Tag Archives: music

The day before you came … Abba

I guess it is appropriate to write a music post immediately following yesterday’s post on music having a powerful effect on the brain. I have been a music lover all of my life. I spent the year 1977 in London on assignment with Reuters News Service. It so happens that Abba was among the hottest groups going at that time and I listened to tons of their music. Also became a very big fan. I still play it on my iPhone while riding my bike.

But, the Day before you came is something special. It was one of their later tunes and not typical of their cheery upbeat melodies. I am sure it is my favorite of their entire catalog. Speaking for myself, I have definitely experienced the feeling of this song, how my life went on in its mundane fashion UNTIL I encountered this very special person. Then everything changed, like someone turned the lights on in a dark room.

Anyway, click the link and enjoy the beautiful Agnetha’s performance. I confess to having  had a crush on her for years.

Tony

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Music Has Powerful (and Visible) Effects on the Brain

Regular readers know by now that I am a music lover. I have listened to it all my life. I remember the little radio we had back in the 1940’s when I was growing up. Cut to today when I have a bluetooth speaker on my bike that plays music from the iPhone in my pocket. So, I was thrilled to learn how music has positive impacts on my brain.

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It doesn’t matter if it’s Bach, the Beatles, Brad Paisley or Bruno Mars. Your favorite music likely triggers a similar type of activity in your brain as other people’s favorites do in theirs.

That’s one of the things Jonathan Burdette, M.D., has found in researching music’s effects on the brain.

“Music is primal. It affects all of us, but in very personal, unique ways,” said Burdette, a neuroradiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Your interaction with music is different than mine, but it’s still powerful.

“Your brain has a reaction when you like or don’t like something, including music. We’ve been able to take some baby steps into seeing that, and ‘dislike’ looks different than ‘like’ and much different than ‘favorite.’”

To study how music preferences might affect functional brain connectivity – the interactions among separate areas of the brain – Burdette and his fellow investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which depicts brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow. Scans were made of 21 people while they listened to music they said they most liked and disliked from among five genres (classical, country, rap, rock and Chinese opera) and to a song or piece of music they had previously named as their personal favorite. Continue reading

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Music, meditation may improve early cognitive decline – MNT

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Emerging evidence indicates that subjective cognitive decline (SCD) could represent a pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or unhealthy brain aging. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States.

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Dr. Kim Innes, associate professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and colleagues aimed to assess the effects of two mind-body practices – Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening – on cognitive outcomes in people with SCD.

Kirtan Kriya is a form of yoga meditation that combines focused breathing practices, singing or chanting, finger movements, and visualization. Practitioners of yoga claim that this type of meditation stimulates all of a person’s senses and the associated brain areas.

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listening to music or taking part in meditation could improve memory and cognitive function among people with SCD.

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Almost Famous – Tiny Dancer

*This is slightly off the beaten health path, but I enjoyed this movie so much that I wanted to share it with you. Briefly, I am a member of Amazon Prime and buy a lot of things from them thus saving me the time and trouble of going out to stores ( also saving shipping costs ).* I have heard that about half the households in the U.S. are Prime members, so it is about even money that you too can enjoy this video for no cost as I did.

I got an email from Amazon the other day mentioning that I had access to dozens, maybe hundreds, of movies and TV shows at no cost on my Prime membership. I clicked on their link and started selecting movies for my Watchlist. There was Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s wonderful film from the year 2000 about a high school-aged journalist writing a piece for Rolling Stone after traveling with a rock group. I had seen it when it came out, but, that was nearly 20 years ago, so I selected it to watch.

Here is a look at what Wikipedia had to say about the movie.

Almost Famous is a 2000 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. Continue reading

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How music changes our perception of touch – MNT

Music is an integral part of my life. When I am not otherwise engaged, I am likely listening to music. That is definitely the case in my car. I opted to not get the sunroof because when it was open, I could not hear my music as clearly. Likewise, I have a water bottle with a bluetooth speaker on it so that I can listen to music while riding my bike. In terms of safety, I consider this vastly safer than wearing headphones which shut out ambient sound.

Music touches. Until recently, this was only meant in a figurative way—now it can also be taken literally. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have found that touch is perceived differently, depending on the music being played. The sexier we perceive the music we are listening to, the more sensual we experience the contact if we think we are touched by another person.

Be it Lima, Liverpool or Leipzig, is widespread in every culture on Earth. It can evoke a positive group feeling and may be substantial to help humans live in bigger groups than other primates. How this happens is still not completely known.

Scientists at Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig seem to have discovered an important part of the explanation: Music influences our perception of touch. “We have observed that the sexier we perceive music, the sexier we also perceive touch that is administered simultaneously,” study leader Tom Fritz explains.

