... I was rooting
around in the castle here, tidying stuff
up for the end of the year, and came across a copy of Late Night
Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas
(1980) ... In an essay titled "On Matters of Doubt" he writes:
If you are looking about for really
profound mysteries, essential aspects of our existence for which neither
the sciences nor the humanities can provide any sort of explanation, I
suggest starting with music. The professional musicologists, tremendous
scholars all, for whom I have the greatest respect, haven't the ghost of
an idea about what music is, or why we make it and cannot be human
without it, or even -- and this is the telling point -- how the human
mind makes music on its own, before it is written down and played.
The biologists are no help here, nor the psychologists, nor the
physicists, nor the philosophers, wherever they are these days. Nobody
can explain it. It is a mystery and thank goodness for that. The
Brandenbergs and the late quartets are not there to give us
assurances that we have arrived; they carry the news that there are deep
centers in our minds that we know nothing about except that they are
January 2010 brought a very
nice addition to the collection below, in the form of
Jonah Lehrer's blog, The Frontal Cortex, which had a post entitled
Musical Predictions that I highly recommend ... here's just a taste:
There are two interesting takeaways from this
experiment. The first is that music hijacks some very fundamental neural
mechanisms. The brain is designed to learn by association: if this, then
that. Music works by subtly toying with our expected associations,
enticing us to make predictions about what note will come next, and then
confronting us with our prediction errors. In other words, every melody
manipulates the same essential mechanisms we use to make sense of reality.
The second takeaway is that music requires surprise, the
dissonance of "low-probability notes". While most people think about music
in terms of aesthetic beauty - we like pretty consonant pitches arranged
in pretty patterns - that's exactly backwards. The point of the prettiness
is to set up the surprise, to frame the deviance. (That's why the
unexpected pitches triggered the most brain activity, synchronizing the
activity of brain regions involved in motor movement and emotion.) I wrote
about this concept in
Proust Was A Neuroscientist:
Before a pattern can be desired by the brain, it must
play hard to get. Music only excites us when it makes our auditory
cortex struggle to uncover its order. If the music is too obvious, if
its patterns are always present, it is annoyingly boring. This is why
composers introduce the tonic note in the beginning of the song and then
studiously avoid it until the end. The longer we are denied the pattern
we expect, the greater the emotional release when the pattern returns,
safe and sound. Our auditory cortex rejoices. It has found the order it
has been looking for. ...
I highly recommend The Frontal Cortex for the breadth of
its examinations, not just the posts on music.
The New York Times is so good
for this kind of writing ... take
this May 22, 2008 story for instance -- "Music's charms could also be a
potent cure" which describes the work of surgeon
Claudius Conrad, who has also studied
music since he was 5....
Like many surgeons, Dr. Conrad says he
works better when he listens to music. And he cites studies, including some
of his own, showing that music is helpful to patients as well — bringing
relaxation and reducing blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, pain
and the need for pain medication.
But to the extent that music heals, how does it heal? The physiological
pathways responsible have remained obscure, and the search for an underlying
mechanism has moved slowly. Now Dr. Conrad is trying to change that.
He recently published a provocative paper suggesting that music may exert
healing and sedative effects partly through a paradoxical stimulation of a
growth hormone generally associated with stress rather than healing.
This jump in growth hormone, said Dr. John Morley, an endocrinologist at St.
Louis University Medical Center who was not involved with the study, “is not
what you’d expect, and it’s not precisely clear what it means.” But he
said it raised “some wonderful new possibilities about the physiology of
healing,” and added: “And of course it has a nice sort of metaphorical ring.
We used to talk about the neuroendocrine system being a sort of neuronal
orchestra conductor directing the immune system. Here we have music
stimulating this conductor to get the healing process started.”
The article goes on to discuss Mozart:
Dr. Conrad’s music dissertation examined
why and how Mozart’s music seemed to ease the pain of intensive-care
patients. He concentrated not on physiological mechanisms but on mechanisms
within Mozart’s music. “It is still a controversial idea,” he said
recently, “whether Mozart has more of this sort of effect than other
composers. But as a musician I wanted to look at how it might.”
