Monday, August 18, 2014

4 Unusual Ways Music Can Tune Up the Brain



By Bahar Gholipour

Music shapes the brain in many ways — it can alter brain structures in musicians, and enhance cognitive skills in children and adults alike, research shows. Still, scientists are continuing to learn much about the way the brain responds to music.

Here is a look at four ways that music is known to affect the brain.

Unearthing patients' lost memories

Music has the power to bring back memories, leading some researchers to say that music could be used as a treatment for people with memory problems.

In one recent study, researchers found that music could bring back old-age memories in people who had memory problems after sustaining traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

In fact, the musical treatment, which involved playing hit songs from different periods in people's lives, was better than an interview at eliciting past memories, according to the study published in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in 2013.

Other investigations have found that for people with severe memory problems as a result of Alzheimer's disease or dementia, music can affect the memory when nothing else does. The effect can sometimes be so great that experts have likened it to "awakening" a patient who has been unconscious.

Sharpening emotion-detecting skills


Musical training may turn people into better emotion detectors, some studies have suggested.

In one study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience in 2009, 30 participants watched a subtitled nature film while listening to a very short, almost undetectable clip of a baby's cry. The researchers looked at the brain's electrical waves to measure how sensitive the people were to the sound, and whether their brain's emotional circuits were evoked.

The researchers found that the musicians' brains responded more quickly and accurately than the brains of non-musicians, suggesting the musicians may be better at perceiving emotions even when music isn't being played, the researchers said.

Blocking out the noise

The aging brain normally becomes less and less capable of blocking out background noise, but people with musical training may be better than others at hearing and understanding sounds in a noisy environment as they age.

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2013, researchers found that even people who took music lessons only in childhood still showed some long-lasting brain effects when it comes to detecting sounds amid a noisy background.

Noteworthy: Learning language through singing

It might help to practice a new language you're trying to learn by singing the words in the shower. Scientists recently found that when learning a new language, singing the phrases can help people learn the language better, compared with simply reading those phrases.

In the study published in the journal Memory & Cognition in 2014, researchers asked 60 adults to listen and repeat phrases in Hungarian, a language entirely foreign to the participants. Some of the participants were asked to simply repeat the phrases, some were told to repeat the phrases rhythmically, and the rest were asked to repeat the phrases by singing them.

The results showed that the participants who sang did significantly better than others in a series of Hungarian language tests.

Reposted From Live Science



Monday, August 11, 2014

Story Behind Josephy Haydn's the "Farewell" Symphony



 
It was written for Haydn's patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, while he, Haydn and the court orchestra were at the Prince's summer palace in Eszterháza. 

The stay there had been longer than expected, and most of the musicians had been forced to leave their wives back at home in Eisenstadt, so in the last movement of the symphony, Haydn subtly hinted to his patron that perhaps he might like to allow the musicians to return home: during the final adagio each musician stops playing, snuffs out the candle on his music stand, and leaves in turn, so that at the end, there are just two muted violins left (played by Haydn himself and the concertmaster, Alois Luigi Tomasini).

Esterházy seems to have understood the message: the court returned to Eisenstadt the day following the performance



Monday, August 4, 2014

Music ignites lost memories in 'good-news' film






Music has an unmatched power to bring back our pasts. But what if our memories have been lost to Alzheimer's or some other condition? Can music still work its magic?

A new film, Alive Inside, says yes. The film features the work of Dan Cohen, a New York social worker who started taking personalized iPods to people with dementia in nursing homes several years ago. Cohen's non-profit Music & Memory got a huge boost in 2012 when an early clip from the film, featuring a gentleman named Henry, became an online sensation. It has been viewed more than 10 million times at various websites, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett says.

In the clip, Henry, then 94, is shown slumped and unresponsive in a wheelchair – until a nursing home worker places a set of headphones over his ears. Henry comes alive. He scats along with Cab Calloway and sings a soulful I'll Be Home for Christmas. The music "gives me the feeling of love, romance," he says.
  