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Learning with music can change brain structure – Study

As a guy who has had musical accompaniment to virtually everything he ever did, I was pleased to learn how it can affect the brain positively. One of my happiest recent discoveries was the bluetooth speaker that connects to the water bottle on my bike.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

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People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation program, such as after a stroke.

The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

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Exodus – Bob Marley’s Masterpiece

*I am a music lover, have been all my life, and I have written here about various compositions and productions that I enjoyed over the years. Exodus by Bob Marley is one of the most hypnotic pieces of music I have ever listened to. If it plays somewhere, I will hear it in my head for days later. I guess it has to be the beat because there seem to be only about eight words to the whole song.*

Exodus is the title song of a giant selling album of Marley from 1977. Rolling Stone reports, “The Marley Family, Island Records and UMe have announced a massive set of Exodus reissues to mark the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ landmark Exodus album, which was released on June 3, 1977.” So it is special to more than just me.

Here is part of what the Rolling Stone reviewer said of the tune back then.  “Exodus doesn’t reach these heights, nor does it seem to aim for them, save on the seven-minute title performance, which sounds like War on a slow day and wears out long before it is half over. If I didn’t have more faith in Marley I’d think he was trying to go disco — the tune is that mechanical.” 

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Album cover

The following is from the Oberlin College Library – Radical thinkers and movements in the Caribbean by David V. Moskowitz

While the lyrics are very poignant, the structure of the song itself also enforces the song’s motivational purpose.  Both the bass and guitar provide a driving groove that feels like it’s constantly moving forward. This stands in stark contrast to the float-y feel that many attribute to a stereotypical reggae song.  Additionally, the song’s central repeating verse “Exodus: movement of Jah people” is sung by a chorus in addition to Marley which makes it easy to sing along. Singing along with a piece of music calls attention to the lyrics in a much deeper way than does passively listening. Repeating the lyrics to oneself forces one to analyze and interpret their meaning. Furthermore, many songs used politically have lyrics that are poignant but also easy to commit to memory and sing in a group. “Exodus” has a very simple song structure that lends itself to this purpose. It is unknown whether or not Bob Marley intended this song to become a political anthem, but the structure of the song implies Marley made it to be easily accessible.”

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.

Tony

 

PS I published this originally on my other blog willingwheeling.wordpress.com but wasn’t able to reblog it here.

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What about that hot waitress?

I have eaten my share of meals out in restaurants, big and small, high and low. Part of the enjoyment of dining out is, of course, being served by someone else and not having to worry about preparing the food or cleaning up afterwards. I also must confess that I have often paid more attention than necessary to the waitress. For the longest time, I kind of considered this my own dirty little secret. However, in the course of riding my bike over the past few months and listening to music on the bluetooth speaker on my water bottle, I have come to realize that I am not alone when it comes to lusting after a waitress. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Herewith three tunes from over the years about a hot waitress.

The most recent, in my experience, but by no means actually recent, the intoxicating beat of “I wanna get next to you” by Rose Royce from the movie Car Wash. The narrator bemoans “Girl, you make me feel so insecure; you’re so beautiful and pure.”

Next is by the redoubtable Louis Prima who eats ‘…antipasto twice because she is so nice …” She being Angelina. Prima was the consummate entertainer who was won of the premier headliners in Las Vegas in its early years. Sadly, I couldn’t find a version showing him belting this tune out.

This offering was by one of my countrymen, the second Hazel’s Hips by Oscar Brown, Jr., who grew up on Chicago’s south side. Oscar describes the ‘concert of contours and curves as she slips to and fro round the tables she serves …”

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. By all means feel free to offer any songs I may have overlooked on the subject.

Tony

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Sing, Sing, Sing

I am tempted to say that this is for my younger readers as they are unlikely to have experienced the song – Sing, Sing, Sing. But, then I realize that probably more than 95 percent of you are younger than I am. So, this is for all of you.