Dr. Conrad noted that Mozart used distinctive phrases that are fairly short,
often only four or even two measures long, and then repeated these phrases
to build larger sections. Yet he changed these figures often in ways the
listener may not notice — a change in left-hand arpeggios or chord
structures, for instance, that slips by unremarked while the ear attends the
right hand’s melody, which itself may be slightly embellished. These
intricate variations are absorbed as part of a melodic accessibility so well
organized that even a sonata for two pianos never feels crowded in the ear,
even when it grows dense on the page. The melody lulls and delights while
the underlying complexity stimulates.
But even if this explains the music’s power to stimulate and relax, “an
obvious question that comes up,” Dr. Conrad said, “is why Mozart would write
music that is so soothing.”
Mozart’s letters and biographies, Dr. Conrad said, portray a man almost
constantly sick, constantly fending off one infection or ailment after
another. “Whether he did it intentionally or not,” Dr. Conrad said, “I
think he composed music the way he did partly because it made him feel
(Remember, you have to register to read
articles from NYT online -- but there's no downside to that registration, so
I urge you to consider doing it ... and catch this article soon, before it
archived into the pay service.
For more insights into music (among many
things) try out the
WIRED interview with Brian Eno (WIRED 16.06
- 15th Anniversary issue) ... a short excerpt:
The problem comes when you find yourself
doing things just because they are now technologically possible. An
example of this is "correcting" drum takes in a song. Few drummers are
really constant and accurate, and there is a ridiculous temptation —
because it is now possible — to correct them, to make sure that every beat
falls precisely in the right place. I hate this approach and would rather
use a good, honest rhythm box than convert a living drummer into one.
What do people want from Art? I don't know the full answer, but one thing
I'm increasingly sure of is that they want life. They want the sense that
there is something going on, that something real and exciting and of its
moment has been captured — from a performance of a Chopin Nocturne just as
much as from a Bruce Springsteen song. As John Cage used to say, "Art is a
verb" — and as I always say, "So should be the experience of Art".
In an age of digital perfectability, it takes quite a lot of courage to
say, "Leave it alone" and, if you do decide to make changes, [it takes]
quite a lot of judgment to know at which point you stop. A lot of
technology offers you the chance to make everything completely,
wonderfully perfect, and thus to take out whatever residue of human life
there was in the work to start with. It would be as though someone
approached Cezanne and said, "You know, if you used Photoshop you could
get rid of all those annoying brush marks and just have really nice, flat
color surfaces." It's a misunderstanding to think that the traces of human
activity — brushstrokes, tuning drift, arrhythmia — are not part of the
work. They are the fundamental texture of the work, the fine grain of it.
Indeed, in some sorts of music they are the primary content. A lot of
music doesn't seek to innovate structurally or compositionally, but
entirely in terms of the individuality of performance. Think of the blues:
the same three chords in pretty much the same structure, and with little
variation of lyrical content (Robert Wyatt once described the blues as
12,000 versions of the same song). What listeners treasure about blues
performances are the textural and performative differences from one to the
next, differences that come to seem very important and huge as we become
accustomed to the restricted vocabulary of the medium. Similarly,
connoisseurs of piano sonatas will hear enormous differences between
Alfred Brendel's version of a piece and the same piece played by Arthur
But if you're sitting in a studio, listening to things over and over and
over again, and there's a big ProTools rig sitting there, and an engineer
itching to show his chops, it's hard to resist saying "OK — straighten
those drums out." And indeed, when you first do it, it sounds better. And
so you do more of it — fix up the guitar riffs, get that vocal really in
tune, replace some indistinct bass notes, sugar the whole thing up so it's
sparkling like a Christmas tree. Ah — it's all so wonderful...until you
finally realize you've reached not audio Heaven but audio Hollywood —
bland, tasteless, entirely indistinguishable and standard product. Brendel
He's still the guiding light for
Intelligent Dance Music of all sorts
Speaking of cultural icons, I found this story via a link
from the July 12, 2009
Apple computer founder
"Steve Jobs has never been shy about his use of psychedelics, famously
calling his LSD experience "one of the two or three most important things I
have done in my life." So, toward the end of his life, LSD inventor Albert
Hofmann decided to write to the iPhone creator to see if he'd be interested
in putting some money where the tip of his tongue had been...." The article
goes on to discuss who in the computer technology business would admit to
the role of psychedelics in their problem-solving routines ...
That Jobs used LSD and values the contribution it made to
his thinking is far from unusual in the world of computer technology.
Psychedelic drugs have influenced some of America's foremost computer
scientists. The history of this connection is well documented in a number of
books, the best probably being What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s
Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, by New York Times technology
reporter John Markoff.
