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BrainScan

  Contemplate what makes music so powerful, so essential, so fundamental, that every culture has some form of music -- writings from all over.

Contents:
Jonah Lehrer's The Frontal Cortex blog: Jan 2010
Overview of Current Research (New York Times 9/2003)
Music and Language Connection
Music and Brain Power
Music, The Brain and Ecstasy
MIXMAG: How Does Music Work?

Tom Middleton on Music

BPM Culture: Perry Farrell, DJ

The Goldbug Variations

Sister DJs
DJ Andy W
Goldie
"Medtner" by Philip Pullman
Oliver Sacks: When Music Heals

Even Steven
In a few  cases, I give extensive excerpts from the copyrighted source material, either because there is no online source to view, or because previously-available online sources have run their course and disappeared.  In any case, the intention of providing the excerpts is to spur the reader's interest in obtaining the original, wherever possible. 

Extensive quotes are continued via the [read more...] links supplied for a few of the longer selections.

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For instance:

... I was rooting around in the castle here, tidying stuff up for the end of the year, and came across a copy of Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas (1980) ... In an essay titled "On Matters of Doubt" he writes:

 
If you are looking about for really profound mysteries, essential aspects of our existence for which neither the sciences nor the humanities can provide any sort of explanation, I suggest starting with music. The professional musicologists, tremendous scholars all, for whom I have the greatest respect, haven't the ghost of an idea about what music is, or why we make it and cannot be human without it, or even -- and this is the telling point -- how the human mind makes music on its own, before it is written down and played. The biologists are no help here, nor the psychologists, nor the physicists, nor the philosophers, wherever they are these days. Nobody can explain it. It is a mystery and thank goodness for that. The Brandenbergs and the late quartets are not there to give us assurances that we have arrived; they carry the news that there are deep centers in our minds that we know nothing about except that they are there.

[emphasis added]

January 2010 brought a very nice addition to the collection below, in the form of Jonah Lehrer's blog, The Frontal Cortex, which had a post entitled Musical Predictions that I highly recommend ... here's just a taste:

There are two interesting takeaways from this experiment. The first is that music hijacks some very fundamental neural mechanisms. The brain is designed to learn by association: if this, then that. Music works by subtly toying with our expected associations, enticing us to make predictions about what note will come next, and then confronting us with our prediction errors. In other words, every melody manipulates the same essential mechanisms we use to make sense of reality.

The second takeaway is that music requires surprise, the dissonance of "low-probability notes". While most people think about music in terms of aesthetic beauty - we like pretty consonant pitches arranged in pretty patterns - that's exactly backwards. The point of the prettiness is to set up the surprise, to frame the deviance. (That's why the unexpected pitches triggered the most brain activity, synchronizing the activity of brain regions involved in motor movement and emotion.) I wrote about this concept in Proust Was A Neuroscientist:

Before a pattern can be desired by the brain, it must play hard to get. Music only excites us when it makes our auditory cortex struggle to uncover its order. If the music is too obvious, if its patterns are always present, it is annoyingly boring. This is why composers introduce the tonic note in the beginning of the song and then studiously avoid it until the end. The longer we are denied the pattern we expect, the greater the emotional release when the pattern returns, safe and sound. Our auditory cortex rejoices. It has found the order it has been looking for. ...

I highly recommend The Frontal Cortex for the breadth of its examinations, not just the posts on music.

 

 


The New York Times
is so good for this kind of writing ... take this May 22, 2008 story for instance -- "Music's charms could also be a potent cure" which describes the work of surgeon Claudius Conrad, who has also studied music since he was 5....

Like many surgeons, Dr. Conrad says he works better when he listens to music. And he cites studies, including some of his own, showing that music is helpful to patients as well — bringing relaxation and reducing blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, pain and the need for pain medication.

