We’re More of Ourselves When We’re in Tune with Others

Music reminds us why going solo goes against our better nature. BY KEVIN BERGER When musicians have chemistry, we can feel it. There’s something special among them that’s missing when they perform alone. Anyone who’s heard a Mick Jagger solo album knows that’s the case. Clearly nature wants us to jam together and take flight out of our individual selves. The reward is transcendence, our bodies tell us so. What’s the secret of that chemistry? It’s a question that one of the most refreshing neuroscientists who studies music has been probing lately. Refreshing because her lab is not only in … Continue reading We’re More of Ourselves When We’re in Tune with Others

What Makes Music Universal

Music brings us together to show us how different we are. BY KEVIN BERGER My friend Robert Burton, a neurologist and author, wanted to share a song with me last year, and sent me a link to an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. “It’s wonderful to see truly new and inspiring music,” he wrote. I clicked open the link to a band who appeared to have journeyed from their mountain village in Russia to busk for tourists in the city square. Three women wore long white wedding dresses, thick strands of bead necklaces, and Cossack hats that towered from their heads … Continue reading What Makes Music Universal

A philosophy of sound

From the Big Bang to a heartbeat in utero, sounds are a scaffold for thought when logic and imagery elude us Christina Rawls is professor of philosophy at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. She is the co-editor of the essay collection Philosophy and Film: Bridging Divides (2019) and a regular contributor to the American Philosophical Association blog, with an interview series on the philosophy of time. Edited by Sally Davies When John Lennon was asked in 1975 why so many adults disliked rock and roll, calling it the ‘devil’s music’, he replied: ‘I always thought that it’s because it came from Black music.’ … Continue reading A philosophy of sound

How Pythagoras and Sappho Radicalized Music and Revolutionized the World

The story of the invention of the love song, the world’s first algorithm, and the mathematics of transcendence. BY MARIA POPOVA “To create today is to create dangerously,” Albert Camus told a gathering of young people at the peak of the Cold War, shortly after becoming the second-youngest laureate of the Nobel Prize. “The question, for all those who cannot live without art and what it signifies, is merely to find out how, among the police forces of so many ideologies… the strange liberty of creation is possible.” A generation before him, while policed by the forces about to unworld humanity in … Continue reading How Pythagoras and Sappho Radicalized Music and Revolutionized the World

Musicians Have More Connected Brains Than Non-Musicians

The brains of musicians have stronger structural and functional connections compared to those of non-musicians, regardless of innate pitch ability, according to new research from Journal of Neuroscience. by Simon Leipold, Carina Klein and Lutz Jäncke. Journal of Neuroscience Years of musical training shape the brain in dramatic ways. A minority of musicians — with Mozart and Michael Jackson in their ranks — also possess absolute pitch, the ability to identify a tone without a reference. But, it remains unclear how this ability impacts the brain. In the biggest sample to date, Leipold et al. compared the brains of professional musicians, some with absolute pitch … Continue reading Musicians Have More Connected Brains Than Non-Musicians


by Tim Grierson  Both mocked and beloved at the height of the disco era, this ‘Saturday Night Fever’ hit made the Bee Gees superstars — and, for a while, made them hate everything associated with their song Depending on when you spoke to them, the Bee Gees might have told you that they hated disco, Saturday Night Fever and/or “Stayin’ Alive,” three cultural totems that were awfully important to their career. Chalk it up to the occupational hazards that come with capturing the zeitgeist by writing an anthem that ends up taking on a life of its own — one far removed … Continue reading ‘STAYIN’ ALIVE’ IS STILL TOO TOUGH TO DIE


by Angelica Frey  One of history’s most famous composers had his sexually subversive work borrowed by… fascists? In the late 1800s, the painter Paul von Joukowsky, a set and costume designer for the first production of Richard Wagner’s final opera Parsifal, often hung out with the composer and his wife Cosima with his male lover, a Neapolitan singer, in tow. Cosima defined the relationship as “silly,” but Wagner didn’t share his wife’s view. “It is something for which I have understanding but no inclination,” he said. “In any case, with all relationships what matters most is what we ourselves put into them.” This is a … Continue reading WHY NAZIS LOVED THE QUEER MASCULINITY OF WAGNER’S OPERAS

Absolutely, Indestructibly Happy

An interview with Tina Turner By Clark Strand Tina Turner is an American icon—a remarkably versatile creative artist whose career has spanned more than sixty years. The winner of eight Grammy Awards, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2005. But her path has not always been easy. Tina has overcome domestic abuse, discrimination, professional setbacks, life-threatening illness, and devastating personal loss. Throughout it all, she has credited her practice of Nichiren Buddhism as the source of her hope for a better world and her determination to overcome every obstacle in her life. … Continue reading Absolutely, Indestructibly Happy

Does vinyl really sound better?

By Verity Burns Well, that all depends on what you’re comparing it to. Does it sound better than an MP3? Absolutely – vinyl wins this one hands down. However, compared to a CD? That’s more tricky. Vinyl fans will argue that as it is an end-to-end analogue format, from the recording and pressing to playback, that it more closely reproduces what the artist originally played in the studio. Digital music works much differently. As digital kit cannot read analogue soundwaves, they are translated into a digital signal and back into analogue again, meaning some information is lost or approximated in the process. … Continue reading Does vinyl really sound better?

The Neurology of Flow States

Why time vanishes when you’re jamming. BY HEATHER BERLIN Don’t look at the clock! Now tell me: How much time has passed since you first logged on to your computer today? Time may be a property of physics, but it is also a property of the mind, which ultimately makes it a product of the brain. Time measures out and shapes our lives, and how we live our lives in turn affects how we perceive the passage of time. Your sense of time is malleable and subjective—it changes in response to changing contexts and input, and it can be distorted … Continue reading The Neurology of Flow States