Psychedelic drugs, Markoff argues, pushed the computer and Internet
revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered
through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking. Douglas Engelbart is one
example of a psychonaut who did just that: he helped invent the mouse.
Apple's Jobs has said that Microsoft's Bill Gates, would "be a broader guy
if he had dropped acid once." In a 1994 interview with Playboy, however,
Gates coyly didn't deny having dosed as a young man.
Thinking differently--or learning to Think Different, as a Jobs slogan has
it--is a hallmark of the acid experience. "When I'm on LSD and hearing
something that's pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther
brain state where I've stopped thinking and started knowing," Kevin Herbert
told Wired magazine at a symposium commemorating Hofmann's one hundredth
birthday. Herbert, an early employee of Cisco Systems who successfully
banned drug testing of technologists at the company, reportedly "solved his
toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful
"It must be changing something about the internal communication in my
brain," said Herbert. "Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve
problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are
Burning Man, founded in 1986 by San Francisco techies, has always been an
attempt to make a large number of people use different parts of their brains
toward some nonspecific but ostensibly enlightening and communally
beneficial end. The event was quickly moved to the desert of Nevada as it
became too big for the city. Today, it's more likely to be attended by a
software engineer than a dropped-out hippie. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the
founders of Google, are longtime Burners, and the influence of San Francisco
and Seattle tech culture is everywhere in the camps and exhibits built for
the eight-day festival. Its Web site suggests, in fluent acidese, that "[t]rying
to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is
a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone
who is blind."
Emphasis added.... there has been a long-standing
recognition of the uses of psychedelics in conjunction with music, and
clearly this interaction is not limited to the party circuit.
And another one from the NYT, sent in by a
friend in California:
December 31, 2006 - Montreal
Music of the Hemispheres By CLIVE THOMPSON
“Listen to this,” Daniel Levitin said. “What is it?”
He hit a button on his computer keyboard and out came a half-second clip of
music. It was just two notes blasted on a raspy electric guitar, but I could
immediately identify it: the opening lick to the
Then he played another, even shorter
snippet: a single chord struck once on piano. Again I could instantly figure
out what it was: the first note in
live version of “Benny and the Jets.”
Dr. Levitin beamed. “You hear only one note, and you
already know who it is,” he said. “So what I want to know is: How we do
this? Why are we so good at recognizing music?”
This is not merely some whoa-dude epiphany that a
music fan might have while listening to a radio contest. Dr. Levitin has
devoted his career to exploring this question. He is a cognitive
psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and
Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, perhaps the world’s leading lab
in probing why music has such an intense effect on us.
“By the age of 5 we are all musical experts, so this
stuff is clearly wired really deeply into us,” said Dr. Levitin, an eerily
youthful-looking 49, surrounded by the pianos, guitars and enormous 16-track
mixers that make his lab look more like a recording studio.
This summer he published “This Is Your Brain on
Music” (Dutton), a layperson’s guide to the emerging neuroscience of music.
Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter, full of striking scientific
trivia. For example we learn that babies begin life with synesthesia, the
trippy confusion that makes people experience sounds as smells or tastes as
colors. Or that the cerebellum, a part of the brain that helps govern
movement, is also wired to the ears and produces some of our emotional
responses to music. His experiments have even suggested that watching a
musician perform affects brain chemistry differently from listening to a
Dr. Levitin is singular among music scientists for
actually having come out of the music industry. Before getting his Ph.D. he
spent 15 years as a record producer, working with artists ranging from the
Blue Öyster Cult to Chris Isaak. While still in graduate school he helped
Stevie Wonder assemble a best-of collection; in 1992 Dr. Levitin’s sensitive
ears detected that MCA Records had accidentally used third-generation backup
tapes to produce seven Steely Dan CDs, and he embarrassed the label by
disclosing it in Billboard magazine. He has earned nine gold and platinum
albums, which he tucks in corners of his lab, office and basement at home.
“They look a little scary when you put them all in one place, so I spread
them around,” he said.
Martin Grant, the dean of science at McGill,
compares Dr. Levitin’s split professional personality to that of Brian
Greene, the pioneering string-theory scientist who also writes mass-market
books. “Some people are good popularizers, and some are good scientists, but
not usually both at once,” Dr. Grant said. “Dan’s actually cutting edge in
Scientifically, Dr. Levitin’s colleagues credit him
for focusing attention on how music affects our emotions, turf that wasn’t
often covered by previous generations of psychoacousticians, who studied
narrower questions about how the brain perceives musical sounds. “The
questions he asks are very very musical, very concerned with the fact that
music is an art that we interact with, not just a bunch of noises,” said
Rita Aiello, an adjunct professor in the department of psychology at
New York University.