But to the extent that music heals, how does it heal? The physiological pathways responsible have remained obscure, and the search for an underlying mechanism has moved slowly.  Now Dr. Conrad is trying to change that. He recently published a provocative paper suggesting that music may exert healing and sedative effects partly through a paradoxical stimulation of a growth hormone generally associated with stress rather than healing.

This jump in growth hormone, said Dr. John Morley, an endocrinologist at St. Louis University Medical Center who was not involved with the study, “is not what you’d expect, and it’s not precisely clear what it means.”  But he said it raised “some wonderful new possibilities about the physiology of healing,” and added: “And of course it has a nice sort of metaphorical ring. We used to talk about the neuroendocrine system being a sort of neuronal orchestra conductor directing the immune system. Here we have music stimulating this conductor to get the healing process started.”

The article goes on to discuss Mozart:

Dr. Conrad’s music dissertation examined why and how Mozart’s music seemed to ease the pain of intensive-care patients. He concentrated not on physiological mechanisms but on mechanisms within Mozart’s music.  “It is still a controversial idea,” he said recently, “whether Mozart has more of this sort of effect than other composers. But as a musician I wanted to look at how it might.”

Dr. Conrad noted that Mozart used distinctive phrases that are fairly short, often only four or even two measures long, and then repeated these phrases to build larger sections. Yet he changed these figures often in ways the listener may not notice — a change in left-hand arpeggios or chord structures, for instance, that slips by unremarked while the ear attends the right hand’s melody, which itself may be slightly embellished.  These intricate variations are absorbed as part of a melodic accessibility so well organized that even a sonata for two pianos never feels crowded in the ear, even when it grows dense on the page. The melody lulls and delights while the underlying complexity stimulates.

But even if this explains the music’s power to stimulate and relax, “an obvious question that comes up,” Dr. Conrad said, “is why Mozart would write music that is so soothing.”

Mozart’s letters and biographies, Dr. Conrad said, portray a man almost constantly sick, constantly fending off one infection or ailment after another.  “Whether he did it intentionally or not,” Dr. Conrad said, “I think he composed music the way he did partly because it made him feel better.”

(Remember, you have to register to read articles from NYT online -- but there's no downside to that registration, so I urge you to consider doing it ... and catch this article soon, before it archived into the pay service.

For more insights into music (among many things) try out the WIRED interview with Brian Eno (WIRED 16.06 - 15th Anniversary issue) ... a short excerpt:

The problem comes when you find yourself doing things just because they are now technologically possible. An example of this is "correcting" drum takes in a song. Few drummers are really constant and accurate, and there is a ridiculous temptation — because it is now possible — to correct them, to make sure that every beat falls precisely in the right place. I hate this approach and would rather use a good, honest rhythm box than convert a living drummer into one.

What do people want from Art? I don't know the full answer, but one thing I'm increasingly sure of is that they want life. They want the sense that there is something going on, that something real and exciting and of its moment has been captured — from a performance of a Chopin Nocturne just as much as from a Bruce Springsteen song. As John Cage used to say, "Art is a verb" — and as I always say, "So should be the experience of Art".

In an age of digital perfectability, it takes quite a lot of courage to say, "Leave it alone" and, if you do decide to make changes, [it takes] quite a lot of judgment to know at which point you stop. A lot of technology offers you the chance to make everything completely, wonderfully perfect, and thus to take out whatever residue of human life there was in the work to start with. It would be as though someone approached Cezanne and said, "You know, if you used Photoshop you could get rid of all those annoying brush marks and just have really nice, flat color surfaces." It's a misunderstanding to think that the traces of human activity — brushstrokes, tuning drift, arrhythmia — are not part of the work. They are the fundamental texture of the work, the fine grain of it.

