Monthly Archives: October 2017

Benefits Of Listening To Music

Music is a major part of our lives. The average person listens to it on a daily basis. From car rides home, to intense workouts in the gym, or even the tunes that play in the movies and TV shows we watch—we encounter music regularly. Most people enjoy listening to music and often state that they can’t live without it. But why is that?

Aside from the general pleasures music brings, it also provides several health benefits that many are unaware of.

1. Helps with exercising
Have you ever wondered why there is always music playing in the gym or why people can’t go on runs without their headphone? Simply put, music serves as the motivation to work out harder. It is also shown that listening to those top workout tracks can increase endurance during a tough exercise session. USA Today explains this works partly through the power of distraction: When we’re focusing on a favorite album, we may not notice that we just ran an extra mile.

2. Improves sleep quality
Listening to music has been shown to treat insomnia, especially in college students. Low and soft music works just as well as sleep-inducing medication. Research has found that listening to music at various times promotes better sleep patterns for people and even creates more restful sleep.

3. Decreases stress and anxiety
Are you ever worried or anxious about something and don’t know what to do? Listening to music with a low and slow tempo, or just instrumental, can calm people down, even during highly stressful or painful events.

4. May help with memory
When studying or doing homework, do you ever find yourself bobbing your head to some music? An article in the Huffington Post explains that music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, a chemical in the brain that gives you a feeling of rush, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory.

5. Relieves symptoms of depression and elevates mood
If you are ever feeling down and depressed, music may be the perfect cure. Studies show that music helps put people in a better mood and gets them in touch with their feelings. Study participants rated “arousal and mood regulation” and “self-awareness” as the two most important benefits of listening to music.

Whether you realized it or not, listening to your favorite songs while walking to class, coming from work, or right before bed provides your mind and body with much more than the enjoyment of the songs; it also has several health benefits to go along with it. So keep on listening! Music is a vital part of human life.

Music Changes the Way

Hum the first two notes of “The Simpsons” theme song. (If you’re not a Simpsons fan, “Maria” from West Side Story will also do.) The musical interval you’re hearing—the pitch gap between the notes—is known as a “tritone,” and it’s commonly recognized in music theory as one of the most dissonant intervals, so much so that composers and theorists in the 18th century dubbed it diabolus in musica (“devil in music”).

Now hum the first few notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or, if you prefer something with a little more street cred, the “I’m sorry” part in Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson.” This is the “perfect fifth.” It’s one of the most consonant intervals, used in myriad compositions as a vehicle of resolution and harmony.

Is it possible that hearing such isolated musical components can change the way you think? An ambitious new paper recently published by Jochim Hansen and Johann Melzner in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology argues precisely that. The researchers brought pedestrians into a laboratory and played them a short, stripped-down piece of music consisting of a series of alternating chords. Some people heard chords including the tritone; others the perfect fifth. A couple other tweaks were also made: in the tritone condition, the chords were played slowly—only once every four-beat measure—while in the perfect fifth condition, the chords went by rapidly, sounding every beat. Further, a “reverberation” effect was added such that the tritone chords sounded like they were being played in a cavernous cave and the perfect fifth chords in a carpeted closet.

What the scientists found is that the simple act listening to either of these two chord sets changed how people processed information in a very basic way. For example, the researchers asked people to take a list of shopping items and organize them into groups. Think detergent and paper towels: same kind of thing, or different? Results showed that “tritone” people formed fewer categories than “perfect fifth” people, indicating that they were thinking in broader, more inclusive categories than their counterparts.

In a separate measure, the scientists asked people to imagine buying one of two imaginary toasters. These toasters varied in what is known as “aggregated” versus “individualized” information. Do you know how on Amazon.com you can learn the average star rating of a given item? This is aggregated information; it’s pooled from a wide range of sources. Individualized information, by contrast, would be the customer reviews that appear at the bottom of the page. Which do you pay more attention to when these give conflicting messages—when, say, the aggregated information is largely negative but there is a single glowing customer review? Turns out that people who are exposed to “tritone”-type music samples are more likely to be swayed by aggregated information, and “fifth” people by the reverse.

5 Years of The House Presents

Salon-style multi-genre music events have been cropping up across Dublin, following the lead of the enormously successful Kaleidoscope Night. Current trends are taking this model and moving towards not just multi-genre but multi-disciplinary events: Listen at Arthur’s on Thomas Street has featured poetry readings and video footage alongside its central musical performances; Phonica at Jack Nealon’s on Capel Street has combined experimental poetry and music; and Staccato in Toner’s on Baggot Street focuses on spoken word supported by music.

