Category Archives: Music

History of Immigrants and the Polish Music Scene

We have whole books filled with stories of Poles’ achievements abroad, but we know far less about the foreigners who had input in creating Polish culture. It may seem like everybody was leaving Poland, starting from the Great Emigration in the first half of 19th century and finishing in March 1968. However, the canon of Polish popular music was created not only by Poles and Jews, but also by refugees from neighbouring countries, economic migrants and people who accidentally ended up in Poland and decided to stay. Here are a few of their stories.

“Because it’s a negro playing!”
The history of Polish jazz did not start with underground jam sessions in the period of Stalinism, but on the dancefloors of fashionable clubs in the interwar period, where swing ruled. While some enjoyed the ‘psychosis of dance’, others complained about ‘jazz-banditry’ and ‘wild negro weed’ (specifically Kornel Makuszyński, who hated jazz). Sam Salvano’s success is proof that audiences were not convinced by what the conservative critics said. Salvano was primarily a drummer, but he also tap-danced and sang in five languages – no wonder that at the opening of the renowned Adria club in Warsaw, he was the star of the show. But even though he was from Congo, the posters said ‘straight from New York’.

Salvano performed with Karasiński’s and Kataszek’s orchestra, considered the first true Polish jazz band because they did not strictly play music from the US but rather focused on improvisation. The orchestra launched their career at Warsaw’s clubs, then went on the road and conquered Polish dancefloors and resorts. They then went on an international tour, first to Europe, then the Middle East, before going all the way to India. Their popularity becomes clear when we remember the fact that they were hired for a campaign to promote Indian, the American motorcycle brand.Foreigners performing with the orchestra also included Hungarian guitarist Imre Berta, American saxophonist Henry Nattan, and multi-instrumentalist Georg Scott, who was formerly a part of another pioneer ensemble founded by Henryk Gold. Scott was born in Tbilisi to a leading African-American oilman and a Pole from Sweden. He was also active as a musician during the war. He had American citizenship so German orders and decrees were not applicable to him. For example, he was allowed to have a radio, which was used by his colleagues from the Home Army and jazz enthusiasts.nother black musician who settled by the Vistula river before the war was August Agbola O’Brown. He was born in Nigeria and came to Poland in 1922 from London through the Free City of Danzig. He was a drummer in bars, first in Kraków before he decided to move to Warsaw. During the war he was part of the resistance: he helped people escape from the ghetto, distributed underground press, and took part in the Warsaw Uprising as part of the ‘Iwo’ battalion (his alias was Ali). After the Second World War, he continued to play music. The band he played with would promote themselves as a ‘black orchestra’.

The Effects of Music on Pain

Abstract
Background:
Numerous meta-analyses have been conducted on the topic of music and pain, with the latest comprehensive study published in 2006. Since that time, more than 70 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been published, necessitating a new and comprehensive review.

Objective:
The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine published RCT studies investigating the effect of music on pain.

Methods:
The present study included RCTs published between 1995 and 2014. Studies were obtained by searching 12 databases and hand-searching related journals and reference lists. Main outcomes were pain intensity, emotional distress from pain, vital signs, and amount of analgesic intake. Study quality was evaluated according to the Cochrane Collaboration guidelines.

Results:
Analysis of the 97 included studies revealed that music interventions had statistically significant effects in decreasing pain on 0–10 pain scales (MD = –1.13), other pain scales (SMD = –0.39), emotional distress from pain (MD = –10.83), anesthetic use (SMD = –0.56), opioid intake (SMD = –0.24), non-opioid intake (SMD = –0.54), heart rate (MD = –4.25), systolic blood pressure (MD = –3.34), diastolic blood pressure (MD = –1.18), and respiration rate (MD = –1.46). Subgroup and moderator analyses yielded additional clinically informative outcomes.

Conclusions:
Considering all the possible benefits, music interventions may provide an effective complementary approach for the relief of acute, procedural, and cancer/chronic pain in the medical setting.

Introduction
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP, 1994), pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” This definition implies that how one understands and uses the word “pain” is influenced by his or her multilayered physical, psychological, social, and cultural experiences associated with unpleasant stimuli or injuries from the past.

Pain can be classified as procedural, acute, or chronic (Allen, 2013). Procedural pain occurs when medical procedures result in tissue and/or nerve damage. Sharp and sudden pain not caused by medical procedures is called acute pain, which is often associated with a single treatable event of injury or illness that can usually be managed within seven days (American Society for Pain Management Nursing [ASPMN], 2010). Chronic pain, also known as persistent pain, lasts longer than the anticipated duration of healing (ASPMN, 2010), and occurs continuously or intermittently with or without a known cause. According to the American Pain Society (2006), cancer-related pain is classified as a type of chronic pain with further sub-classification.

Inclusion Criteria
Included trials were limited to randomized controlled trials (RCT) published between 1995 and 2014 in English, German, Korean, and Japanese. Studies from the past two decades were chosen, because clinical trials from more recent years are considered higher quality in their methodology and reporting style (Tsai et al., 2014). The language restriction was applied due to the limited resources available to the author.

