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How Music Conveys Emotion A bit more serious comment about Adele and her music

#1 User is offline   DannyDep Icon

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 11:55 PM

After reading Dan Levitin's books "This Is Your Brain On Music" and "The World In Six Songs" I joined his Facebook page.
This was posted today.

The podcast talks about what science has found that makes us humans become emotional when we hear music.
He uses Adele's "Someone Like You" as one of the examples.
I found it interesting enough that i thought it was worth putting up here.
Enjoy :)

How Music Conveys Emotion
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#2 User is offline   scubed Icon

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 02:21 PM

Thanks for the link - very interesting podcast!

I enjoyed both of those books - it may be time to go back an re-read them.
"First we sing, then we understand." -- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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#3 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 03:15 PM

"This Is Your Brain On Music" is still on my list of books I haven't yet got around to reading - just as Adele is another contemporary artist I haven't got around to listening to (but so far I really like her anyway)).

One bit that stayed in my head from the podcast (thanks, Danny) is where Levitin described a spot midway between boredom and surprise as the "Goldilocks zone".... and then they played a Bill Evans track. Beautiful. Made me wonder, if the model is true, why we don't have more people heavily into jazz - the sound of surprise, of tension and release - and why most people in fact prefer to plump for the reassurance of the familiar.

Anyway - here's more news:
Psychologist Dr Gary Marcus used a sabbatical to learn the guitar and then wrote a book about the process.
He's tslking about it right now on my radio. If you go here (http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/) and scroll to the bottom, you can listen or download the broadcast.
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#4 User is offline   DannyDep Icon

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 02:10 PM

Hi Lazz,
Looks like they're seasoning Adele for the American market.
I saw her on a local Public Broadcasting station's show called the Artist's Den last night.
Two things about it. First, I like the idea of these programs where you can get an better idea of the artist and their work.
Second, at least this show, showed bare bones stripped down arrangements of her songs with only keyboard and/or guitar accompaniment.
It reminded me of the old Unplugged PBS shows. I like that.

Yeah, I liked that Goldilocks comment and glad he used a Bill Evans example as well.
Your question as to, "...why we don't have more people heavily into jazz?" should be a completely stand alone topic.
My gut tells me that too many of us may think (wrongly) that jazz is some kind of highfalutin esoteric exercise in musical appreciation.
To me, jazz is (coming close to what my buddy SimpleSimon addressed in an early topic) not pure but a more raw form of music.
It is a less cerebral and more spiritual expression of sound based on whatever or wherever we are in the then hear and now. (Oops, I think my stream-of-unconsciousness is showing).
I hope I'm getting my point across.
For example, I can hear a Miles Davis tune and I admit that i have no idea where he's coming from.
But that's okay because I have other jazz artists whom i love to listen to and feel totally affected by their musical interpretations.
Just like any other kinds of music, some people love it and some don't.

As for your comment, "...the reassurance of the familiar." perhaps it is due to the fact that the world that we currently live in is not celebrating the individual but rather the conventional.
Everything has to be homogeneous and salable to a broader market. But again, that deserves another separate topic.

Thanks for the link. I had a listen to Dr. Marcus' broadcast.
I disagree about his comments that language is instinctual to learn and somehow it is different than learning music.
I use Victor Wooten's book, "The Music Lesson" as support.
In it Mr. Wooten says that we, as children, can learn music just as we learn language.
If music is part of our home environment, that is, it is heard for long periods during the day and night, we would learn music just as we do language,
by hearing our parents speaking to one another and to us children.

I do agree with his assertions that talent exists and that some people show an aptitude towards music or any other skill for that matter better than others.
I was glad to hear that we (adults?) can still grow new neurons in the brain.
He was also talking about the idea that adults can't learn as well as children.
One thing he does mention that gets in the way of us adults not having the ability to learn as quickly as a child is that we build up these walls of having parents, teachers, etc. tell us that we can't do this or that.
We are too self-conscious. I was listening to a recent podcast from Sting in his stating why it was much easier to write songs during an earlier period in his life.
He said that now if he writes a song, he is so analytical about it, that he talks himself out of finishing a song. Whereas, in his younger days that notion wouldn't have even entered his mind.

He does bring up a good point in looking for a music teacher in understanding what the student's needs are and working around those kinds of attributes.

I understand your observation where Dr. Levitin's comments are very similar to Dr. Marcus' regarding what gets a listener to listen to your song, that Goldilocks affect.
It involves having a phrase or what have you that is both familiar and yet novel at the same time.
In the words of Arte Johnson from the 70s comedy show, Laugh In, veeeerrrrry interesting. ;)
Whoa! :blink: I've said way too much already.
Thank you for the link.
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#5 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

DannyDep said:

wherever we are in the hear and now.

Nice!

Quote

I had a listen to Dr. Marcus' broadcast.
I disagree about his comments that language is instinctual to learn and somehow it is different than learning music.