Indeed, in some sorts of music they are the primary content. A lot of music doesn't seek to innovate structurally or compositionally, but entirely in terms of the individuality of performance. Think of the blues: the same three chords in pretty much the same structure, and with little variation of lyrical content (Robert Wyatt once described the blues as 12,000 versions of the same song). What listeners treasure about blues performances are the textural and performative differences from one to the next, differences that come to seem very important and huge as we become accustomed to the restricted vocabulary of the medium. Similarly, connoisseurs of piano sonatas will hear enormous differences between Alfred Brendel's version of a piece and the same piece played by Arthur Rubinstein.

But if you're sitting in a studio, listening to things over and over and over again, and there's a big ProTools rig sitting there, and an engineer itching to show his chops, it's hard to resist saying "OK — straighten those drums out." And indeed, when you first do it, it sounds better. And so you do more of it — fix up the guitar riffs, get that vocal really in tune, replace some indistinct bass notes, sugar the whole thing up so it's sparkling like a Christmas tree. Ah — it's all so wonderful...until you finally realize you've reached not audio Heaven but audio Hollywood — bland, tasteless, entirely indistinguishable and standard product. Brendel becomes Liberace.

He's still the guiding light for Intelligent Dance Music of all sorts

 

Speaking of cultural icons, I found this story via a link from the July 12, 2009 Huffington Post

Apple computer founder "Steve Jobs has never been shy about his use of psychedelics, famously calling his LSD experience "one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life." So, toward the end of his life, LSD inventor Albert Hofmann decided to write to the iPhone creator to see if he'd be interested in putting some money where the tip of his tongue had been...." The article goes on to discuss who in the computer technology business would admit to the role of psychedelics in their problem-solving routines ...

That Jobs used LSD and values the contribution it made to his thinking is far from unusual in the world of computer technology. Psychedelic drugs have influenced some of America's foremost computer scientists. The history of this connection is well documented in a number of books, the best probably being What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, by New York Times technology reporter John Markoff.

Psychedelic drugs, Markoff argues, pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking. Douglas Engelbart is one example of a psychonaut who did just that: he helped invent the mouse. Apple's Jobs has said that Microsoft's Bill Gates, would "be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once." In a 1994 interview with Playboy, however, Gates coyly didn't deny having dosed as a young man.

Thinking differently--or learning to Think Different, as a Jobs slogan has it--is a hallmark of the acid experience. "When I'm on LSD and hearing something that's pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I've stopped thinking and started knowing," Kevin Herbert told Wired magazine at a symposium commemorating Hofmann's one hundredth birthday. Herbert, an early employee of Cisco Systems who successfully banned drug testing of technologists at the company, reportedly "solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead."

"It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain," said Herbert. "Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used."


Burning Man, founded in 1986 by San Francisco techies, has always been an attempt to make a large number of people use different parts of their brains toward some nonspecific but ostensibly enlightening and communally beneficial end. The event was quickly moved to the desert of Nevada as it became too big for the city. Today, it's more likely to be attended by a software engineer than a dropped-out hippie. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime Burners, and the influence of San Francisco and Seattle tech culture is everywhere in the camps and exhibits built for the eight-day festival. Its Web site suggests, in fluent acidese, that "[t]rying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind."
 

Emphasis added....  there has been a long-standing recognition of the uses of psychedelics in conjunction with music, and clearly this interaction is not limited to the party circuit.

And another one from the NYT, sent in by a friend in California:

December 31, 2006 - Montreal

Music of the Hemispheres  By CLIVE THOMPSON

“Listen to this,” Daniel Levitin said. “What is it?” He hit a button on his computer keyboard and out came a half-second clip of music. It was just two notes blasted on a raspy electric guitar, but I could immediately identify it: the opening lick to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”

Then he played another, even shorter snippet: a single chord struck once on piano. Again I could instantly figure out what it was: the first note in Elton John’s live version of “Benny and the Jets.”

Dr. Levitin beamed. “You hear only one note, and you already know who it is,” he said. “So what I want to know is: How we do this? Why are we so good at recognizing music?”