Ultimately, scientists say, his work offers a new
way to unlock the mysteries of the brain: how memory works, how people with
autism think, why our ancestors first picked up instruments and began to
play, tens of thousands of years ago.
DR. LEVITIN originally became interested in
producing in 1981, when his band — a punk outfit called the Mortals — went
into the recording studio. None of the other members were interested in the
process, so he made all the decisions behind the board. “I actually became a
producer because I saw the producers getting all the babes,” he said. “They
were stealing them from the guitarists.” He dropped out of college to work
with alternative bands.
Producers, he noted, were able to notice impossibly
fine gradations of quality in music. Many could identify by ear the type of
amplifiers and recording tape used on an album.
“So I started wondering: How was the brain able to
do this?” Dr. Levitin said. “What’s going on there, and why are some people
better than others? And why is music such an emotional experience?” He began
sitting in on neuroscience classes at
Curiosity about the role and purpose of music in our lives
takes researchers on many interesting journeys....
The New York Times, September 16, 2003:
We Got Rhythm; the Mystery Is How and Why
By NICHOLAS WADE
In lovers' songs, military marches, weddings and funerals, every occasion where a degree of emotion needs to be evoked, music is an
Yet the ability to enjoy music has long puzzled biologists because it does nothing evident to help survival. Why, therefore, should evolution have
built into the human brain this soul-stirring source of pleasure? Man's faculties for enjoying and producing music, Darwin wrote, "must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed."
Music is still a mystery, a tangle of culture and built-in skills that researchers are trying to tease apart. No one really knows why music is
in all cultures, why most known systems of music are based on the octave, why some people have absolute pitch and whether the brain handles music with
special neural circuits or with ones developed for other purposes. Recent research, however, has produced a number of theories
about the brain and music.
It could be that the brain perceives music with the same circuits it uses to hear and analyze human speech, and that it thrills to its cadences with
centers designed to mediate other kinds of pleasure. Dr. Anne Blood and Dr. Robert J. Zatorre, of the Montreal Neurological Institute,
recently took PET scans of musicians' brains while they listened to self-selected pieces of
music that gave them "chills" of euphoria. The works included Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and Barber's Adagio for Strings. The music, the
researchers reported, activated similar neural systems of reward and emotion as those stimulated by food, sex and addictive drugs.
If music depends on neural circuits developed for other reasons, then it is just a happy accident, regardless of evolution, that people enjoy it. This
is the position taken by Dr. Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University. Music, he writes in his 1997 book "How the Mind Works,"
is "auditory cheesecake"; it just happens to tickle several important parts of the brain in a highly pleasurable way, as cheesecake tickles the
palate. These include the language ability (with which music overlaps in several
ways); the auditory cortex; the system that responds to the emotional signals in a human voice crying or cooing; and the motor control system that
injects rhythm into the muscles when walking or dancing.
That music can activate all these powerful systems at once is the reason it packs such a mental oomph, in Dr. Pinker's analysis. But since each of
these systems evolved for independent reasons, music itself is no more an evolutionary adaptation than is the ability to like dessert, which arises
from intense stimulation of the taste buds responsive to sweet and fatty substances.
But other evolutionary psychologists believe the faculty of enjoying music is no accident. Darwin suggested that human ancestors, before acquiring the
power of speech, "endeavored to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm." It is because of music's origin in courtship, Darwin believed,
that it is "firmly associated with some of the strongest passions an animal is capable of feeling."
and Language Connection
When I talk about music existing in every culture across time,
of course I'm thinking of humans ... but what if that is essentially an
unnecessary limitation, as this article suggests....
Songs of ourselves
New research suggests that we like music that sounds just like us
By Christine Kenneally, 11/9/2003
MUSIC IS ONE OF THE human species's relatively few universal abilities. Without formal training, any individual, from Stone Age tribesman to suburban teenager, has the ability to recognize music and, in some fashion, to make it.