Henry has since passed away, but that clip is one big reason that the Music & Memory program is in 640 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, Cohen says. He says he won't be satisfied until personalized iPods – loaded with music especially chosen for each participant – are in all 16,000 U.S. nursing homes, available to all 1.6 million residents.

"Ninety-nine percent of these people are still sitting around and doing nothing all day when they could be rocking to their music," he says.

The reasons for Cohen's passion become clear in what Rossato-Bennett dubs "the only good-news film ever made about Alzheimer's." In segment after segment, people with Alzheimer's and other conditions don the headphones, hear the music of their youths and light up. A World War II veteran named John dances in his chair as the Andrews Sisters sing Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! Another man holds his wife's hands and sings a duet of Can't Take My Eyes Off of You. An agitated woman becomes serene as she dances to strains of Schubert.




Such scenes are interspersed with comments from doctors, including the neurologist Oliver Sacks, who says, "Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus." Others talk about the need to reconnect with lonely, inactive and neglected elders, in and out of nursing homes.

Viewers might come away with the idea that a skillfully loaded iPod is a proven and universally effective cure for all that. In fact, the first big study of Music & Memory is just getting underway in Wisconsin, as part of a state-funded rollout in 200 nursing homes. Researchers will look at whether the approach improves social engagement and reduces agitation, anxiety and depression, say University of Wisconsin researchers Jung Kwak and Michael Brondino. The study won't focus on memory but will look at overall effects on dementia, Brondino says. One thing they know, he says, is that staffs and patients "absolutely love this program."

The program, which relies on families and aides to work with patients, should not be confused with formal music therapy delivered by professionals trained in that discipline, says Alicia Clair, professor of music education and therapy at the University of Kansas.

Still, she says, "it's a wonderful thing" for many people. Caregivers need to know, she says, that not everyone will respond and that some people can even respond negatively. A song that stirs up sadness or anger might do more harm than good, she says.

Cohen says, "This is not a cure for Alzheimer's, and this does not work for everybody." But, he says, it is something just about anyone can try – something that might open up a whole lost world.

Cohen's tips for setting up an individualized music program and for donating used iPods to the program are at musicandmemory.org.

Alive Inside will open in theaters and be shown in film festivals around the country through mid-September.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Language of Music: Derek Paravicini


Lesley Stahl profiles British musical savant Derek Paravicini, whose computer-like memory for music is matched by his creative abilities to play it in any style.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Seattle Authorizes Special Loading Zones for Musicians…

What’s worse than loading gear into a venue?  Getting a ticket for loading gear into a venue.  But that issue may soon go away, at least for a few musicians, thanks to an initiative by the City of Seattle that would authorize musician loading zones outside of venues.

The Musician Load Zone pilot program kicked off  in March and currently involves five venues.  “Seattle’s Music Commission strives to champion innovative ideas that help local musicians make a living making music in Seattle,” explained Jody McKinley, Chair of Seattle’s Music Commission (and an executive at Seattle-based Rhapsody).

seattleloading1
seatlleloading2


Reposted From Digital Music News


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Devil's Violin

"Tartini's Dream" by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845). Illustration of the legend behind Giuseppe Tartini's "Devil's Trill Sonata".

The story behind "Devil's Trill" starts with a dream. Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. At the end of their lessons Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill—the devil immediately began to play with such virtuosity that Tartini felt his breath taken away. The complete story is told by Tartini himself in Lalande's Voyage d'un François en Italie (1765 - 66):

"One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and - I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me."


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tritone: The Devil in Music


In classical music, the tritone is a harmonic and melodic dissonance and is important in the study of musical harmony. The name diabolus in musica ("the Devil in music") has been applied to the interval from at least the early 18th century. People were actually executed "back in the day" for writing songs that used this interval. 

Because of that original symbolic association with the devil and its avoidance, this interval came to be heard in Western cultural convention as suggesting an "evil" connotative meaning in music. Today the interval continues to suggest an "oppressive", "scary", or "evil" sound and is known colloquially as "The Devil's Interval".


The theme features prominently in the 1949 film Portrait of Jennie, and is used as a musical motif for the ethereal heroine played by Jennifer Jones.





The theme opening Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune outlines a tritone (between C and G) About this sound Play