*Another of the seminal songs in my musical upbringing is the famous Sing, Sing, Sing, written and performed by Louis Prima. I probably heard it at home on the radio because my father was a fan of Prima who had recorded it in March 1936. I became more aware of the song in my later years after hearing the Benny Goodman version at his famous 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert.*

In case you are unfamiliar with Louis Prima, here is what Wikipedia has to say, “Louis Prima (December 7, 1910 – August 24, 1978) was an Italian-American singer, actor, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter. While rooted in New Orleans jazz, swing music, and jump blues, Prima touched on various genres throughout his career: he formed a seven-piece New Orleans-style jazz band in the late 1920s, fronted a swing combo in the 1930s and a big band group in the 1940s, helped to popularize jump blues in the late 1940s and early to mid 1950s, and performed as a Vegas lounge act in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Louis Prima version 1937

“From the 1940s through the 1960s, his music further encompassed early R&B and rock’n’roll, boogie-woogie, and even Italian folk music, such as the tarantella. Prima made prominent use of Italian music and language in his songs, blending elements of his Italian identity with jazz and swing music. At a time when “ethnic” musicians were often discouraged from openly stressing their ethnicity, Prima’s conspicuous embrace of his Italian ethnicity opened the doors for other Italian-American and “ethnic” American musicians to display their ethnic roots.”

Of course, to my unsophisticated ear, the most stunning performance on the piece was the pulsing, primal Gene Krupa drum solo. It wasn’t till I was older that I got into appreciating the wonderful Benny Goodman clarinet work as well.

Here is what Wikipedia has to offer on the song: In their 1966 book Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story Of Jazz As Told By The Men Who Made It, music critics Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff quote Goodman as saying, “‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ (which we started doing back at the Palomar on our second trip there in 1936) was a big thing, and no one-nighter was complete without it.” Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert was different from the commercial release and from subsequent performances with the Goodman band. The personnel of the Goodman band for the Carnegie Hall concert were the same as in the 1937 recording session, except Vernon Brown replaced Murray McEachern on trombone, and Babe Russin replaced Vido Musso on tenor sax.

12 Min Version From Carnegie Hall 1938

I wanted to include this last one because seeing two other extremely gifted artists add their interpretation to it adds a further level of enjoyment. And, who doesn’t love Fred and Ginger?

Tony

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Tale of two tail tunes

Back in December I was in Las Vegas with my girlfriend. One morning I was down in the casino playing video poker and the coolest tune came on the loud speakers. For some reason all casinos seem to feel that the ambient sound of the slot machines is not enough. They have to fill you with their own brand of music,  mostly rock and roll. As Caesars Palace, where we stayed, they often intersperse songs from the headliners who play there. So they combine marketing with entertainment.

While playing video poker I became aware of this awesome song on the speakers.  I couldn’t make out all the words, but the beat was fantastic and every once in a while, I heard, “… one, two, three … something, something …. run back to me … ”

I have been a rock and roller since the fifties and was lucky enough to catch Elvis Presley’s TV debut on the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Stage Show in January of 1956. He blew the country and me right out of our socks. Bill Hayley and his Comets also rocked me around the clock in the early 50’s.

I couldn’t recognize a lot of the lyrics or the voice of the singer, so I pulled out my iPhone and asked Siri if she could. Sure enough, Siri came back with “Ex’s and Ohs” by Elle King. Again, I had never heard of either the singer or the song, but decided that I would explore further.

Later, back in the room, I learned that Elle King is the daughter of Rob Schneider, former cast member of Saturday Night Live and star of the Deuce Bigelow movies. I found an Elle King  performance on You Tube and played it over and over till I had it in my head.

Before I go further, why don’t you check it out below. Then read on.

After a number of hearings and viewings, I still loved the tune, but hated the sentiment. The singer co-wrote the song with Dave Bassett. As you can see and hear from the video she is a heartless person who uses men and then discards them when she is finished. I decided I really didn’t like the sentiment or the person singing it.

Here’s the fascinating thing that flashed through my mind in the ensuing week. When I was in my early 20’s, I spent a lot of time with ‘the guys’ riding around in a car listening to a blasting radio and singing along with the music. One of my favorite tunes was The Wanderer by Dion. Like Ex’s and Ohs, it also has a great beat. Interestingly, the sentiment is similar, too, but from the point of view of the guy. “I’m the type of guy who will never settle down. Where pretty girls are, well, you know that I’m around. I kiss ’em and I love ’em, ’cause to me they’re all the same. I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em, they don’t even know my name…’ You get the picture.

The song became my theme song for about the next 25 years and probably kept me from having very good relationships with women during that time.

You can enjoy the entire song below.

I guess the millennials have taken the equal rights of women concept to heart and Ex’s and Oh’s is a perfect example of that. I hope the young and impressionable girls listening to it are better able to handle the ideas than I was.

Please feel free to comment on this. I would love to hear from you.

Tony

 

 

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Musicians have faster reflexes – Study

I always loved that famous William Congreve quote – ” Music has charms that soothe the savage breast.” It’s often misquoted as the savage breast. I confess, I am a music lover. Sadly, the only instrument I play is my stereo. I never got around to actually learning how to play an actual instrument. More’s the pity.