The broadcast had only just begun as I typed my previous post. Had I heard it first, I probably would have never introduced it to your thread. There were many assertions which I thought had been postulated just far too uncritically - your example being perhaps the most blatant. There is, in fact, much argument supporting the notion that music (singing) actually preceded language and, as such, is an evolutionary adaptation. Having just read two books by a choral scholar and ethnomusicologist from Georgia (the country, not the state) of how this idea shakes out in terms of the "out-of-Africa" theory across the vocal styles which echo the legacy of that journey, I have to say those ideas seem to have a lot of legs to stand up on and travel as well as kick holes through what the doctor stated on the show.

I was hoping to hear more of Marcus's discoveries about learning process - he is an educationalist, after all - but I guess for that I would need to read the book. Sadly, after hearing him talk such bollocks, however nicely, that has become highly unlikely.

Quote

He does bring up a good point in looking for a music teacher in understanding what the student's needs are and working around those kinds of attributes.

Finding the right teacher is crucial, in my opinion. Saves a load of wasted time on wheel re-invention, for example, and helps you get where you're headed much more effectively. And the rest is practice. But too often we are captured by the romantic ideal which elevates inspiration over mere expertise.
Hip Pocket Music

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and the second best to sing them"

Hillaire Belloc

“SONG is the joint art of words and music, two arts under emotional pressure coalescing into a third.
The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#6 User is offline   DannyDep Icon

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 08:47 PM

View PostLazz, on 19 February 2012 - 03:56 PM, said:

............
Having just read two books by a choral scholar and ethnomusicologist from Georgia (the country, not the state) of how this idea shakes out in terms of the "out-of-Africa" theory across the vocal styles which echo the legacy of that journey, I have to say those ideas seem to have a lot of legs to stand up on and travel as well as kick holes through what the doctor stated on the show.

I'm not trying to kick any holes through the doctor's comments, certainly not from someone with his credentials.
It's just that I'm seeing it from a different perspective.

Quote

............
But too often we are captured by the romantic ideal which elevates inspiration over mere expertise.
Yeah it also elevates inspiration over perspiration as well. ;)
Not enough Blood, Sweat & Tears, if you ask me. :blink:
I liked that group a lot. :P
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#7 User is offline   ScenesFromPalacio Icon

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:10 PM

Quote

We are too self-conscious. I was listening to a recent podcast from Sting in his stating why it was much easier to write songs during an earlier period in his life.
He said that now if he writes a song, he is so analytical about it, that he talks himself out of finishing a song. Whereas, in his younger days that notion wouldn't have even entered his mind.


And he was a far better-more effective songwriter in his younger days than he is now..I'd say thats his fault n his choice..It dosn't have to be that way..Its prob him taking his eye off the ball for so long he's forgotten how to just allow the music thru him freely like he did in his young days..

All great -even good- music is instinctive...Any theory and intellectual knowlege has to be a servant of that else you're gonna be pretty ineffectual,boring n dull..

Even a master technician like Beethoven was primarily driven by his emotional life to write..You don't create a timeless hook like Du-Du-Du-Durrrr on 2 notes by intellectualising about it lol

#8 User is offline   jonie Icon

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 07:22 PM

The battle between inspiration and intellect. I think there's a balance but it remains somewhat elusive to me. I have great inspiration but also a too active intellect and an irrational sense of needing to rationalize :) often leading to trampling the inspired bits into the dust.

Life experience and the emotions associated with it come out fairly stripped down and a bit more nonsensical than my orderly mind is willing to leave be. When I introduce the gray matter, as I can't resist doing, it can lead to a song or lyric lacking in emotional universality or so clever and well crafted it's appreciated only for it's form.

Not to say that unfettered inspiration and emotional honesty don't need to be reined in a bit but only up to a point and it seems that the more a person has experienced and processed, the more damage to the wonderful and original idea is likely to be done. (Sting's dilemma perhaps)

The challenge, I think, is in how to maintain an appreciation for the unique and quirky elements of the curious child as the reasonable adult is assessing its behavior. I think it's crucial in the quest to know when to "leave well enough alone."

I've either got a long way to go or I've been there and can't hope to return again. I'm much better these days at writing in way that manipulates an emotional reaction than I am a way that brings it forth honestly.

I continue hoping the music and vocals will make up for the lack of emotional purity in my lyrics.

I think the older we get, the more skilled we become. But what are we (I) possibly giving up in the bargain?

Sorry, probably went a bit off topic, here.
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#9 User is offline   Simple Simon Icon

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:32 AM

View Postjonie, on 23 February 2012 - 12:22 PM, said:

The battle between inspiration and intellect. I think there's a balance but it remains somewhat elusive to me. I have great inspiration but also a too active intellect and an irrational sense of needing to rationalize :) often leading to trampling the inspired bits into the dust.
I could identify with a lot in your post, Jonie; and I think it was entirely on topic.
The type of paralysis-by-analysis you speak of has long been, I think, a large factor in my own relatively meagre output.

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