Music is a splendid thing. It can cheer you up when you’re sad, make you dance like a fool, and allow you to drown out the world when you need to. But music has its scientific uses, too. The documentary Alive Inside details how dementia patients react positively when given iPods filled with their old favorite songs. The music seems to help them “come alive” again. While listening to familiar songs, many of the documentary’s patients can sing along, answer questions about their past, and even carry on brief conversations with others.
“Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience,” says neurologist Oliver Sacks, who appears in the film. “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory.”
The documentary follows recent studies showing that music can improve the memories of dementia patients, and even help them develop new memories.
Continue Reading »
What do you hear when there’s nothing to hear? Seriously. I want to know. A quarter century of playing rock music—all variations on an aggressive, highly amplified strain found in the post-hardcore American underground of the ’80s and ’90s—is permanently inscribed in my inner ear. For me, it stays loud when things are quiet. When I wake up and shut down the white-noise machine, I hear one everlasting tone, which generally hovers around A. One recent morning, a different note—fainter than the root note, but easily discernible—pealed distinctly in the middle of my right ear, a lone stalactite hanging in a cave.
Music is forever, especially if you turn it up enough, and many 30- and 40-something indie-rock grads have long subjected their ears to truly astonishing stress. I liked to lean my forehead on my amp’s speaker enclosure when I played guitar. I liked the vibrations it sent into my skull. Sometimes, mid-song in my first band’s practice space, I’d stick my head in the bass drum. On tour in Europe in 1990, I ended one song each night by getting within inches of my (very loud) amp to produce some feedback. At times I’d get sudden spikes of treble that would turn my stomach and make me stumble, as if they’d briefly deranged whatever whorls of plumbing in my ears govern balance.
Extreme volume is nerd-macho. I couldn’t bench-press 250 pounds—actually, I couldn’t bench-press half of 250 pounds—but my band was much louder than yours. I sneered at those who wore earplugs at their shows. Earplugs turned the picture to black-and-white. Why would you do that? Onstage, your eyesight whiting out from the stage lights and your ears roasting from the decibels, the air seemed suffused with pure adrenaline. It lit you up like a city at night.
Continue Reading »
Rande Davis Gedaliah’s 2003 diagnosis of Parkinson’s was followed by leg spasms, balance problems, difficulty walking, and ultimately a serious fall in the shower. But something remarkable happened when the 60-year-old public speaking coach turned to an oldies station on her shower radio: She could move her leg with ease, her balance improved, and, she couldn’t stop dancing. Now, she puts on her iPod and pumps in Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” when she wants to walk quickly; for a slower pace, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” does the trick.
Music therapy has been practiced for decades as a way to treat neurological conditions from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s to anxiety and depression. Now, advances in neuroscience and brain imaging are revealing what’s actually happening in the brain as patients listen to music or play instruments and why the therapy works. “It’s been substantiated only in the last year or two that music therapy can help restore the loss of expressive language in patients with aphasia” following brain injury from stroke, says Oliver Sacks, the noted neurologist and professor at Columbia University, who explored the link between music and the brain in his recent book Musicophilia. Beyond improving movement and speech, he says, music can trigger the release of mood-altering brain chemicals and once-lost memories and emotions.
Parkinson’s and stroke patients benefit, neurologists believe, because the human brain is innately attuned to respond to highly rhythmic music; in fact, says Sacks, our nervous system is unique among mammals in its automatic tendency to go into foot-tapping mode. In Parkinson’s patients with bradykinesia, or difficulty initiating movement, it’s thought that the music triggers networks of neurons to translate the cadence into organized movement. “We see patients develop something like an auditory timing mechanism,” says Concetta Tomaino, cofounder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City. “Someone who is frozen can immediately release and begin walking. Or if they have balance problems, they can coordinate their steps to synchronize with the music,” improving their gait and stride. Slow rhythms can ease the muscle bursts and jerky motions of Parkinson’s patients with involuntary tremors.
Continue Reading »
Have you ever dreamed of performing a piece you created for others. Imagining that they are captivated and held spellbound by the music? If you have, you know that it can be a long road from actually coming up with something, practicing it, and then giving it to an audience. In my own case, I had a good opportunity to perform. It was in a coffeehouse that already had a decent piano.
The problem was that I was playing for people who had come to listen mostly to guitarists on open mike night. Young guitarists that sang and played mostly Rock music or a derivative of it. I didn’t care so much about that because I had the chance to go in front of people and share the gift of music.
In public speaking it’s said that the fear of standing in front of a group of people and talking is caused by the anticipation of losing face – of looking or appearing like a fool. Now, some may be able to get up in front of a group and actually feel better than they felt before getting in front of people, but the reality is that 99% of us are going to feel some kind of anxiety.
Continue Reading »
Every day musical instruments enrich the lives of people around the world and continue to promote culture and art throughout every society and community, no matter what size or structure. Even those people of the world who live outside the realm of technology enjoy and use musical instruments to tell stories or entertain. Someone who has never played musical instruments but is interested in trying one has quite a selection to choose from
Playing the violin is a wonderful experience and relatively easy to learn if you take it step by step. Firstly however you need to understand the mechanics of the violin so you know where to put your fingers and why.
The main components of the violin are the front, also called the belly, top, or soundboard, usually made of well-seasoned spruce; the back, usually made of well-seasoned maple; and the ribs, neck, fingerboard, pegbox, scroll, bridge, tailpiece, and f-holes, or soundholes. The front, back, and ribs are joined together to form a hollow sound box. The sound box contains the sound post, a thin, dowel-like stick of wood wedged inside underneath the right side of the bridge and connecting the front and back of the violin; and the bass-bar, a long strip of wood glued to the inside of the front under the left side of the bridge. The sound post and bass-bar are important for the transmission of sound, and they also give additional support to the construction. The strings are fastened to the tailpiece, rest on the bridge, are suspended over the fingerboard, and run to the pegbox, where they are attached to tuning pegs that can be turned to change the pitch of the string.
Continue Reading »