This is not merely some whoa-dude epiphany that a music fan might have while listening to a radio contest. Dr. Levitin has devoted his career to exploring this question. He is a cognitive psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, perhaps the world’s leading lab in probing why music has such an intense effect on us.

“By the age of 5 we are all musical experts, so this stuff is clearly wired really deeply into us,” said Dr. Levitin, an eerily youthful-looking 49, surrounded by the pianos, guitars and enormous 16-track mixers that make his lab look more like a recording studio.

This summer he published “This Is Your Brain on Music” (Dutton), a layperson’s guide to the emerging neuroscience of music. Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter, full of striking scientific trivia. For example we learn that babies begin life with synesthesia, the trippy confusion that makes people experience sounds as smells or tastes as colors. Or that the cerebellum, a part of the brain that helps govern movement, is also wired to the ears and produces some of our emotional responses to music. His experiments have even suggested that watching a musician perform affects brain chemistry differently from listening to a recording.

Dr. Levitin is singular among music scientists for actually having come out of the music industry. Before getting his Ph.D. he spent 15 years as a record producer, working with artists ranging from the Blue Öyster Cult to Chris Isaak. While still in graduate school he helped Stevie Wonder assemble a best-of collection; in 1992 Dr. Levitin’s sensitive ears detected that MCA Records had accidentally used third-generation backup tapes to produce seven Steely Dan CDs, and he embarrassed the label by disclosing it in Billboard magazine. He has earned nine gold and platinum albums, which he tucks in corners of his lab, office and basement at home. “They look a little scary when you put them all in one place, so I spread them around,” he said.

Martin Grant, the dean of science at McGill, compares Dr. Levitin’s split professional personality to that of Brian Greene, the pioneering string-theory scientist who also writes mass-market books. “Some people are good popularizers, and some are good scientists, but not usually both at once,” Dr. Grant said. “Dan’s actually cutting edge in his field.”

Scientifically, Dr. Levitin’s colleagues credit him for focusing attention on how music affects our emotions, turf that wasn’t often covered by previous generations of psychoacousticians, who studied narrower questions about how the brain perceives musical sounds. “The questions he asks are very very musical, very concerned with the fact that music is an art that we interact with, not just a bunch of noises,” said Rita Aiello, an adjunct professor in the department of psychology at New York University.

Ultimately, scientists say, his work offers a new way to unlock the mysteries of the brain: how memory works, how people with autism think, why our ancestors first picked up instruments and began to play, tens of thousands of years ago.

DR. LEVITIN originally became interested in producing in 1981, when his band — a punk outfit called the Mortals — went into the recording studio. None of the other members were interested in the process, so he made all the decisions behind the board. “I actually became a producer because I saw the producers getting all the babes,” he said. “They were stealing them from the guitarists.” He dropped out of college to work with alternative bands.

Producers, he noted, were able to notice impossibly fine gradations of quality in music. Many could identify by ear the type of amplifiers and recording tape used on an album.

“So I started wondering: How was the brain able to do this?” Dr. Levitin said. “What’s going on there, and why are some people better than others? And why is music such an emotional experience?” He began sitting in on neuroscience classes at Stanford University.

[read more....]

 

Curiosity about the role and purpose of music in our lives takes researchers on many interesting journeys....

The New York Times, September 16, 2003: 
 We Got Rhythm; the Mystery Is How and Why
 By NICHOLAS WADE


In lovers' songs, military marches, weddings and funerals, every occasion where a degree of emotion needs to be evoked, music is an
indispensable ingredient.

Yet the ability to enjoy music has long puzzled biologists because it does nothing evident to help survival. Why, therefore, should evolution have built into the human brain this soul-stirring source of pleasure? Man's faculties for enjoying and producing music, Darwin wrote, "must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed."

Music is still a mystery, a tangle of culture and built-in skills that researchers are trying to tease apart. No one really knows why music is found
in all cultures, why most known systems of music are based on the octave, why some people have absolute pitch and whether the brain handles music with special neural circuits or with ones developed for other purposes. Recent research, however, has produced a number of theories about the brain and music.

