opiates. There really is a
sex, drugs and rock-and-roll part of the brain: a network of neural
structures including the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. But no one song
does this for everyone, and musical taste is both variable and subjective.
Today the Beatles catalogue is loved cross-culturally -- the product of a
six-year burst of creativity unparalleled in modern music. The Beatles
incorporated classical elements into rock so seamlessly that it is easy to
forget that string quartets and Bach-like countermelodies and bass lines
(not to mention plagal cadences) did not always populate pop. Music changed
more between 1963 and 1969 than it has in the 37 years since, with the
Beatles among the architects of that change.
Paul McCartney may be the closest thing our generation has produced to Franz
Schubert -- a master of melody, writing tunes anyone can sing, songs that
seem to have been there all along. Most people don't realize that "Ave
Maria" and "Serenade" were written by Schubert (or that his "Moment Musical
in F" so resembles "Martha My Dear"). McCartney writes with similar
universality. His "Yesterday" has been recorded by more musicians than any
other song in history. Its stepwise melody is deceptively complex, drawing
from outside the diatonic scale so smoothly that anyone can sing it, yet few
theorists can agree on exactly what it is that McCartney has done.
The timelessness of such melodies was brought home to me by Les Boréades, a
Quebec group that has recorded Beatles music on baroque instruments. The
instruments give the sense that you're hearing Bach or Vivaldi, and for
moments it's possible to forget that you're listening to Beatles songs.
We're so used to hearing Beatles songs that for many of us they no longer
hold any surprises. But when they're stripped of their '60s production and
the personal and social associations we have with them, you can hear the
intricate and beautiful interplay of rhythm, harmony and melody.
On the bus recently the radio played "And I Love Her," and a Portuguese
immigrant about my grandmother's age sang along with her eyes closed. How
many people can hum even two bars of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony, or
Mozart's 30th? I recently played 60 seconds of these to an audience of 700
-- including many professional musicians -- but not one person recognized
them. Then I played a fraction of the opening "aah" of "Eleanor Rigby" and
the single guitar chord that opens "A Hard Day's Night" -- and virtually
everyone shouted the names.
To a neuroscientist, the longevity of the Beatles can be explained by the
fact that their music created subtle and rewarding schematic violations of
popular musical forms, causing a symphony of neural firings from the
cerebellum to the prefrontal cortex, joined by a chorus of the limbic system
and an ostinato from the brainstem. To a musician, each hearing showcases
nuances not heard before, details of arrangement and intricacy that reveal
themselves across hundreds or thousands of performances and listenings. The
act we've known for all these years is still in style, guaranteed to raise a
smile, one hopes for generations to come. I have to admit, it's getting
better all the time.
Daniel J. Levitin, a former record producer, is a professor of psychology
and music at McGill University in Montreal and the author of "This Is Your
Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession."
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