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60's Soul Music Is All About Human Syncrony

Oral & Aural Tradition is the Heartbeat of Culture


Singing Praise for the Unknown Culture Maker.

The Brain Is Hard Wired for Music



Music Appreciation 'Hard Wired' in Brain
Why do certain melodies stick in your head? NPR 12/28/2002
Why does hearing "Stairway to Heaven" remind you of your high school dance? discussion about the way music affects your brain. Petr Janata * Research assistant professor, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. Mark Jude Tramo * Musician, Director, The Institute for Music and the Brain, Neurologist and neuroscientist, Harvard Medical School,Cambridge, Mass.

Why you can't get that tune out of your head
James Meek December 13, 2002 The Guardian
The many thousands of tunes most of us know, from arias to singles and jingles, are locked in a shifting pattern of neural circuits in a region just behind our foreheads, scientists say. This part of the brain - the rostromedial prefrontal cortex - has complex functions relating to the link between data and the emotions, and, say the scientists, it may be the reason why melodies evoke memories.
Researchers at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, in the US, pinned down the brain's music region by doing scans on eight volunteers listening to music. Petr Janata, the neuroscientist who led the study, published today in Science, said that part of the brain where they mapped musical activity was important for assimilating information important to one's self, and for "mediating interactions between emotional and non-emotional information".

Interdisciplinary Social Rhythm Experts
show how music strikes a chord with language and in particular Dr. Mark Jude Tramo, a neuroscientist who is director of the Institute for Music and Brain Science at Harvard.
Neurobiology research has established a close link between the brain's hearing and emotional centers. "The anatomical and functional connectivity of the brain's auditory systems and emotional systems underlie musical aesthetics," Dr. Tramo said. "The effect of music on emotions may, in turn, influence autonomic and immunologic systems in ways that affect and help the body's natural responses to disease."

Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing: by Judith Becker  explores the connections between music, dance, emotion, and trance. PDF






The Dozens - The Funk Brothers would joke around saying something like: "Yo mama so skinny she can hoola hoop through a Cherrio."

The evolutionary roots of music are shared not only by the human animal but many in the animal world.


Humans make music like many other animals do (interspecies) and the intent is to communicate with other animals.

Frostie The Dancing Cockatoo Dancing To Hold On! I'm Coming! ©Karla K. Larsson



oral / aural tradition



Chant is the Heartbeat of Culture
designed to bring everyone together in harmonious synchronicity as any traveling pack animal culture needs to survive.
See more about Producer Allan Slutsky / Carla Benson / Karen Ellis


Carla Benson / Karen Ellis Going To Kentucky

Speech and Song is an oral / aural tradition
The oral tradition is useful when there are stories to tell that may be as long as 2,500 verses. Songs are a simple rhyming mnemonic device which helps us even remember. We learn our first songs using rhyme to aid our memory. Songs help you memorize the information and since print was invented we've forgotten our roots of why we did it.

Orality: As of 2009 the Jewish calendar year is 5770. Before writing was invented the history of the Jewish people was kept alive orally. The story was not passed down through the generations through telling but through singing. The whole Torah was sung. The Cantor (like the Bard) in any synogogue can sing the whole thing. History was memorized using song.


Music Makes You Smarter:
Study Ties Mental Abilities To Interaction of Emotion and Cognitive Skills.  Musical training during childhood will influence regional brain growth.

Speech & Music
Music & Reading



Speech and Music , and Music and Reading
Poetry is the primordial transmission by human breath; the traditions of bard, minstrel, and troubadour. Song helps you memorize the information in the stanzas, which of course is no longer necessary to do now, since print was recently invented. Music and poetry have been historically linked.The art of poetry is thousands of years old; it began in performance and has survived in good part on oral strengths, and less through the rather recent convenience of moveable type.


Hi Dan, 1/2/07
Essentially Music is Language ~ Karen Ellis

Hi, Karen, 
I totally agree with you! In fact, I've made many of these arguments in my book. ~ Dr. Daniel Levitin


"Your Brain On Music" by Daniel Levitin
"A layperson's guide to the emerging neuroscience of music. Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter, full of striking scientific trivia; 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." The New York Times, January 31, 2006

During the Religious Moment Speaking in Tongues does not involve the frontal lobes. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin at the Montreal Neurological Institute, + Researchers McGill University have scanned musicians' brains and found that the "chills" that they feel when they hear stirring passages of music result from activity in the same parts of the brain stimulated by food and sex.



The sound and emotional parts of the brain might be linked. People who felt chills when listening to their favorite songs. The brains of people who felt the chills had more nerve fibres running from the auditory cortex, needed for basic hearing ability, to two other regions, namely the anterior insular cortex, involved in processing feelings, and the medial prefrontal cortex, which is thought to monitor emotions and assign values to them. Basically, the chill group's brain wiring better connected the sound part of the brain to the feelings part and the "how-I-should-feel-about-those-feelings" part.

