Music Before Language Likely – In Monkeys 1st 30mm Years Ago

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Monkey-Human Ancestors Got Music 30 Million Years Ago :

Music skills evolved at least 30 million years ago in the common ancestor of humans and monkeys, according to a new study that could help explain why chimpanzees drum on tree roots and monkey calls sound like singing.

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Music’s Reward Value

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Interactions Between the Nucleus Accumbens and Auditory Cortices Predict Music Reward Value

When you hear an unfamiliar tune, how do you wind up either tapping your foot or plugging your ears? A study finds that a specific brain region gives the song a thumbs up or down.

….values participants assigned to songs were associated with:

–  activity in the nucleus accumbens, a section of the brain’s pleasure center.
–  For more popular tunes, this region was more active and communicated more with the brain region that stores auditory information. Continue reading

Great Musicianship is a Matter of Milleseconds – 5 ms to Be (Really) Exact

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Holy sh–t!! FIVE one thousandth of a second…!!!…groan….

The close-up shows that Ray Charles finger snap time deltas are less than 5 milliseconds.  Given the tight rhythmic style of this recording, and the fact that Ray Charles was one of the 20th century’s best musicians
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Birdsong and Music Stimulate Same Brain Parts

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Two studies on audio signaling thru birdsong songs and mating states:Birdsong study pecks theory that music is uniquely human

(Medical Xpress)—A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

“We found that:

  • the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong…For male birds listening to another male’s song, it was a different story: They had an amygdala response that looks similar to that of people when they hear discordant, unpleasant music.

The study, co-authored by Emory neuroscientist Donna Maney, is the first to compare neural responses of listeners in the long-standing debate over whether birdsong is music.

“Scientists since the time of Darwin have wondered whether birdsong and music may serve similar purposes, or have the same evolutionary precursors…But most attempts to compare the two have focused on the qualities of the sound themselves, such as melody and rhythm.”

“Birdsong is a signal…And the definition of a signal is that it elicits a response in the receiver. Previous studies hadn’t approached the question from that angle, and it’s an important one.”

During the non-breeding season, both sexes of sparrows use song to establish and maintain dominance in relationshipsDuring the breeding season, however, a male singing to a female is almost certainly courting her, while a male singing to another male is challenging an interloper.

For the females in the breeding state every region of the mesolimbic reward pathway that has been reported to respond to music in humans, and that has a clear avian counterpart, responded to the male birdsongFemales in the non-breeding state, however, did not show a heightened response.
And the testosterone-treated males listening to another male sing showed an amygdala response, which may correlate to the amygdala response typical of humans listening to the kind of music used in the scary scenes of horror movies.

“The neural response to birdsong appears to depend on social context, which can be the case with humans as well…Both birdsong and music elicit responses not only in brain regions associated directly with reward, but also in interconnected regions that are thought to regulate emotion. That suggests that they both may activate evolutionarily ancient mechanisms that are necessary for reproduction and survival.”

A major limitation of the study…is that many of the regions that respond to music in humans are cortical, and they do not have clear counterparts in birds.

Study #2:

Is that song sexy or just so-so?

A songbird study conducted by Emory University sheds new light on this question, showing that a change in hormone levels may alter the way we perceive social cues by altering a system of brain nuclei, common to all vertebrates, called the “social behavior network.”

“Social behaviors such as courtship, parenting and aggression depend primarily on two factors: a social signal to trigger the behavior, and a hormonal milieu that facilitates or permits it….Our results demonstrate a possible neural mechanism by which hormones may alter the processing of these signals and affect social decision-making.”

Across most of the network,

song-specific neural responses were higher in the “breeding” females than the “non-breeding” ones. But the effects of estrogen were not identical in every regionIf every node in the network just responded more in the presence of estrogen, then we’d conclude that estrogen acts as an on-off switchBut what we’re seeing is more complicated than that. Some activity goes up with estrogen, and some goes down. We are seeing how estrogen changes the big picture as the brain processes social information.”