It could be that the brain perceives music with the same circuits it uses to hear and analyze human speech, and that it thrills to its cadences with centers designed to mediate other kinds of pleasure. Dr. Anne Blood and Dr. Robert J. Zatorre, of the Montreal Neurological Institute, recently took PET scans of musicians' brains while they listened to self-selected pieces of music that gave them "chills" of euphoria. The works included Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and Barber's Adagio for Strings. The music, the researchers reported, activated similar neural systems of reward and emotion as those stimulated by food, sex and addictive drugs.

If music depends on neural circuits developed for other reasons, then it is just a happy accident, regardless of evolution, that people enjoy it. This is the position taken by Dr. Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University. Music, he writes in his 1997 book "How the Mind Works,"
is "auditory cheesecake"; it just happens to tickle several important parts of the brain in a highly pleasurable way, as cheesecake tickles the
palate.  These include the language ability (with which music overlaps in several ways); the auditory cortex; the system that responds to the emotional signals in a human voice crying or cooing; and the motor control system that injects rhythm into the muscles when walking or dancing.

That music can activate all these powerful systems at once is the reason it packs such a mental oomph, in Dr. Pinker's analysis. But since each of these systems evolved for independent reasons, music itself is no more an evolutionary adaptation than is the ability to like dessert, which arises from intense stimulation of the taste buds responsive to sweet and fatty substances.

But other evolutionary psychologists believe the faculty of enjoying music is no accident. Darwin suggested that human ancestors, before acquiring the power of speech, "endeavored to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm." It is because of music's origin in courtship, Darwin believed, that it is "firmly associated with some of the strongest passions an animal is capable of feeling."



[read more....]

Music and Language Connection 

When I talk about music existing in every culture across time, of course I'm thinking of humans ... but what if that is essentially an unnecessary limitation, as this article suggests....

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2003/11/09/songs_of_ourselves/ 

Songs of ourselves
New research suggests that we like music that sounds just like us
By Christine Kenneally, 11/9/2003


MUSIC IS ONE OF THE human species's relatively few universal abilities. Without formal training, any individual, from Stone Age tribesman to suburban teenager, has the ability to recognize music and, in some fashion, to make it.

Why this should be so is a mystery. After all, music isn't necessary for getting through the day, and if it aids in reproduction, it does so only in highly indirect ways. Language, by contrast, is also everywhere -- but for reasons that are more obvious. With language, you and the members of your tribe can organize a migration across Africa, build reed boats and cross the seas, and communicate at night even when you can't see each other. Modern culture, in all its technological extravagance, springs directly from the human talent for manipulating symbols and syntax.

Scientists have always been intrigued by the connection between music and language. Yet over the years, words and melody have acquired a vastly different status in the lab and the seminar room. While language has long been considered essential to unlocking the mechanisms of human intelligence, music is generally treated as an evolutionary frippery -- mere "auditory cheesecake," as the Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker puts it.

But thanks to a decade-long wave of neuroscience research, that tune is changing. A flurry of recent publications suggests that language and music may equally be able to tell us who we are and where we're from -- not just emotionally, but biologically. In July, the journal Nature Neuroscience devoted a special issue to the topic. And in an article in the August 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, David Schwartz, Catherine Howe, and Dale Purves of Duke University argued that the sounds of music and the sounds of language are intricately connected.

. . .

To grasp the originality of this idea, it's necessary to realize two things about how music has traditionally been understood. First, musicologists have long emphasized that while each culture stamps a special identity onto its music, music itself has some universal qualities. For example, in virtually all cultures sound is divided into some or all of the 12 intervals that make up the chromatic scale -- that is, the scale represented by the keys on a piano. For centuries, observers have attributed this preference for certain combinations of tones to the mathematical properties of sound itself.