Why this should be so is a mystery. After all, music isn't necessary for getting through the day, and if it aids in reproduction, it does so only in highly indirect ways. Language, by contrast, is also everywhere -- but for reasons that are more obvious. With language, you and the members of your tribe can organize a migration across Africa, build reed boats and cross the seas, and communicate at night even when you can't see each other. Modern culture, in all its technological extravagance, springs directly from the human talent for manipulating symbols and syntax.
Scientists have always been intrigued by the connection between music and language. Yet over the years, words and melody have acquired a vastly different status in the lab and the seminar room. While language has long been considered essential to unlocking the mechanisms of human intelligence, music is generally treated as an evolutionary frippery -- mere "auditory cheesecake," as the Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker puts it.
But thanks to a decade-long wave of neuroscience research, that tune is changing. A flurry of recent publications suggests that language and music may equally be able to tell us who we are and where we're from -- not just emotionally, but biologically. In July, the journal Nature Neuroscience devoted a special issue to the topic. And in an article in the August 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, David Schwartz, Catherine Howe, and Dale Purves of Duke University argued that the sounds of music and the sounds of language are intricately connected.
. . .
To grasp the originality of this idea, it's necessary to realize two things about how music has traditionally been understood. First, musicologists have long emphasized that while each culture stamps a special identity onto its music, music itself has some universal qualities. For example, in virtually all cultures sound is divided into some or all of the 12 intervals that make up the chromatic scale -- that is, the scale represented by the keys on a piano. For centuries, observers have attributed this preference for certain combinations of tones to the mathematical properties of sound itself.
Some 2,500 years ago, Pythagoras was the first to note a direct relationship between the harmoniousness of a tone combination and the physical dimensions of the object that produced it. For example, a plucked string will always play an octave lower than a similar string half its size, and a fifth lower than a similar string two-thirds its length. This link between simple ratios and harmony has influenced music theory ever since.
NEUROLOGISTS LINK BEAUTIFUL MUSIC TO BRAIN POWER (Reprinted from
the Los Angeles Times by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 1998)
Still with me? If this subject intrigues you, then you should read:
The music that makes the foot tap, the fingers snap and the pulse quicken may one day
help scientists retool brains afflicted with a variety of emotional disorders or
neurological diseases, a group of researchers said Sunday.
After exploring the neurobiology of music, the researchers reported evidence of music
stimulating specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing
Among other things, researchers reported finding particular areas of mental activity
linked to emotional responses to music.
In the long run, music could be used in dealing with a variety of disorders, they said.
"That's our goal," said neuroscientist Anne Blood, who conducted the study at
McGill University in Montreal.
"You can activate different parts of the brain, depending on what music you listen
to. So music can stimulate parts of the brain that are underactive in these
disorders. Over time, we could retrain the brain in these disorders."
The findings, presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Los Angeles,
underscore how music may orchestrate a wide variety of neural systems to cast its
"Undeniably, there is a biology of music," said Harvard University Medical
School neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo. "There is no question that there is
specialization within the human brain for the processing of music. Music is
biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life."
Among other things, researchers said different parts of the brain seem to respond
directly to harmony.
Using a medical PET scanner to monitor changes in neural activity, neuroscientists at
McGill discovered that specific parts of the brain involved in emotion are activated
depending on whether the music is pleasant or dissonant.
"Everyone knows music can produce powerful emotional effects. This suggests
different emotions are represented in different parts of the brain," said Blood.
Overall, music seems to involve the brain at almost every level.
Even allowing for cultural differences in musical tastes, the researcher found evidence
of music's remarkable power to affect neural activity no matter where they looked in the
brain, from primitive regions found in all animals to more recently evolved regions
thought to be distinctively human.
"We find that harmony, melody and rhythm had distinct patterns of brain activity.
They involved both the right and left sides of the brain," Parsons said.
Melody affects both sides of the brain equally. Harmony and rhythm seem to
activate the left side of the brain more strongly than the right side.
The neural mechanisms of music may have originally developed as a way of communicating
emotion as a precursor to speech, the researchers suggested, offering insights into how
the mind integrates sensory information with emotion.
Already, researchers are looking for ways to harness the power of music to change the
Preliminary research in laboratory animals and humans suggests that music might play a
role in enhancing intelligence.
The scientists Sunday said the new research could help the clinical practice of
neurology, including cognitive rehabilitation. As a therapeutic tool, for example,
some doctors today already use music to help rehabilitate stroke patients.
MUSIC, THE BRAIN AND ECSTASY by Robert Jourdain
(1997, Wm. Morrow & Co.)
