Thursday, 19 November 2009

Music and Its Origins

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body
A book written perhaps with the linguist Steven Pinker in mind who in 1997 stated that music in evolutionary terms was in fact "useless".  The author Steven Mithen challenges this assertion of Pinker and argues that ......." music has been neglected if not ignored.  Like language it is a universal feature of human culture, one that is a permanent fixture in our daily lives. " ........ MORE

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Music And The Imagination

Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

An informative and an introduction to what is music and how and why it affects us..... Robert Jourdain explores these topics and others, ..... " from the essential nature of sound through composition, performance, and, finally, the nature of ecstasy "  ....... MORE

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

How Much Emotion and Meaning Is There In Music ?

 Emotion and Meaning In Music

"Emotion and Meaning in Music " by Leonard B. Meyer  ........ A thought provoking book which   "Analyzes the meaning expressed in music, the social and psychological sources of meaning, and the methods of musical communication"  ....... MORE

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Timeless of Rock Music

Study Finds Rock Music Popularity On Rise

Yes, rock music is the most popular music in the USA according a report by the Pew Research Center released in August.

“Nearly 35 percent of respondents to the survey said they listen to rock often, and another 30 percent said they listened sometimes, which beats out six other musical genres tested in the survey: country, rhythm and blues, hip-hop, classical, jazz and salsa” ....... MORE

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Human Communication

The Importance Of Non-Verbal Communication

Human communication to me means both verbal and non-verbal communication. Often when people first hear the word communication they immediately think of verbal communication, that is speaking and writing. Often the non-verbal aspects of communication are only seen as of secondary importance.

In the human communicative process the non-verbal aspects of communication that is touch, eye contact, indirect body language cues, facial expressions and gestures and listening to what the other person is saying are of primary importance. Non-verbal cues or expressions are therefore an essential part of human communication and should not be ignored

If you try to communicate with someone by writing, on-line or over the telephone it is unlikely that you will to see the other person’s facial and bodily expressions. This means that you are never quite sure whether the communication process has been completely genuine.

Even when you are face-to-face with someone and you are the one who is doing most of the talking, it is unlikely that you are doing much listening. Without the ability to listen there can be no understanding and without understanding there can be no communication.

Monday, 15 June 2009

How Does 'Music' Exactly Differ From ‘Noise’ ?

The Psychological Significance of Music in Human Communication

Human beings throughout the ages have long considered music to have magical and mysterious qualities. Our primitive ancestors may have found music incomprehensible, perhaps they sensed it as only a series of sounds that expressed moods, threats or order from the spirits that constantly surrounded them. Music nevertheless was a vehicle by which our primitive ancestors were able to communicate direct with the spirits that occupied the outer and invisible world in which they lived.

The Babylonians and the Ancient Greeks try to create a structure on these ‘musical sounds’. In this structure, sound was related to that of the cosmos through an elaborate mathematical conception of sound vibrations connected with numbers and astrology.

As time went by humankind relationship to music slowly changes. No longer was it a means to communicate with the spirits, a threatening force or had supernatural qualities. Music became a vehicle by which human beings were now in personal communication with the deity, one that was a harmonious relationship with God.

Finally it was recognised that music was a medium by which human beings could communicate with their fellow human beings and help to strengthen the bonds of understanding between one another.

Music over the centuries has therefore been looked on as a power that could change and affect humans in a fascinating sort of way. So what exactly is in music that can produce these extraordinary effects on humans? In addition, one needs also ask how 'music' exactly differs from ‘noise’.

If we care to look for a purely scientific analysis explanation of these questions, we are offered the following. Music consists of vibrations in the air or a combination of vibrations that remain constant long enough for the air to be able distinguish them as units in other words as ‘notes’. Noise on the other hand may contain the same vibrations but can only be sustained for a short time. In other words the human ear does not have the opportunity to characterise or distinguish this combination of vibrations as‘notes’.

Does the scientific analysis explanation of music tell us anything about the psychological significance of music in human communication? Cannot music be ‘noise’ and ‘noise’ ‘music’?
I suppose it all down to one's cultural environment !