Some 2,500 years ago, Pythagoras was the first to note a direct relationship between the harmoniousness of a tone combination and the physical dimensions of the object that produced it. For example, a plucked string will always play an octave lower than a similar string half its size, and a fifth lower than a similar string two-thirds its length. This link between simple ratios and harmony has influenced music theory ever since.

 

[read more....]

 

NEUROLOGISTS LINK BEAUTIFUL  MUSIC TO BRAIN POWER (Reprinted  from the Los Angeles Times by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 1998)

The music that makes the foot tap, the fingers snap and the pulse quicken may one day help scientists retool brains afflicted with a variety of emotional disorders or neurological diseases, a group of researchers said Sunday.

After exploring the neurobiology of music, the researchers reported evidence of music stimulating specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language.

Among other things, researchers reported finding particular areas of mental activity linked to emotional responses to music.

In the long run, music could be used in dealing with a variety of disorders, they said.

"That's our goal," said neuroscientist Anne Blood, who conducted the study at McGill University in Montreal. 

"You can activate different parts of the brain, depending on what music you listen to.  So music can stimulate parts of the brain that are underactive in these disorders. Over time, we could retrain the brain in these disorders."

The findings, presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Los Angeles, underscore how music may orchestrate a wide variety of neural systems to cast its evocative spell.

"Undeniably, there is a biology of music," said Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo.  "There is no question that there is specialization within the human brain for the processing of music.  Music is biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life."

Among other things, researchers said different parts of the brain seem to respond directly to harmony.

Using a medical PET scanner to monitor changes in neural activity, neuroscientists at McGill discovered that specific parts of the brain involved in emotion are activated depending on whether the music is pleasant or dissonant.

"Everyone knows music can produce powerful emotional effects.  This suggests different emotions are represented in different parts of the brain," said Blood.

Overall, music seems to involve the brain at almost every level.

Even allowing for cultural differences in musical tastes, the researcher found evidence of music's remarkable power to affect neural activity no matter where they looked in the brain, from primitive regions found in all animals to more recently evolved regions thought to be distinctively human.

"We find that harmony, melody and rhythm had distinct patterns of brain activity.   They involved both the right and left sides of the brain," Parsons said.

Melody affects both sides of the brain equally.  Harmony and rhythm seem to activate the left side of the brain more strongly than the right side.

The neural mechanisms of music may have originally developed as a way of communicating emotion as a precursor to speech, the researchers suggested, offering insights into how the mind integrates sensory information with emotion.

Already, researchers are looking for ways to harness the power of music to change the brain.

Preliminary research in laboratory animals and humans suggests that music might play a role in enhancing intelligence.

The scientists Sunday said the new research could help the clinical practice of neurology, including cognitive rehabilitation.  As a therapeutic tool, for example, some doctors today already use music to help rehabilitate stroke patients.

 

Still with me?  If this subject intrigues you, then you should read:

MUSIC, THE BRAIN AND ECSTASY by Robert Jourdain
(1997, Wm. Morrow & Co.)  

Jourdain's work deals with the emotion ecstasy, not the drug.

In the course of discussing how appreciation of music operates as a variant of pattern recognition, and why that is crucial to humans on essentially a cellular level, Jourdain offers such insights as these:

"By providing the brain with an artificial environment, and forcing it through that environment in controlled ways, music imparts the means of experiencing relations far deeper than we encounter in our everyday lives....  In this perfect world, our brains are able to piece together larger understandings than they can in the workaday external world.... It's for this reason that music can be transcendent.  For a few moments it makes us larger than we really are, and the world more orderly than it really is.  We respond not just to the beauty of the sustained deep relations that are revealed, but also to the fact of our perceiving them.  As our brains are thrown into overdrive, we feel our very existence expand...."

"However our bodily representations of music are achieved, they may be responsible for boosting our pleasure all the more by causing our brains to churn out the opiate-like endorphins....  So music is capable of delivering pleasure at virtually every level of our being."