Jourdain's work deals with the emotion ecstasy, not the drug.
In the course of discussing how appreciation
of music operates as a variant of pattern recognition, and why that is crucial
to humans on essentially a cellular level, Jourdain offers such insights as
"By providing the brain with an artificial
environment, and forcing it through that environment in controlled ways, music
imparts the means of experiencing relations far deeper than we encounter in
our everyday lives.... In this perfect world, our brains are able to
piece together larger understandings than they can in the workaday external
world.... It's for this reason that music can be transcendent. For a few
moments it makes us larger than we really are, and the world more orderly than
it really is. We respond not just to the beauty of the sustained deep
relations that are revealed, but also to the fact of our perceiving
them. As our brains are thrown into overdrive, we feel our very
"However our bodily representations of music are
achieved, they may be responsible for boosting our pleasure all the more by
causing our brains to churn out the opiate-like endorphins.... So music
is capable of delivering pleasure at virtually every level of our being."
Find out what it is about music that captivates the mind....
Music may also heal
the mind....This is from an article by Oliver Sacks, April 2002, in Parade
"For reasons we do not yet
understand, musical abilities often are among the last to be lost, even in cases
of widespread brain damage. Thus, someone who is disabled by a stroke or
by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia may still be able to respond to music
in ways that can seem almost miraculous."
"This almost universal
responsiveness to music is an essential part of our neural nature. Though
analogies often are made to birdsong or animal cries, music in its full sense --
including complexities of rhythm and harmony, of pace, timbre and tonality no
less than of melody -- seems to be confined to our own species, like
Music Academy includes a page by and about Tom Middleton -- Classically-trained
musician, DJ and producer Tom
Middleton is responsible for an archive of critically-acclaimed productions
that draws on everything from Classical to Techno. He owns half of Global
Communications with partner, Mark Pritchard. Together, they set up the Evolution
label in 91. Middleton has worked under a variety of names including Cosmos and
as part of enigmatic live band, The Bays.
Tom observes the following about music:
Three really essential things are melody,
harmony and rhythm. These are the ingredients of a piece of music. That's what
I've been thinking about a lot recently, just refining it back to those
rudiments of music. It's like a nice groove, a rhythm, a pulse and then a melody
- something that just sticks in your head. Something you can communicate an
emotion through, a simple line. Harmony is that kind of richness and warmth that
gels everything else within the music together.
Also very key is creating excitement and tension like in a movie. There are
various things you can do within a piece of music to do that. With this I left
the bassline until four minutes into the tune and then bring the bassline and
then it's like 'Uuhh' - there is the warmth. It's using elements of the 2-step
flavour. The sound I'm really passionate about at the moment is Deep Step. It's
a fusion of UK 2-step Garage, Deep House, Electro and Techno with a bit of
R&B influence. It's a really fresh fusion. MJ
Cole has been doing some stuff recently with a urban, Deep Step flavour. I
don't hear many people playing this sort of vibe but it's a pulse that is
important to pay attention to. It's a new sound. It's fresh.
I played this in a club called Fabric.
It's one of the most modern clubbing environments in London at the moment. In
the main room, they have a thing called the 'Body Sonic' dancefloor. It connects
you to the bass frequencies, resonates bass frequency. If you want to feel music
as well as hear it, go to Fabric Room One. It's the next level of clubbing
experience because you have that actual sensation of bass frequency in your
body. There are some points, when the basslines are in a tune, that are so
intense, it feels like you're levitating. You can't feel your feet your whole
torso is just.
Heres the science bit. We are resonant beings, just like the resonating
molecules that is sound. We are resonating at a certain frequency. It makes us
physical. We can feel it. If you look at it on that kind of level, molecules are
vibrating at a specific frequency to make us physical. The 'Body Sonic'
dancefloor is connecting with that through this medium, the wood floor. You
can't get more profound than that, actually connecting with the sound.
Read the entire page at The
Red Bull Academy website, or use this Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/7yre
The January 2001 Issue of MIXMAG has an article in this
vein: "How Does Music Work?" (p. 70) MIXMAG isn't
exceedingly deep as a rule, but they pull together a respectable mix of
observation, fact and instruction for this piece:
"Since prehistoric times, music has played a central role in human
culture. It's a big part of most rituals.... Even religion loves
music. Apart from a few uptight (and relatively recent) European
theologies, religion without music is rare. The Hindu vedas, the world's
oldest scriptures, say that the universe was created through sound. ...Shamans
use drumming to help them enter drug-induced trances."