Music Is Violence

In December, 1989, the Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was expelled from power by American forces. To escape capture, he took refuge in the Papal Nunciatura in Panama City. When an American general arrived to confer with the papal nuncio, the U.S. Army blared music from loudspeakers to prevent journalists from eavesdropping. Members of a psychological-operations unit then decided that non-stop music might aggravate Noriega into surrendering. They made requests for songs on the local armed-forces radio station, and directed the din at Noriega’s window. The dictator was thought to prefer opera, and so hard rock dominated the playlist. The songs conveyed threatening, sometimes mocking messages: Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

Although the media delighted in the spectacle, President George H. W. Bush and General Colin Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took a dim view of it. Bush called the campaign “irritating and petty,” and Powell had it stopped. Noriega, who had received psy­ops training at Fort Bragg in the nineteen-sixties, is said to have slept soundly through the clamor. Nonetheless, military and law-enforcement officials became convinced that they had stumbled on a valuable tactic. “Since the Noriega incident, you’ve been seeing an increased use of loudspeakers,” a psyops spokesman declared. During the siege of the Branch Davidian compound, in Waco, Texas, in 1993, the F.B.I. blasted music and noise day and night. When Palestinian militants occupied the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, in 2002, Israeli forces reportedly tried to eject them with heavy metal. And during the occupation of Iraq the C.I.A. added music to the torture regime known as “enhanced interrogation.” At Guantánamo, detainees were stripped to their underwear, shackled to chairs, and blinded by strobe lights as heavy metal, rap, and children’s tunes assaulted their ears. Music has accompanied acts of war since trumpets sounded at the walls of Jericho, but in recent decades it has been weaponized as never before—outfitted for the unreal landscape of modern battle.

The intersection of music and violence has inspired a spate of academic studies. On my desk is a bleak stack of books examining torture and harassment, the playlists of Iraq War soldiers and interrogators, musical tactics in American crime-prevention efforts, sonic cruelties inflicted in the Holocaust and other genocides, the musical preferences of Al Qaeda militants and neo-Nazi skinheads. There is also a new translation, by Matthew Amos and Fredrick Rönnbäck, of Pascal Quignard’s 1996 book, “The Hatred of Music” (Yale), which explores age-old associations between music and barbarity.

When music is applied to warlike ends, we tend to believe that it has been turned against its innocent nature. To quote the standard platitudes, it has charms to soothe a savage breast; it is the food of love; it brings us together and sets us free. We resist evidence suggesting that music can cloud reason, stir rage, cause pain, even kill. Footnoted treatises on the dark side of music are unlikely to sell as well as the cheery pop-science books that tout music’s ability to make us smarter, happier, and more productive. Yet they probably bring us closer to the true function of music in the evolution of human civilization.

SHORT FILMS ARE OVERTAKING MUSIC VIDEOS

Once upon a time, there was a period in our lives when the release of a brand spankin’ new music video (in TRL terms) from one of our favorite artists was a legitimate event, one that would often lead to iconic moments that were thus ingrained in our brain forever. The music video was the medium where artists and their chosen collaborators could give visual life to the song, focusing on its meaning or creative inspirations, while simultaneously vying for the success of the single.

Nowadays, though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a music video that prioritizes artistic aspirations over commercial performance. More and more videos have flat concepts that are just aesthetically appealing enough for the average person to stream it once and get the song lodged in their heads. Artistic vision and innovativeness are just not essential anymore. But not all artists are falling for this trap, instead focusing on a new medium to execute their creative vision.

Now more than ever, musicians have been making short films in order to promote their projects. This format allows them to hone in on their artistic vision more than a normal music video is able to do, without having to worry quite as much about commercial appeal. Artists can come up with full-fledged plot lines, construct more elaborate settings, give breathtaking performances, and create groundbreaking visuals inspired by their song or album, with the longer length of a short film giving their vision true justice.

In 2016 alone, Beyoncé, Florence + the Machine, and most recently, Drake, have released short films for their latest albums which completely redefine the music video and the purpose they serve. While they are still inevitably used as a promotional tool for the music, their respective short films have allowed them more room to create striking visuals, establish emotional depth, and cause unprecedented cultural impact.Beyoncé’s Emmy-nominated Lemonade is the shining example of this trend, a suspenseful look at the destruction and reformation of a sacred marriage, and an eye-opening celebration of black women in society. The incredible visual settings and emotional resonance of these messages have caused the film to permeate our culture in the way of a significant music video, spawning its own memes and catchphrases while placing emphasis on the emotional effects of cheating. Lemonade shows a vulnerable, broken Beyoncé building back her confidence and security, exposing a rarely seen side of the legendary pop phenom, something which could not be justly shown in a music video.

Benefits of Music Education

Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.

More Than Just Music
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.
Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.
“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Language Development
“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

Music Can Change Your Brain

There’s little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.
Science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

Many parents probably read the above sentence and started mentally Google-ing child music classes in their local area. But if your kid doesn’t like learning an instrument or doesn’t actively engage in the class–opting to stare at the wall or doodle in a notebook instead of participating–he or she may not be getting all the benefits of those classes anyway.A new study from Northwestern University revealed that in order to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, kids can’t just sit there and let the sound of music wash over them. They have to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class. “Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training,” said Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, in an email to TIME. She co-authored the study with Jane Hornickel, Dana L. Strait, Jessica Slater and Elaine Thompson of Northwestern University.