Find out what it is about music that captivates the mind....


Music may also heal the mind....This is from an article by Oliver Sacks, April 2002, in Parade Magazine.

"For reasons we do not yet understand, musical abilities often are among the last to be lost, even in cases of widespread brain damage.  Thus, someone who is disabled by a stroke or by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia may still be able to respond to music in ways that can seem almost miraculous."

....

"This almost universal responsiveness to music is an essential part of our neural nature.  Though analogies often are made to birdsong or animal cries, music in its full sense -- including complexities of rhythm and harmony, of pace, timbre and tonality no less than of melody -- seems to be confined to our own species, like language."

Red Bull Music Academy includes a page by and about Tom Middleton -- Classically-trained musician, DJ and producer Tom Middleton is responsible for an archive of critically-acclaimed productions that draws on everything from Classical to Techno. He owns half of Global Communications with partner, Mark Pritchard. Together, they set up the Evolution label in 91. Middleton has worked under a variety of names including Cosmos and as part of enigmatic live band, The Bays.

In part, Tom observes the following about music:

Three really essential things are melody, harmony and rhythm. These are the ingredients of a piece of music. That's what I've been thinking about a lot recently, just refining it back to those rudiments of music. It's like a nice groove, a rhythm, a pulse and then a melody - something that just sticks in your head. Something you can communicate an emotion through, a simple line. Harmony is that kind of richness and warmth that gels everything else within the music together.

Also very key is creating excitement and tension like in a movie. There are various things you can do within a piece of music to do that. With this I left the bassline until four minutes into the tune and then bring the bassline and then it's like 'Uuhh' - there is the warmth. It's using elements of the 2-step flavour. The sound I'm really passionate about at the moment is Deep Step. It's a fusion of UK 2-step Garage, Deep House, Electro and Techno with a bit of R&B influence. It's a really fresh fusion. MJ Cole has been doing some stuff recently with a urban, Deep Step flavour. I don't hear many people playing this sort of vibe but it's a pulse that is important to pay attention to. It's a new sound. It's fresh.

..................

I played this in a club called Fabric. It's one of the most modern clubbing environments in London at the moment. In the main room, they have a thing called the 'Body Sonic' dancefloor. It connects you to the bass frequencies, resonates bass frequency. If you want to feel music as well as hear it, go to Fabric Room One. It's the next level of clubbing experience because you have that actual sensation of bass frequency in your body. There are some points, when the basslines are in a tune, that are so intense, it feels like you're levitating. You can't feel your feet your whole torso is just.

Heres the science bit. We are resonant beings, just like the resonating molecules that is sound. We are resonating at a certain frequency. It makes us physical. We can feel it. If you look at it on that kind of level, molecules are vibrating at a specific frequency to make us physical. The 'Body Sonic' dancefloor is connecting with that through this medium, the wood floor. You can't get more profound than that, actually connecting with the sound.

Read the entire page at The Red Bull Academy website, or use this Tiny URL:  http://tinyurl.com/7yre 

The January 2001 Issue of MIXMAG has an article in this vein: "How Does Music Work?"  (p. 70)  MIXMAG isn't exceedingly deep as a rule, but they pull together a respectable mix of observation, fact and instruction for this piece:

"Since prehistoric times, music has played a central role in human culture.  It's a big part of most rituals....  Even religion loves music.  Apart from a few uptight (and relatively recent) European theologies, religion without music is rare.  The Hindu vedas, the world's oldest scriptures, say that the universe was created through sound. ...Shamans use drumming to help them enter drug-induced trances."

From there, it's off into a discussion of the discovery by the Greeks of the mathematical foundations of harmonics in music and how, in modern times, this relationship makes computer manipulation of music a natural evolution of the artform. (*Check out Goldie's take on the anti-technology complaints about music -- it's a classic rejoinder.)

In a number of accompanying sidebars, the authors discuss DJ techniques for building and maintaining crowd reaction during a set, comparative sound quality of CDs and vinyl, decibels as a weapon and other informative tidbits.