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Researchers at University of Montreal’s audiology school find that musicians have faster reaction times than non-musicians – and that could have implications for the elderly.

Could learning to play a musical instrument help the elderly react faster and stay alert?

Quite likely, according to a new study by Université de Montréal’s School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, part of UdeM’s medical faculty.

Published in the U.S. journal Brain and Cognition, the study shows that musicians have faster reaction times to sensory stimuli than non-musicians have.

And that has implications for preventing some effects of aging, said lead researcher Simon Landry, whose study is part of his doctoral thesis in biomedical science.

“The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times,” Landry said.

“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.”

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Miles Davis and the White Rabbit

What follows is a little bit off the beaten path for this blog, but I had such a wonderful musical discovery recently that I wanted to share it with you. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with eating right, exercising or living longer. It’s just personal.

Music has always been integral to my life. I remember sitting mesmerized listening to hit songs over our radio as a child in the 1940’s. Fast forward to the sixties and I was a weed whacker digging the Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit from their best selling Surrealistic Pillow album. Strong feeling of deja vu writing the word ‘album.’ How many kids today even have that word in their vocabularies?

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Anyway, I consider White Rabbit to be a masterpiece of a song particularly as rendered by Grace Slick’s powerful voice. A masterpiece in terms of music as well as metaphor. I still have it on my iPod today.

Before I go further with this let me remind you of the opening lines of the song which I am sure you have heard at some time in your life: “One pill makes you larger; one pill makes you small. And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all.” For me this line demonstrated the dichotomy between the generations at the time besides being hauntingly beautiful musically.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to run across a Wall Street Journal write up  on Grace Slick and how she came to write and perform White Rabbit.


This is a good sound reproduction and you get to see all the lyrics

The 74 year old Slick said, “I loved ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ The stuff Alice drank and ate made her high [tall] or brought her down [small]. There were all kinds of drug metaphors in there. The ’60s were very much like that.

“When the lyrics were done, I took the sheet of paper to the red piano and worked on the chords, writing the names of the ones I liked over the phrases. I wrote the song in F-sharp minor, a key that’s ideal for my voice. Minor chords have a certain darkness and sadness.

“The music I came up with was based on a slow Spanish march or bolero that builds in intensity. I’ve always had a thing for Spanish folk music. Back in 1963, Jerry and I were living with Darby and his girlfriend in San Francisco on Potrero Hill. One day we took acid and I put on Miles Davis’s ‘Sketches of Spain.’

“I loved that album and I listened to it over and over for hours, particularly ‘Concierto de Aranjuez,’ which takes up most of the first side. It’s hypnotic. I’ve always been like this. Anything I love I’m going to cram into my ears, nose and mouth until I use it up. ‘Sketches of Spain’ was drilled into my head and came squirting out in various ways as I wrote ‘White Rabbit.’”

Here is the magical part for me. I also love Miles Davis and listen to his music all the time, particularly the Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans. So, I learned, fifty years after the fact, that two of my favorite pieces of music are joined at the hip. Nice.

I hope you have the time to listen to them. Each is still magical for me.

Tony

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Why do we like music? – Infographic

As a guy with about 7000 songs on my iPhone, I found this fascinating.

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Tony

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Something Lovely for a Sunday Morning

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This is meant to be a pleasant interlude for you. Please take the seven plus minutes to listen to this beautiful and positive piece of music. I hope you have good speakers on your computer.

Let me say in advance that I love music. It is an integral part of my daily life. I don’t care much for gimmicky performances of it. This is clearly an exception to that.

I saw Walt Disney’s Fantasia as a child and was blown away by it. One of the songs in particular, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor took my breath away. I have it on my iPod to this day.

A friend sent me this You Tube video of it and I loved it.

I hope you feel the same.

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Tony

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Listening to Music can Help and Hinder Learning – Infographic

When I was younger I always had music playing no matter what I was doing. Now that I am an old man, I still love music, but I don’t play it when I am writing blog posts or doing things that require concentration.

It’s nice to know that it lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.

How about you?

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10 Totally Awesome Ways to Stay Healthy – Infographic

In the nearly six years I have been writing this blog, I have come to realize something very important. Although losing weight is a subject on which many people focus, the real trick is staying healthy. I think the reason 60 percent of us are overweight and another 30 percent are obese is because most people focus on the wrong thing. I was overweight for years and the reason is that I wanted to eat as much as I could and not gain weight. That is a prescription for failure. You don’t have a negative aim. Once I got my focus on staying healthy the pounds just melted off. I ate intelligently, both quantity and quality, and made sure I got my exercise daily. You can do the same. There are some super suggestions here.

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