To decide whether a particular series of 'sounds' is 'noise' or whether it is 'music' is really down to the cultural environment it was created in. This has been the case ever since human beings first began to produce 'sounds'. The 'sounds' produced can only really be understood as 'music' from within the cultural environment from which these 'sounds' were created in. So to understand this 'music' one really needs be 'educated’ in the cultural environment in which it was created.

So 'noise' can be 'music' and 'music' can be 'noise', it all depends on the cultural environment it was created in and from the cultural environment the listener originate from.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Can You Really Become A Happier Person By Listening To Music ?

Music & Emotions: Can Music Really Make You a Happier Person?

The connection between music and emotions has been known since the days of the Ancient Egyptians. It was then taken up by the early Persians, Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, Israelites, and finally the Ancient Greeks, especially Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras. Can listening to music therefore make you happy? Well the act of listening and playing music does alter how our brain work which in turn has a knock-on affect on how our body work. It is only now the beneficial effects of listening to music are starting to be understood. When used in music therapy it helps to lessen anxiety and stress in patients and offers some relief of pain. Further it has a positive effects on mood and emotional states.
"Doctors now believe using music therapy in hospitals and nursing homes not only makes people feel better, but also makes them heal faster. And across the nation, medical experts are beginning to apply the new revelations about music’s impact on the brain to treating patients" ........ MORE

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Please Take Your Partners for the Communication Dance

Tips on Communication - Essential Skill For Success

It has been suggested that when two individuals try to communicate to each other they go into a state of ‘Hallucination’. This communication space therefore becomes a reality that it is not shared between the two individuals. Instead it is an hallucinating experience, which is actually shared between the two individuals. So if some misunderstanding does occur between two individuals one should not be surprised by this fact.

However do not despair, as there are some guidelines if followed correctly can improve the accuracy of your communication with another person.
“First, we should take into consideration that communicating is somewhat comparable to dancing. Both parties must be on the same tempo before they can start. One person cannot be waltzing while the other is doing the jitterbug.” MORE

Monday, 18 May 2009

Rock on Pythagoras and His Philosophy of Music

The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color

The Ancient Greeks owe much of their knowledge of the philosophic and therapeutic properties of music to the Egyptians. Plato even suggested that songs and poetry had existed among the Ancient Egyptians for ten thousand years or more and because of their elevated nature only gods or godlike beings could have composed them. It was here also that the ‘lyre’ was born, constructed it is said by a ‘god’.
[the lyre] "…….was regarded as the secret symbol of the human constitution, the body of the instrument representing the physical form, the strings the nerves, and the musician the spirit. Playing upon the nerves, the spirit thus created the harmonies of normal functioning, which, however, became discords if the nature of man were defiled.”
The early Persians, Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, Israelites, and Greeks used both vocal and instrumental music in religious ceremonies. It was nevertheless Pythagoras who showed the mathematical aspects of music and he is reputed for the discovery of the diatonic scale. The role harmony in music is an important feature of the Pythagorean philosophy of music
“To Pythagoras music was one of the dependencies of the divine science of mathematics, and its harmonies were inflexibly controlled by mathematical proportions.” ….. MORE

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A Sufi Festival Promotes Peace, Love and ReligiousTolerance Through Poetry, Music and Dance

Sufi festival in Fez promotes religious tolerance with music, dance

A Sufi Festival was recently held in Fez, Morocco. The aim of this festival was to promote peace, love and religious tolerance through the medium of poetry, music and dance. A noble aim and one to be encouraged, especially in a world where religious tolerance, peace and love seems to be in short supply.
"Artists pay homage to Sufism through poetry, music, and dance. Participants also demonstrate new art forms and cultural projects that foster intercultural dialogue and enhance human lives"............ More

Monday, 27 April 2009

What exactly is communicated between human beings?

The Psychology of Human Communication

What is the purpose of human communication ?

Is there a limit to what human beings can communicate to one another ?

What are direct and indirect methods forms of communication ?

What are the challenges facing human beings when communicating over long distances ?