From there, it's off into a discussion of the discovery by the Greeks of the
mathematical foundations of harmonics in music and how, in modern times, this
relationship makes computer manipulation of music a natural evolution of the
artform. (*Check out Goldie's take on the anti-technology complaints about music
-- it's a classic rejoinder.)
In a number of accompanying sidebars, the authors discuss DJ techniques for
building and maintaining crowd reaction during a set, comparative sound quality
of CDs and vinyl, decibels as a weapon and other informative tidbits.
If your newsstand doesn't stock MIXMAG, visit
their website at http://www.mixmag.net/ for information on subscriptions and back issues.
djmixed.com is the source for BPM Culture magazine,
which featured Perry Farrell on the cover of the March 2001 issue.
Discussing his new interest in DJing, Farrell says:
I feel like dance will
save our lives. Those that don't dance have emotional imbalances and
illnesses. I mean, here's an interesting thing I learned very
recently: The matrix of the mind, the organizational skill of the mind, is
strengthened through DJing.
Contact www.djmixed.com for more
information on the article.
Fiction abounds in homages to music and its power in our lives ... and the
way it reflects our lives, even our biochemistry: Try Richard Powers' 1991
novel, The Goldbug
Variations. A massive intellect, Powers has proposed an equation
between the structure of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the body's RNA ... right
in the midst of a compelling love story..
Also in the realm of fiction, Issue
76 of Granta (the "Music" issue) included Philip Pullman's Medtner,
a short send-up of writing music criticism and reviews. I'll try to give
you a bit of the flavor of this terrific piece with a short quote:
Not long ago I tried to explain to a friend
the effect that Nicolai Medtner's music has on me. I spoke with
eloquence, passion and wit; analogies of the most ingenious kind sprang to my
lips; I found myself stirred to a frenzy of admiration for the profundity of
"I don't know what you're talking
about," said my friend.
Discussing music when you have no technical
knowledge of it is to be reduced to finding more or less fancy ways of saying,
"I like that bit when it goes da-da-da-DUM." However, we have
to try, or be silent; so I shall try to say why I love Nicolai Medtner, and
why his piano music satisfies me so deeply....
The entire piece is under three pages ... I
On the real-life-personal side, here's a page that appeared on DJ Dazy's website (www.djdazy.com)
used with her gracious permission,
featuring a few of the SisterDJs being interviewed about women making music :
Melanie Dawn and Lisa Louise Santonato
What offers a person the ability to step outside of one's
given roles and into another one? To scratch convention and throw in experience,
to spin thought into action? Lately, it seems girl DJs have been the ones mixing
it all up. For any aspiring DJ, there's definitely a learning curve and a
lifestyle change involved in playing music professionally. For women DJs - or
girl DJs, if you prefer - the learning process is not necessarily more
difficult, it's the shift that's harder.
The process of choosing to become a DJ is what I find the most
fascinating. It's that moment when a person realizes he or she must play music.
Not only for themselves, but playing for others as well. There's a lot of
excitement that comes with the many challenges involved in being a DJ. So, with
all those guys out there doing their thing, and doing it well, what happens when
a girl decides to get up there and do it herself? From most of the DJs Melanie
and I talked to we found that if there's one common thread it leads to one thing
- it's about the music, the way it makes you feel, and having the ability to
share that experience with others while getting them to dance.
When a girl discovers how to take the music in her hands, and
spin it, play it, scratch it, and fuckitup until it's dope, does that make her
any different from a guy, or from the girl she was before, for that matter?
Probably not, but we sure did sit and think about it for a long time. We got a
bunch of girls around a table and checked it out. Regretfully, we couldn't hook
up with all the girl DJs out there, but we talked with as many as we could.
Here's the scoop.
Goldie, quoted in URB Magazine (Jan/Feb 2001)
gives us a final word, especially intended for those whose musical horizons stop
well short of appreciating anything in the realm of electronic music (or music
assisted by electronics):
"These people who've criticized this music of the
electronic age, the fucking saxophone was a man-made instrument, so fuck
you and ... That whole thing with that situation is like, hey, you don't
like technology? Give me your fucking car keys and walk the fuck
home. You know what I'm saying? Walk the fuck home."
Couldn't have said it better myself.