Additionally, the study showed that students who played instruments in class had more improved neural processing than the children who attended the music appreciation group. “We like to say that ‘making music matters,’” said Kraus. “Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.”Kraus, whose research appeared today in Frontiers in Psychology, continued: “Our results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain.” Active participation and meaningful engagement translate into children being highly involved in their musical training–these are the kids who had good attendance, who paid close attention in class, “and were the most on-task during their lesson,” said Kraus.

To find these results, Kraus’s team went straight to the source, hooking up strategically placed electrode wires on the students’ heads to capture the brain’s responses.

Kraus’s team at Northwestern has teamed up with The Harmony Project, a community music program serving low-income children in Los Angeles, after Harmony’s founder approached Kraus to provide scientific evidence behind the program’s success with students.

Music as medicine

The beep of ventilators and infusion pumps, the hiss of oxygen, the whir of carts and the murmur of voices as physicians and nurses make rounds — these are the typical noises a premature infant hears spending the first days of life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). While the sounds of such life-saving equipment are tough to mute, a new study suggests that some sounds, such as lullabies, may soothe pre-term babies and their parents, and even improve the infants’ sleeping and eating patterns, while decreasing parents’ stress (Pediatrics, 2013).

Researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine conducted the study, which included 272 premature babies 32 weeks gestation or older in 11 mid-Atlantic NICUs. They examined the effects of three types of music: a lullaby selected and sung by the baby’s parents; an “ocean disc,” a round instrument, invented by the Remo drum company, that mimics the sounds of the womb; and a gato box, a drum-like instrument used to simulate two-tone heartbeat rhythms. The two instruments were played live by certified music therapists, who matched their music to the babies’ breathing and heart rhythms.

The researchers found that the gato box, the Remo ocean disc and singing all slowed a baby’s heart rate, although singing was the most effective. Singing also increased the amount of time babies stayed quietly alert, and sucking behavior improved most with the gato box, while the ocean disc enhanced sleep. The music therapy also lowered the parents’ stress, says Joanne Loewy, the study’s lead author, director of the Armstrong center and co-editor of the journal Music and Medicine.

“There’s just something about music — particularly live music — that excites and activates the body,” says Loewy, whose work is part of a growing movement of music therapists and psychologists who are investigating the use of music in medicine to help patients dealing with pain, depression and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. “Music very much has a way of enhancing quality of life and can, in addition, promote recovery.”
While music has long been recognized as an effective form of therapy to provide an outlet for emotions, the notion of using song, sound frequencies and rhythm to treat physical ailments is a relatively new domain, says psychologist Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal. A wealth of new studies is touting the benefits of music on mental and physical health. For example, in a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Levitin and his postgraduate research fellow, Mona Lisa Chanda, PhD, found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013).

Music on the Brain

It’s hard to exaggerate the effect music can have on the human brain. A mere snippet of song from the past can trigger memories as vivid as anything Proust experienced from the aroma of his petite madeleine. A tune can induce emotions ranging from unabashed joy to deep sorrow and can drive listeners into states of patriotic fervor or religious frenzy–to say nothing of its legendary ability to soothe the savage beast.

Yet in spite of music’s remarkable influence on the human psyche, scientists have spent little time attempting to understand why it possesses such potency. “We tend to think of music as an art or a cultural attribute,” notes Robert Zatorre, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, “but it is a complex human behavior that is as worthy of scientific study as any other.”

That’s why Zatorre helped organize a conference, “The Biological Foundations of Music,” sponsored last week by the New York Academy of Sciences, at which experts in disciplines ranging from neuroscience and neurology to brain imaging and psychology met to exchange notes about what’s known–and, more important, what remains to be learned–in this small but growing field.

What seems clear is that the ability to experience and react to music is deeply embedded in the biology of the nervous system. While music tends to be processed mostly in the right hemisphere of the brain, no single set of cells is devoted to the task. Different networks of neurons are activated, depending on whether a person is listening to music or playing an instrument, and whether or not the music involves lyrics.

Specific brain disorders can affect the perception of music in very specific ways. Experiments done on epileptics decades ago showed that stimulating certain areas of the temporal lobe on both sides of the brain awakened “musical memories”–vivid re-creations of melodies that the patients had heard years earlier. Lesions in the temporal lobe can result in so-called musicogenic epilepsy, an extremely rare form of the disorder in which seizures are triggered by the sound of music. Autism offers an even greater puzzle. People with this condition are mentally deficient, yet most are proficient musicians; some are “musical savants” possessed of extraordinary talent.

The opposite is true of the less than 1% of the population who suffer from amusia, or true tone deafness. They literally cannot recognize a melody, let alone tell two of them apart, and they are incapable of repeating a song (although they think they are doing it correctly). Even simple, familiar tunes such as Frere Jacques and Happy Birthday are mystifying to amusics, but when the lyrics are spoken rather than sung, amusics are able to recognize the song immediately.

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.