These questions and more are explored further in the article below:

The Psychology of Communication by Saberi Roy

On the limits of the process of communication and the central role of interpretation

Communication is about using symbols and in case of humans, using language, to convey meanings and ideas between individuals and it involves the act of evoking reactions from other individuals. Human communication is marked by intention and anticipation of the reactions and communication in humans can be verbal when mediated by language or non-verbal when no language is involved. Communication can also be direct when a certain pattern of behavior evokes a particular type of response or subtle and indirect when behaviors are not predictable or ambiguous and not even completely comprehensible. Thus communication is separated into certain distinct categories such as:

1. Direct and Indirect communication

2. Verbal and non-verbal communication

Any direct communication can be both verbal and non-verbal just as indirect communication can also be verbal or non verbal. Verbal communication can again be direct or indirect and similarly non verbal communication can also be either direct or indirect. So let's say there are four types of communication patterns in humans - verbal and direct, verbal and indirect, non-verbal and direct, non-verbal and indirect. Examples of verbal and direct would be saying things that are straightforward or unambiguous and with no hidden or incomprehensible messages. These are verbal expressions of emotions and ideas as they occur. Like when you are happy and say that you are happy, you are using the verbal direct method of communication to express your feelings. Indirect methods of verbal communication are using subtle expressions such as taunts, sarcasm, hints etc. that can have ambiguous meanings and do not represent expressions of emotions or ideas 'as they occur'. Thus if you are sad and do not say so but imply indirectly, then you are using indirect methods to convey your state of mind. Non verbal communication is about using cues, facial or bodily expressions, body language, eye or hand movements etc., to express ideas. This can be quite direct like say, hitting a person is rather non verbal but direct as it expresses anger just as crying represents sorrow. However non verbal communication can be indirect such as turning away your eyes from a person you feel uncomfortable with or maintaining prolonged eye contact with a person to convey a message.

Communication is the basis of human and non-human interaction and we can all communicate with a touch or a sound, a look or a symbol, a word or a sentence and also by doing or saying nothing at all. The body is an important interface in communication and I've discussed this in the psychology of body in which body language is shown to play an important role in communication. We communicate with our mates through intimate body language and sexual interaction is a very important communication tool in humans and also in animals. The psychology of communication will include the different elements or stages of communication in an individual such as

1. Absorption of external information through listening or reading etc,

2. Interpretation of the stimuli received, and

3. Reaction to the information obtained through behavior

The three stages of the communication process as in absorption or taking in information, the interpretation or deriving meaning of the information and reaction or responding to the information are facilitated by the following elements:

1. Absorption or taking in information - is through sense organs and we simply absorb the sounds and colors, the spoken words and all external data provided to us. Absorption is an objective process

2. Interpretation or analysis of information - involves using brain mechanisms and analyzing external stimuli as well as details such as expressions and subtle verbal and non verbal cues, so interpretation is a subjective process

3. Reaction or response to the stimuli - uses physical communication routes such as speech, language or expressions through facial and bodily movements. Reactions are the result of a subjective and an objective process. This is because when presented with certain stimuli we all have a set of predictable responses which are objective but depending on how we interpret the situation subjectively, the reactions might vary to an extent. Reactions can be imitative - you smile when you see someone smiling or it can be just the opposite as when someone tries to look at you and you try to look away.

This reaction or response evoked in an individual can become a stimulus for another chain of responses or the stimulus can be a completely separate event or situation. Behaviorists will usually consider communication as a stimulus-response pattern with individuals perceiving the stimuli and reacting to them in the form of communication. Freudian psychoanalysis suggests that communication is directly related to how we subjectively perceive the external information based on our own experiences. So 'interpretation' of external stimuli or the mediation of the individual mind is the most important aspect of communication according to psychoanalysis, although behaviorists will completely eliminate the importance of the 'interpretation' part considering communication as nothing but a series of mechanical 'stimulus-response' pattern. Thus according to behavioral psychology, we perceive an object and react to it via communication almost like a computer program. It sounds strange that the importance of mind and consciousness in communication has only been recently acknowledged in 'scientific' psychology.

The methods of communication are also equally interesting as humans communicate through the written word and the spoken word and through letters, messages, phone calls, personal face to face conversation, through glances and physical contact, through sex, and on a wider scale through seminars, conferences, news events, newspapers, press releases, books, brochures, and campaigning or propaganda. The newer methods of communication using information technology are via chats and chatrooms, internet and emails, text messages, forums, blogging and networking. Technology has opened up new avenues of communication and the world is now completely dependent on how far and how quickly people are able to communicate.

