The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe

Art by Vladimir Radunsky from On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. “It is less about music being scientific and more about the universe being musical.” BY MARIA POPOVA “All truth is comprised in music and mathematics,” Margaret Fuller wrote as she was spearheading the Transcendentalist movement and laying the groundwork for what would later be called feminism. A century and a half after Fuller, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and jazz saxophonist Stephon Alexander examines this dual seedbed of truth in The Jazz of Physics (public library) — part memoir of his improbable path to science and music, part captivating primer on modern … Continue reading The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe

What Makes Music Special to Us?

Clarifying the differences between what animals and humans hear. BY HENKJAN HONING We are all born with a predisposition for music, a predisposition that develops spontaneously and is refined by listening to music. Nearly everyone possesses the musical skills essential to experiencing and appreciating music. Think of “relative pitch,”recognizing a melody separately from the exact pitch or tempo at which it is sung, and “beat perception,”hearing regularity in a varying rhythm. Even human newborns turn out to be sensitive to intonation or melody, rhythm, and the dynamics of the noise in their surroundings. Everything suggests that human biology is already … Continue reading What Makes Music Special to Us?

Meditating with Beethoven

With the help of a live orchestra, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher explains how to meditate while listening to music. By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche In many listening meditations, practitioners observe whatever sounds happen to arise around them, a method that has the benefit of being at our disposal anytime and anywhere. But the same concept can be applied when listening to music, according to Tibetan Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. In a demonstration with a live orchestra, Mingyur Rinpoche explains how to listen mindfully to classical music as a method of observing our emotions. By meditating on the compositions of Sergei Rachmaninoff, … Continue reading Meditating with Beethoven

THE SONGS THAT SAVED THEM FROM SUICIDE

 by Eddie Kim The science around music therapy is nascent, but there’s no doubt that it’s already saving lives “This song pulled me from the brink of suicide. No lie. This song saved… this album saved my life. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.” It was maybe the last thing I expected to see while browsing Kacey Musgraves’ music videos on YouTube on a late, lazy Friday night. But as I scrolled through more reactions in the comments of her song “Rainbow,” I noticed that this somber message, from a guy named Gregory, wasn’t alone. “Gonna … Continue reading THE SONGS THAT SAVED THEM FROM SUICIDE

Should You Listen To Music While Doing Intellectual Work? It Depends On The Music, The Task, And Your Personality

People more prone to boredom performed better without background music By Christian Jarrett Given how many of us listen to music while studying or doing other cerebral work, you’d think psychology would have a set of clear answers as to whether the practice is likely to help or hinder performance. In fact, the research literature is rather a mess (not that that has deterred some enterprising individuals from making bold claims). There’s the largely discredited “Mozart Effect” – the idea that listening to classical music can boost subsequent IQ, except that when first documented in the 90s the effect was on spatial … Continue reading Should You Listen To Music While Doing Intellectual Work? It Depends On The Music, The Task, And Your Personality

The Feud That Birthed the Electric Guitar

Jimi Hendrix performs in Stockholm in May 1967.AFP / GETTY IMAGES Les Paul and Leo Fender were fierce competitors. Their rivalry led them both in the same direction—toward the creation of the solid-bodied instrument that changed the course of rock music. by JAMES PARKER “More circuitry was necessary.”How is it that in a book as rich in description, as full of imagist sound-summonings, spot-on human characterizations, and erotic paeans to the bodies of guitars as Ian S. Port’s The Birth of Loud, this rather bald little line should be my favorite? Two reasons, I think. First, it comes at a mythic … Continue reading The Feud That Birthed the Electric Guitar

Music, Feeling, and Transcendence: Nick Cave on AI, Awe, and the Splendor of Our Human Limitations

Nick Cave in Belgium, 1986 (Photograph by Yves Lorson) “What a great song makes us feel is a sense of awe… A sense of awe is almost exclusively predicated on our limitations as human beings. It is entirely to do with our audacity as humans to reach beyond our potential.” BY MARIA POPOVA “All truth is comprised in music and mathematics,” Margaret Fuller proclaimed as she transfigured the cultural and political face of the 19th century. Her contemporary and admirer Walt Whitman considered music the profoundest expression of nature, while Nietzsche bellowed across the Atlantic that “without music life would be a mistake.” But something … Continue reading Music, Feeling, and Transcendence: Nick Cave on AI, Awe, and the Splendor of Our Human Limitations