If your newsstand doesn't stock MIXMAG, visit their website at http://www.mixmag.net/ for information on subscriptions and back issues.

djmixed.com is the source for BPM Culture magazine, which featured Perry Farrell on the cover of the March 2001 issue.  Discussing his new interest in DJing, Farrell says:  

I feel like dance will save our lives.  Those that don't dance have emotional imbalances and illnesses.  I mean, here's an interesting thing I learned very recently:  The matrix of the mind, the organizational skill of the mind, is strengthened through DJing.

Contact www.djmixed.com for more information on the article.


Fiction abounds in homages to music and its power in our lives ... and the way it reflects our lives, even our biochemistry:  Try Richard Powers' 1991 novel, The Goldbug Variations.  A massive intellect, Powers has proposed an equation between the structure of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the body's RNA ... right in the midst of a compelling love story..

 

Also in the realm of fiction, Issue 76 of Granta (the "Music" issue) included Philip Pullman's Medtner, a short send-up of writing music criticism and reviews.  I'll try to give you a bit of the flavor of this terrific piece with a short quote:

Not long ago I tried to explain to a friend the effect that Nicolai Medtner's music has on me.  I spoke with eloquence, passion and wit; analogies of the most ingenious kind sprang to my lips; I found myself stirred to a frenzy of admiration for the profundity of my insights.

"I don't know what you're talking about," said my friend.

Discussing music when you have no technical knowledge of it is to be reduced to finding more or less fancy ways of saying, "I like that bit when it goes da-da-da-DUM."  However, we have to try, or be silent; so I shall try to say why I love Nicolai Medtner, and why his piano music satisfies me so deeply....

The entire piece is under three pages ... I recommend it.

 

On the real-life-personal side, here's a page that appeared on DJ Dazy's website (www.djdazy.com) used with her gracious permission, featuring a few of the SisterDJs being interviewed about women making music :

Girl DJs
Melanie Dawn and Lisa Louise Santonato

What offers a person the ability to step outside of one's given roles and into another one? To scratch convention and throw in experience, to spin thought into action? Lately, it seems girl DJs have been the ones mixing it all up. For any aspiring DJ, there's definitely a learning curve and a lifestyle change involved in playing music professionally. For women DJs - or girl DJs, if you prefer - the learning process is not necessarily more difficult, it's the shift that's harder.

The process of choosing to become a DJ is what I find the most fascinating. It's that moment when a person realizes he or she must play music. Not only for themselves, but playing for others as well.  There's a lot of excitement that comes with the many challenges involved in being a DJ. So, with all those guys out there doing their thing, and doing it well, what happens when a girl decides to get up there and do it herself? From most of the DJs Melanie and I talked to we found that if there's one common thread it leads to one thing - it's about the music, the way it makes you feel, and having the ability to share that experience with others while getting them to dance.

When a girl discovers how to take the music in her hands, and spin it, play it, scratch it, and fuckitup until it's dope, does that make her any different from a guy, or from the girl she was before, for that matter? Probably not, but we sure did sit and think about it for a long time. We got a bunch of girls around a table and checked it out. Regretfully, we couldn't hook up with all the girl DJs out there, but we talked with as many as we could. Here's the scoop.

***

[read the rest....]

Goldie, quoted in URB Magazine (Jan/Feb 2001) gives us a final word, especially intended for those whose musical horizons stop well short of appreciating anything in the realm of electronic music (or music assisted by electronics): 

"These people who've criticized this music of the electronic age, the fucking saxophone was a man-made instrument, so fuck you and ... That whole thing with that situation is like, hey, you don't like technology?  Give me your fucking car keys and walk the fuck home.  You know what I'm saying?  Walk the fuck home."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

If you know of additional reading material covering this subject, please contact me via email to "talkback" *at* BeatConsciousDotOrg and share it.