Communication is central to our modern life, yet it is a difficult and complicated process and a gap remains between the ideas communicated and the ideas perceived. This communication gap as it is generally called is closed only with proper consideration of all verbal, non verbal, indirect and direct elements of the communication process. So in a personal or business meeting the communication process involves not just presentation of the ideas of people verbally but also the non verbal facial and bodily expressions.

The purpose of communication is almost always motivated or intentional as we naturally expect a response from people we communicate with. In fact all communication is based on anticipation of response from others thus communication tend to have a direction or purpose. However the communication gap can create problems in the process and the purpose of communication may remain unfulfilled when communicated ideas are too vague or indirect. The vagueness increases when channels of communication between two or more individuals are remote or distal rather than proximal.

Long distance communication methods such as emails and internet, telephone calls etc. bring in new challenges to the study of communication as we are not able to see the person we communicate with, we find it difficult to 'interpret' the stimuli that we encounter. As I have noted in an earlier part of this discussion, the ability to 'interpret' the communicative stimuli is a very important part of the communicative process and the interpretation or derivation of the meaning of what we hear or see depends on our inherent need for analysis of all indirect body language cues, facial expressions and hints or subtle or subconscious processes. Human beings are intelligent and in most cases do not take all information for granted. The direct face to face communication provides us with a definite sense of what the other person really means and gives us assurance that our interpretation of the communication is correct. That is why the face to face interviewing process still remains the most popular method of communication in a selection process. All online communication and information on the internet are thus prone to misinterpretation as we are not able to interpret the information using the non verbal cues or expressions that are an essential part of the communication process. The communication gap is thus the gap of interpretation as despite a lot of information there is certain dearth of essential information and our mind recognizes the communication process as incomplete. You may chat with a person online for several hours in a day but unless you are able to see or hear his or her facial and bodily expressions, you can never be assured that the communication process is completely authentic. Of course, modern devices such as the webcam have greatly improved the communication process. Yet it is also true that even if we have all the essential cues of communication, the very fact that we have to interpret the information received subjectively, can suggest the possibility of a communication gap.

In this discussion then, I simply pointed out that the three stages of communication comprise of certain essential elements and a communication gap is inherent in the process of interpretation either because of our own limitations or due to limitations of technology.

Reflections in Psychology - Part I - by Saberi Roy (2009)

Article Source: Roy

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Group 'Yes' Under Fire From An Opera Buff !

"No? YES!"

What makes music appealing? Can a person find a piece of sound that is known as music appealing without any reference to the cultural laden baggage that accompanies it? Is it possible ? Can a person find a series of sounds appealing in one cultural context but when listened in another cultural context quite appalling ?

These are some of the questions that the 'Psychology of Music' attempts to grapple with. 'The Music Digest' blog among other things is an attempt to tackle some of the areas that are highlighted by studies in the 'Psychology of Music".

A good example of listening to music laden with cultural baggage is an article by Joe Maurone in which he describes how James Kilbourne, an opera buff, took on
Maurone's challenge to listen and review the album "Going for the One" by the band 'Yes'. Kilbourne said he would give the album a listen and then post a review describing his listening experience. He ended up saying after that he
".......... pretty much did what he said he woudn't do. He did say that IF he LIKED it, he would carry back the message if he was 'converted,' but for whatever reason, felt compelled enough to write about his dislike." ........ MORE

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Great Color Music Debate

Color Music: The Art of Light

Painting music by colors is a subject which has occupied many a great mind down the centuries. The pondering goes along these lines. When one hears a particular musical sound one is drawn to a particular color or a particular sound is associated with a particular color or a color with a sound. Whether this is only a subjective experience on the part of the listener or whether we can draw a wider correlation between certain musical sounds and certain colors is open to debate.
“So let us then clear our own path through the jungle of untried possibilities, which prevents our seeing clearly how to use the attributes of color in a mobile color art somewhat resembling music.” ………. MORE