The findings suggest that the perceived meaning of a stimulus may be related to the activity in the entire social behavior network, rather than a single region of the brain. “The same neural mechanism may be operating in humans,”

“In women, preferences for male faces, voices, body odors and behavior change over the course of the menstrual cycle as estrogen levels rise and fall. Our work with these songbirds shows a possible neural basis for those changes.”

Childhood Abuse and Dead Rock Stars

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Solo Rock Stars Die Young by Tom Jacobs

Do you dream of being a rock star? Do you hope to live a long life?

If so, you’d better start prioritizing—or, at the very least, join a band. Because from Elvis Presley to Amy Winehouse, solo pop superstars are disproportionately likely to die young (although not necessarily at age 27).

That’s one finding of a study just published in the British journal BMJ Open, which takes a close look at mortality among rock and pop icons of the past half-century. And just like the rest of us, it finds, famous musicians are more likely to die from substance abuse if they had troubled childhoods.

A team of researchers led by Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, looked at the mortality rates and childhood experiences of 1,489 rock and pop stars who gained fame between 1956 and 2006. Comparisons were made across the decades, and between European and American musicians.

Confirming earlier studies, the researchers report famous musicians are more likely than their fans to prematurely enter rock and roll heaven. Specifically, they found the gap in life expectancy between pop stars and the public widened consistently until 25 years after the musicians first became famous.

After that, for reasons that aren’t clear, mortality rates for European stars gradually revert back to those of the general population, while the gap remains wide for American stars. (Are reunion tours bad for your health?)

The researchers found solo performers were about twice as likely to die earlier than expected (that is, earlier than the average for their demographic category) as members of a band. Among North American solo stars, nearly 23 percent died before their time, compared to just over 10 percent of band members. Among Europeans, the figures were 9.8 percent for solo stars and 5.4 percent for members of a band.

This could reflect that solo stars tend to be more famous than band members and thus face a different set of pressures and temptations. Or, the researchers speculate, the support of fellow musicians could be a “protective factor” against certain self-destructive behaviors.

That said, the study strongly suggests those behaviors are rooted in experiences that occurred far before a musician achieved fame—or perhaps even before they picked up an instrument.

Using biographical sources, Bellis and his colleagues determined whether each star had suffered one of more “adverse childhood experiences,” including physical abuse, sexual abuse, or living with a mentally ill, suicidal or chronically ill person. They then matched these results with the cause of death of the 132 rock and pop stars who died over this 50-year period.

They found over 47 percent of those who died from chemical misadventure or other “risk-related causes” such as suicide or violence had suffered some form of childhood adversity. The figure was only 25 percent for those who died of other causes.

“Consideration of childhood experiences brings into question whether even limitless resources in adulthood can undo the impact of adverse childhoods,” the researchers note. Money and fame can give people easy access to the high-risk lifestyle that childhood traumas predisposed them to gravitate towards. That can literally be a lethal combination.

This finding is particularly disturbing given how many young people think of these musicians as role models, and/or dream of being pop stars. Amateur talent shows such The X Factor, which has its season finale this week, consistently receive some of the highest ratings on television.

“A better understanding of the underlying causes of risk-taking in performers may help deglamorize such behavior,” the researchers conclude, “and reduce its appeal to fans and would-be rock and pop stars.”

Indeed, it would mark a major cultural shift if the heavy-partying lifestyle of pop stars was seen not as an enviable perk of fame, but rather as a sign that these talented but troubled people are, in many cases, destructively coping with some deep childhood wounds.

Practical Advice for Creative Artists from Grammy Songwriter

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This is free advice from Dan Wilson, songwriter who just had Grammy hits with Adele.  This is excerpted from his blog and covers visual and audio arts – http://www.danwilsonmusic.com/blog.

Get in the Pool

  • Get in the pool.
  • Join the conversation.
  • Go straight to the audience.
  • Start a camp, a crew, a scene, a community. If you can’t start one, then join a camp, a crew, a community.
  • Hit the road if that’s what you need to do to find your community.
  • Better yet, hit the road with your community! See the fifty states and show them your music.
  • Keep no secrets.
  • Don’t save your art, spend it.
  • Get your ideas out into the world, into your camp, your crew, your scene.
  • Learn how to say, “How can I help?” and mean it.
  • Collaborate!  Continue reading