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Monday, July 16, 2018

Your Brain Under the Influence of Music

What Happens to Your Brain
Under the Influence of Music
Alasdair Wilkins

From the perspective of neuroscience, listening to music is one of the most complex things you can do. Many parts of your brain have to work together to comprehend even the simplest tune. So what is music really doing to our minds?
The Mechanics of Music

There isn't a single music center of the brain, in large part because listening to even very simple music combines a bunch of distinct neurological processes. Let's first look at the more strictly mechanical aspects of listening to music. As you might be able to guess from its name, the auditory cortex is an important part of processing the sound of music. Part of the temporal lobe, the auditory cortex takes in information from the ear and assesses the pitch and volume of the sound.

Other parts of the brain deal with different aspects of music. Rhythm, for instance, is only connected in a relatively minor way to the auditory cortex. A lot goes into keeping even relatively simple, regular beats - tapping along to something as basic as a 1:2 rhythm brings in the left frontal cortex, left parietal cortex, and right cerebellum, and more unusual rhythms bring in still more areas of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum.

Tonality - the building of musical structure around a central chord - is another crucial part of musical understanding, and it reels in still more parts of the brain. The prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and many parts of the temporal lobe all go into our ability to recognize the tone of a given piece of music. Taken all together, this means that music already brings in three out of four of the lobes of the human brain - frontal, parietal, and temporal, with only the visual processing occipital lobe unaffected...and there might be a bit more to say about that in a moment.

Music is sometimes given a quick and dirty classification as a "right-brained" activity, meaning that the act of processing music is centered on the right hemisphere of the brain. While this fits nicely with the general dichotomy that the left side of the brain is more engaged in logic and the right in creativity, these are all pretty big oversimplifications. While it is broadly true that music involves more of the right hemisphere than the left, the fact is that the processing of music is so diffuse and decentralized throughout the brain that it's hard to come up with any single category for all the different areas involved.
The Deeper Impact

Those, however, are just the basic mechanical aspects of listening to music. A good song can trigger a cascade of secondary responses, often involuntarily. An obvious example of this is the propensity to move in time with music - not so much dancing, which is an active, independent process, but simple motions like tapping one's toe along with the song. This is caused by stimulation of neurons in the motor cortex.

Another intriguing side-effect of listening to music is the activation of the visual cortex, found in the back of the brain in the occipital lobe. Research indicates that some music can provoke a response in this part of the brain, as the engaged listener tries to conjure up appropriate imagery to match the changes and progression in the music.

Part of the reason that music tends to be so meaningful to us is that it's deeply intertwined with memory. Because the brain is so completely engaged in listening to music, it's one of the parts of a situation that is remembered most clearly later on. Songs and pieces of music can serve as powerful triggers for memories - hence the cliche about couples and "their song."

And let's not forget the language aspect of music. Obviously, not all songs have lyrics, but those that do draw upon the language centers of the brain. The two main parts of the brain associated with language are Wernicke's area and Broca's area, the former of which is found in the temporal lobe while the latter is in the frontal lobe. Previous research has tended to indicate that Wernicke's area is more crucial to language comprehension, while Broca's area is more tied up in language production, though it now appears that there's significant overlap. In any event, we can add them to the list of brain regions tied up in music comprehension.

The Subjective Sounds
So just why does music carry so much meaning for us? Because music draws on so many different parts of the brain, it's hard to say with certainty, but that might actually help give us an answer. Music is extraordinarily complex even before it enters the brain - the pitch of music, for instance, has to be much more stable than frequencies we normally sound, or else it would just devolve into chaotic noise. The same is true of rhythm, tone, and other musical properties - these have to be highly complex to cohere into anything even vaguely musical in the first place.

And it's not as though there's any real objective measure of what counts as "musical" and what doesn't. That shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone who's ever read a music review, but it's crucial to remember just how much the brain is involved as an active participant in shaping our interaction with music. Memory is one of the most obvious influences here - you're more inclined to like a particular piece of music if it carries positive associations, for instance.

It's also possible that a person's particular brain chemistry can affect his or her appreciation of music. Considering how many different parts of the brain are activated by listening to music, even one unusual link in that chain can drastically alter the person's response. There's also plenty of more everyday factors to consider - how much a person knows about music, whether they themselves play an instrument, whether the music has lyrics, and even whether it's a recording or a live performance can all dramatically change the particular neural response to the same basic piece of music.
The Hardwired Responses

If there's one constant in all this, it's that songs carry a tremendous ability to provoke emotional responses - indeed, it can even seem that that's our brain's primary concern when it comes to music. Brain imaging studies have shown that "happy" music stimulates the reward centers of the brain, causing the production of the chemical dopamine. That's the same chemical produced from eating great food, having sex, and taking drugs.

Even better, the brain hangs onto the ability to understand the emotional impact of music, even if the finer points of comprehension are lost. One study, for instance, focused on a woman with damage to her temporal lobe - and, by extension, her auditory cortex - that made it impossible for her to comprehend different melodies and other basic parts of musical structure. Even so, she was still able to read the basic emotional content of the music, respond appropriately to "happy" and "sad" music in turn.

This process seems to start early, too. Researchers at Brigham Young University found evidence that infants as young as five months are able to discern when a happy song is playing, and by nine months they've added comprehension of sad music to their repertoire. Interviewed in 2008, BYU music professor Susan Kenney explained what the babies were responding to:

    "The happy songs were all in major keys with fairly short phrases or motives that repeated. The tempo and melodic rhythms were faster than any of the sad selections, and the melodies had a general upward direction. Four of the sad songs were in minor keys and all had a slower beat and long melodic rhythms. For an infant to notice those differences is fascinating."