Goosebumps are common during musical frisson

Subjects were laying in an fMRI scanner, neuroscientists have then been able to map the regions of the brain that respond to chill-inducing tracks – helping them to chart some of the mechanisms that may correspond to this peculiar phenomenon. Stimularion in the automatic nervous system, in its most primitive region, the brain stem - producing the racing heart, the breathlessness, the flush that can signal the onset of a frisson. What’s more, the anticipation, violation, and resolution of our expectations triggers the release of dopamine in two key regions – the caudate and the nucleus accumbens, shortly before and just after the frisson. You see a similar response when people take drugs or have sex, which may explain why we find shiver-inducing songs so addictive.
Frisson = trembling, flushing and sweating, and sexual arousal in response to your favorite music. These are the features that are more likely to trigger the different sensations during a musical frisson. Sudden changes in harmony, dynamic leaps (from soft to loud), and melodic appoggiaturas (dissonant notes that clash with the main melody.

Music is a “transformative tool” that helped us build the human mind and further society. Think of it as a kind of sandbox. After we have performed all the most important duties to survive, we use music as an arena to play safely, train our minds and expand our experiences. During that playtime, we also use it to develop our emotional awareness, and to bond with others. “You don’t play alone in sandboxes but with other people,” she says. Music may have also helped us exercise our emotional communication. The denser the wiring between the auditory, social and emotional parts of the brain, the more skin orgasms you feel. That could, perhaps, be a neurological signature of music’s social importance. Others have found that making music and dancing together produces more altruistic and cohesive groups, with one study finding that chill-inducing music is particularly good at promoting altruism in the lab’s subjects. Maybe it is the rush of endorphins from a skin orgasm that helps promote the communal goodwill.

Music classes are often among the first to be cut when school budgets get tight. That's a mistake.
Research finds music training 'tunes' human auditory system. "Our study is the first to ask whether enhancing the sound environment -- in this case with musical training -- will positively affect the way an individual encodes sound even at a level as basic as the brainstem," says Patrick Wong, primary author of "Musical Experience Shapes Human Brainstem Encoding of Linguistic Pitch Patterns." An old structure from an evolutionary standpoint, the brainstem once was thought to only play a passive role in auditory processing. "We've found that by playing music -- an action thought of as a function of the neocortex -- a person may actually be tuning the brainstem," says Kraus. "This suggests that the relationship between the brainstem and neocortex is a dynamic and reciprocal one and tells us that our basic sensory circuitry is more malleable than we previously thought."

Helping them to better remember complicated medical topics, and have fun while doing it.

2/23/15 Learning through the lyrics
Medical students inspired by award-winning professor to learn medicine through music.
For their first musical-medical mashup, Benjamin Roth and Reid McKibbon created a tongue-twisting parody of the "Hiphopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros" rap.


Val Geist Writes:
Dear friends, Re: apes and synchronizing motions
I had long ago read about a primitive, but synchronous dance by captive chimpanzees described by Wolfgang Koehler (1927) The Mentality of Apes (my copy is a 1959 Vintage Books edition, New York). I am typing the relevant passage from the middle of p. 280 (the italicized words are Koehler's):
"The whole group of chimpanzees sometimes combined in more elaborate motion-patterns. For instance, two wrestle and tumble about playing near some post; soon their movements would become more regular and tend to describe a circle round the post as a centre. One after another, the rest of the group approached, joined the two, and finally they marched in an orderly fashion and in single file round and round the post. The character of their movements changes; they no longer walk, they trot, and as a rule with special emphasis on one foot, while the other steps lightly; thus a rough approximate rhythm develops, and they tend to "keep time" with one another. they wag their heads in time to the steps of their dance and appear full of eager enjoyment of their primitive game. ...... A trusted human friend is allowed to share in these games with pleasure, as well as in other diversions, and sometimes I only needed to stamp rhythmically, as described, round and round a post, for a couple of black figures to form my train."


Bill Benzon writes:
I've continued thinking about synchrony. I think it may operate in several ways.
a. Bonding:
There's the bonding that you described in your article, Walter, where music can facilitate the reordering of close bonds during intense ritual.
Freeman, W. J. (2000). A Neurobiological Role of Music in Social Bonding. The Origins of Music. N. L. Wallin, B. Merker and S. Brown. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 411-424.
b. Group Awareness:
By this I mean allowing individuals in a group to conceptualize the group-as-such. It is one thing to recognize individuals in your group and to treat them differently from individuals you don't recognize or know so well (since you don't live with them 24/7). It's something else to be able to think about the group-as-such, to be aware of it as a quasi-abstract entity, and to be attached to the group itself. This requires some way of conceptualizing the group as a whole, as something more than a list of current members. I figure that the act of synchronizing with one's group is perhaps the most basic way this can be achieved. The sound of 50 feet stomping or 50 voices crying, together, indistinguishable from one another — that IS the group.