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Impact That Miles Davis's album ‘Bitches Brew’ Made

"Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Verizon Wireless Theater”

Miles Davis's album 'Bitches Brew' became one of the most important and influential albums to be created in the last fifty years. Released back in those revolutionary heady days of 1968 which saw …. “street battles in Paris, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy's assassinations". It became to be seen as a the “….. seminal jazz-rock recording”…… that….. “attracted more rock fans and open-minded hippies than it did jazz aficionados,….”.
"Two of the key cogs in Davis's new sound were guitarist John McLaughlin and pianist Chick Corea." ........ MORE

Monday, 13 April 2009

Can Music Education Help Children In Their Reading ?

"Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills"

Can music education help children in their reading ? Well a study has suggested that there may be a correlation between music education and an improvement in non-musical areas of a child’s life. This is particularly noticeable in the linguistic, mathematical and spatial spheres.
“Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music" .......... MORE

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Can Listening To Music Enhance Mental And Physical Well Being ?

"Music’s positive effects

Can listening to music enhance mental and physical well being. Well a recent collection of studies has taken a look how music developed over the centuries and how humans have responded to it. The studies also considers that the sounds that animals make are analogous to music in their desire to copy or act like each other
“Other studies look at music’s positive effects on health and immunity, how music is processed in the brain, the interplay between language and music, and the relationship between our emotions and music” ........ MORE

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Popular Music And The Recession

“The Recession's in Every Refrain As Pop Music Reflects on Hard Times”

Neil Young has just released a new concept album ‘Fork in the Road’ on the "the cratering economy". The present global financial crisis has provided material for "….all manner of musicians, from rock legends and country singers to folkies and rappers… ". In the USA one really needs to go back as far as to the Great Depression to recall a repertoire of this sort. Try to listen to the songs of Woody Guthrie, Blind Alfred Reed, Yip Harburg to get a flavour of this period.
"Although record sales weren't exactly thriving during the period, Harburg's song became a hit for both Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby. The work resonated because it served as a musical mirror, reflecting people's experiences and sentiments " ...……. MORE

We are really left to ask. Are these economic cycles inevitable ? Is there any escape from them? And do we need a new economic order?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Has Scientism Sidelined Our Emotions ?

" Scientism is the belief that the sciences have no boundaries"

Has scientism like religious literalism become its own own ideology ?

Where does scientism leave the likes of literature, psychology, music, arts, philosophy, dreams, the emotions or spirituality in its quest for supreme knowledge ? It begs the question what sort of role literature, psychology, music, arts, philosophy, dreams, the emotions or spirituality have played in human evolution ? Are they simply being sidelined or even ignored by scientism ?
"……… it’s our study of human evolution that bring fantastic insight into why we have art, dreams, and mythology in the first place. What a strange notion, that science plays no role in those fields or our understanding of them! .........." MORE

Monday, 6 April 2009

Can There Really Be A Colour And Music Relationship ?

Colour and Music

Music and colour like music and emotions have inspired speculative discussions throughout the ages. Again the ancient Greeks took a lead in these speculative inquiries. They were driven by a need to discover an integrated cosmology which colour and music formed a part of an harmonious universe. Fast forwarded to the seventeenth century and we have Isaac Newton’s discovery ......
“ of the refraction of white light into colours …….. and his decision to denote seven colours in association with the seven notes of the musical scale” …… MORE

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Healing Powers of Music

VA Uses Music Therapy In Veterans' Recovery

The healing power of music to aid recovery is nothing new, in fact both Plato and Aristotle wrote about it in ancient Greece. In our modern day, music therapy is often used to treat patients with mental illness ………….
“Music therapy, the VA says, is a burgeoning field with ancient roots that helps patients cope with a variety of life's ills, from depression or post-traumatic stress to substance abuse and cognitive disorders, among others ………." MORE

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Is There A Language Of Music ?

'Language of Music Really Is Universal, Study Finds'

Do you believe that there is a language of music ? Well a recent report thinks that there may be one. A report which was published online on 19th March in ‘Current Biology’ states that ..........
“Native African people who have never even listened to the radio before can nonetheless pick up on happy, sad, and fearful emotions in Western music” …… MORE