And the effects of such music only increases as we get older. (Considering the babies' responses to the music involved turning their heads slightly, you'd sort of hope it would.) We actually can have physiological reactions to music - happy music with a fast tempo and major key can make us breathe faster, while sad music in a slow tempo and minor key can slow down our pulse and cause blood pressure to rise.

Of course, the roots of those reactions are found back in the brain. It's just another indication of how powerful and multi-faceted our relationship with music really is, and how it's able to change our brains in ways both obvious and so subtle that we can barely comprehend what's happening.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Most Difficult Songs To Sing

Top 10
Most Difficult Songs To Sing
Published on May 27, 2018
 No amount of singing in the shower can prepare you for these behemoth tracks!

Whether it’s the operatic falsettos from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the unreachable high notes from Mariah Carey’s “Emotions” or the melancholic moans from “Dream On” by Aerosmith, these tracks really separate the men from the boys in terms of singing ability.

#10: "Wuthering Heights" (1978)
#9: "Unchained Melody" (1965)
#8: "Dream On" (1973)
#7: "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" (2003)
#6: "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (1982)
#5: "All By Myself" (1996)       
#4: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (1975)
#3, #2 & #1: ?


Saturday, July 14, 2018

July 14, 2018
July 14, 2018 is the 195th day of the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar. There are 170 days remaining until the end of the year. 

The day of the week is Saturday - Samedi - Sábado.

Zodiac & Birthstone
Cancer is the zodiac sign of a person born on this day. 

Ruby is the modern birthstone for this month. Ruby is the mystical birthstone from Tibetan origin that dates back over a thousand years.
Dog is the mythical animal and Earth is the element for a person born on this day if we consider the very old art of Chinese astrology (or Chinese zodiac).
July symbols
July's birthstone is the ruby, which symbolizes contentment. 
Its birth flowers are the Larkspur or the Water Lily.

The zodiac signs for the month of July are Cancer (until July 22)

La Marseillaise + Casablanca +La Grande Illusion 
Le concert de Paris - La Marseillaise

La Marseillaise sans doute la plus connue dans le monde est originaire de... Strasbourg ! 

Là où, en 1792, Rouget de Lisle l'a composée pour l'armée du Rhin après que la France eut déclaré la guerre à l'Autriche. Elle s'appelle alors “Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin”.

Sa reprise par un bataillon de républicains originaires de Marseille, qui gagnèrent à pied Paris et participèrent à l'insurrection des Tuileries, en août 1792, lui valut son nom définitif.

La Marseillaise devient chant national le 14 juillet 1795. E.P
The famous scene from Casablanca in which Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) leads the band and patrons of Rick’s in singing the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” was copied from Jean Renoir’s 1937 film La Grande Illusion (1937), in which French service members in a German POW camp sing the song as a similar gesture of defiance.
In Casablanca, “La Marseillaise” is sung over the German song “Watch on the Rhine”, and many of the extras had real tears in their eyes; a large number of them were actual refugees from Nazi persecution in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and were overcome by the emotions the scene brought out. 
During the shoot, Humphrey Bogart was called to the studio to stand in the middle of the Rick’s Cafe set and nod. He had no idea what the nod meant in the story - that he was giving his OK for the band in the cafe to play “La Marseillaise”.
Casablanca La Marseillaise

La Marseillaise Casablanca

"La Marseillaise" - France National anthem
French & English lyrics

What's So Great About Casablanca?

Ask a Film Professor.
We all know Casablanca is a great movie -- but what makes it great? We talked to film professor Julian Cornell about why Casablanca is one of the classic love stories in cinema. 
Mireille Mathieu singing La Marseillaise
(with lyrics)
Mireille Mathieu's legendary performance of La Marseillaise with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western and Eastern superstition.

It always happens whenever the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday.

According to folklorists, there is no written evidence for a "Friday the 13th" superstition before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th.
Rossini was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died.

Several theories have been proposed about the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition.
One theory states that it is a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions: that 13 is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day.

In numerology, the number 12 is considered the number of divine organizational arrangement or chronological completeness, as reflected in the 
  • 12  months of the year,  
  • 12  hours of the clock day,  
  • 12 gods of Olympus,  
  • 12 tribes of Israel 
  • 12 Apostles of Jesus, 
  • 12  successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, 
  • 12  signs of the Zodiac, 
  • 12  years of the Buddhist cycle, etc., 
whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. 
There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table results in the death of one of the diners.
Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century's The Canterbury Tales, and many other professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects.
Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on the Friday before Easter.

One author, noting that references are all but nonexistent before 1907 but frequently seen thereafter, has argued that its popularity derives from the publication that year of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, in which an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

Records of the superstition are rarely found before the 20th century, when it became extremely common. The connection between the Friday the 13th superstition and the Knights Templar was popularized in Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and in John J. Robinson's 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. 
On Friday, 13 October 1307, hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested in France, an action apparently motivated financially and undertaken by the efficient royal bureaucracy to increase the prestige of the crown. Philip IV was the force behind this ruthless move, but it has also tarnished the historical reputation of Clement V. From the very day of Clement V's coronation, the king falsely charged the Templars with heresy, immorality and abuses, and the scruples of the Pope were compromised by a growing sense that the burgeoning French State might not wait for the Church, but would proceed independently.

Phobia names and etymology
The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom "Friday" is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia  a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen") attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning "fear"). The latter word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.

Tuesday the 13th
In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. 
The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war. A connection can be seen in the etymology of the name in some European languages (Mardi in French or martes in Spanish). 
The fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13, 1204 and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday. 
In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti (Τρίτη) meaning literally the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to "come in threes".

Social impact
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed
"It's been estimated that [US]$800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day". Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.

Friday the 13th - Infograph