These events all have two things in common – their dedication to presenting a combination of acts not normally seen together, and their setting, usually small bar or lounge spaces without formal staging and with an ‘intimate’ atmosphere. The line between participants and spectators is softened if not dissolved. In this way, city-centre venues try to replicate the feel and closeness of a small community gathering or a local session.
Where the artist and the audience are equal
The House Presents, established in 2012, brings this same atmosphere out of the city centre to a smaller, closer community. Annesley House, the bar that has hosted these monthly events for the past five years in North Strand in Dublin, is cold and bare with bright, moodless lighting, a functional if pleasant drinking hall that does not feel conducive to intimate music-making; but go up the stairs – cold and smelling strongly of the open smoking area – and you step into a room that doesn’t seem so far away in mood from the Odessa Club (where Kaleidoscope began). Upstairs at Annesley House is an inviting candlelit space with cabaret seating, warm red drapes and a small corner stage, even a cabaret-style electronic sign complete with white light-bulb border.

A lighting installation, designed by Jane Daly and Matt Dee, accompanies each event, reflecting the acts performing, creating an atmosphere and preparing the audience for what they are about to experience. Audience experience is close to the heart of The House Presents. ‘We try to create something where the artist and the audience are equal,’ explains Paula Lonergan, one of the organisers of the events alongside Nathalie Cazaux. At one of the events, last October, the lighting installation was low-key but effective: hanging on the drapes behind the stage were small clear plastic boxes containing small sculptures, illuminated in bright colours. While they usually prefer to find some common thread in the experience acts are offering, Paula described this event as more festive – ‘a bit of a mish-mash’ celebrating their return after the summer break – which was reflected in these playful light-boxes.

While the mix of acts that evening was likewise colourful, their progression throughout the evening felt a little jarring and disjointed. With a kind of accelerate-then-brake pacing, the acts drew you in close and pushed you away in rapid shifts of tempo that could easily have been alienating. However, there was a kind of hypnotic fascination to this that kept me willing to stay on board.

Defense of Rebecca Black

There’s a pretty good chance that you are one of the 63-million-plus (and counting) people who have watched 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s video version of “Friday,” a three-minute pop number recorded in January and posted on YouTube earlier this month. Rebecca Black is a California middle school student, not a professional singer, and “Friday” was written by two men who own a vanity recording studio in Los Angeles where, for $2,000, Rebecca Black’s parents paid for a video of their daughter performing the song. The Black family expected friends and relatives to see “Friday” on YouTube, and that was about it.

Until a show about the Internet called Tosh.0 offered a bilious review entitled “Songwriting Isn’t for Everyone” on March 11, and Rebecca Black, in the manner of modern social media, went viral. Within days, “Friday” had been seen by hundreds of thousands, and then tens of millions, of viewers. Song and singer have been the subject of coverage in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Forbes, and innumerable other outlets. And like the nearly one million comments posted (thus far) on YouTube, the reaction to Rebecca Black and “Friday” has been almost uniformly hostile. “Friday” has been described as “hilariously dreadful” and “the worst song ever,” and one typical YouTube comment suggested to Rebecca Black that she “cut yourself [and] get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty.”

I confess that I had heard of neither “Friday” nor Rebecca Black until they were well on their way to household status last week, but not wanting to be hopelessly behind the curve, I immediately tuned in. My immediate reaction was surprise—but of a slightly different order than the standard response.

“Friday” is a banal pop song which counts down the days of the school week until Friday which, of course, anticipates the weekend. Rebecca Black bounces amiably around various scenes—sometimes by herself, but usually not—and in the song’s only deviation from chronology, she is obliged to choose between sitting in the front or back seat of a friend’s convertible. The music is repetitive—the same notes, chords, and sequences are endlessly repeated at brief intervals—and Rebecca Black’s voice has been altered by Auto-Tune, presumably to stay on key. This gives her delivery a characteristically metallic quality which, combined with the song’s Twitter-quality lyrics (Fun, fun, fun, fun/Lookin’ forward to the weekend), has scraped a sensitive nerve in cyberspace.

Now, I would be the first to admit that “Friday” is not my kind of song, and whatever genre it represents is not my favorite music. I might also mention that, in my 61st year, I am old enough to be Rebecca Black’s grandfather. But while I am willing to accept the judgment of those who think “Friday” is dreadful—to each his own, no accounting for taste, etc.—I fail to grasp how it is self-evidently “the worst song ever,” or “bizarre,” and why this of all songs, and Rebecca Black of all pop warblers, have been singled out for universal Internet obloquy. Indeed, after the initial over-reaction, some observers (Entertainment Weekly, OK!) have conceded that, all things considered, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” does have a certain hypnotic charm.

No one would mistake Fun, fun, fun, fun/Lookin’ forward to the weekend for Cole Porter, but how much worse is it than Fun, fun, fun/Till her daddy takes the T-bird away? One observer of pop culture, whose opinion I respect, reminds me that the problem with “Friday” is “the totality. Note how completely literal the video is. She sings something as she does it.” And I cannot disagree. But no songwriter was more literal than, say, Irving Berlin (Oh, I love to go out fishing/In a river or a creek), and one of the traumatic memories of my own youth is the numbingly repetitive, multi-million-selling “Saturday Night” (1976) by the Bay City Rollers (Do it all, have a ball/Saturday night, Saturday night).