[This function seems relevant to what game theorists call a coordination problem: Chwe, M. S.-Y. (2001). Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge. Princeton, Princeton University Press.]

Now lets' consider synchrony in relation to language. Here I'm imagining ways in which sharing a rhythmic framework allows conversations to take place.

c. Speech Recognition: Consider William Condon's observation of conversational synchrony, that motions and gestures of listeners are closely synchronized with the rhythms of a speakers voice.
What's the value of such synchronization? I'm not so much concerned about the speaker's movements but about what that implies: that they are "picking up" on the speaker's temporal framework. We know that, while we tend to hear speech as a string of discrete sounds, that is something of an illusion. Sonograms don't show the segmentation that we hear so easily. The ear is doing some sophisticated "analysis"of the sound stream. I can imagine that it would be very useful if the listener operated from the same temporal framework as this speaker. This might help with the segmentation.

Condon, W. S. (1986). Communication: Rhythm and Structure. Rhythm in Psychological, Linguistic and Musical Processes. J. R. Evans and M. Clynes. Springfield, Illinois, Charles C Thomas € Publisher: 55-78.

d. Turn-taking: Ordinary conversation is governed by conventions of turn-taking. While A is talking, B must be silent and listen. Similarly, A must be silent while B is talking. Turn-taking is the process of alternating between these two modes.

Starting to talk implies wide-spread and well-synchronized changes in cortical neurons. Complex motor sequences must be initiated and the auditory system must be "primed" from expectations associated with generating one's own speech rather than those generated through interpreting the speech of another. How does the brain get all of this timed? As far as we know there's no central timer. Even if there were, it wouldn't be adequate to the job as axonal impulses travel too slowly. If the parties to a conversation shared the same temporal framework, that might help things along by keeping the neurons "primed" for changes at key points in the rhythmic flow. More specifically, while I don't know whether there are any prosodic signals that indicate the speaker is about to relinquish her turn, sentences certainly do have characteristic prosodic features. By tracking the speaker's intonation pattern the listener can generate predictions about when the current sentence will stop and thus afford a potential change of conversational turn. At the same time, attending to the nature of the pattern (declarative, interrogative, etc.) will prime the listener for generating an appropriate response.

Note that neither c nor d has to do with the "sexy" aspects of language, syntax and semantics, which is what gets most attention (syntax especially). They are about "low-level" timing, no meaning, no recursive application of abstract rules, just brute physical timing. But then we live in a brute physical world. If the timing isn't working, then none of the rest matters.


Walter Freeman writes:
I'm reminded of a story about Mark Twain, reading his mail in his study in Elmira, perusing a letter that enraged him, and breaking out in a string of derogatory epithets. His beloved wife Livy shortly afterward appeared at his door and repeated, verbatim, every syllable of his outburst. They looked at each other in silence for a moment, and then he said, "You got the words, Livy, but you ain't got the music!"


The Los Angeles Times December 13, 2002
NEW YORK -- From Mozart to Miles Davis, the harmonies of Western music rewire the brain, creating patterns of neural activity at the confluence of emotion and memory that strengthen with each new melody, research made public Thursday shows.
By monitoring the brains of people listening to classical scales and key progressions, scientists at Dartmouth College glimpsed the biology of the hit-making machinery of popular song. Focusing on the structure of Western music, researchers show how the musical mind hears the flat notes in Flatt and Scruggs, the sharps of the Harmonicats and all five octaves in pop diva Mariah Carey's repertoire.
The flash-dance of these brain circuits, which process the harmonic relationship of musical notes, is shaped by a human craving for melody that drives people to spend more every year on music than on prescription drugs. The circuits center in a brain region that responds equally to the musical patterns of Eminem's hip-hop busta rhymes and Bach's baroque fugues.
Full text


Melodies in your mind Researchers map brain areas that process tunes
Public release date: 12-Dec-2002
Contact: Sue Knapp 603-646-3661
Dartmouth College
HANOVER, N.H. - Researchers at Dartmouth are getting closer to understanding how some melodies have a tendency to stick in your head or why hearing a particular song can bring back a high school dance. They have found and mapped the area in your brain that processes and tracks music. It's a place that's also active during reasoning and memory retrieval.
The study by Petr Janata, Research Assistant Professor at Dartmouth's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and his colleagues is reported in the Dec. 13, 2002, issue of Science. Their results indicate that knowledge about the harmonic relationships of music is maintained in the rostromedial prefrontal cortex, which is centrally located, right behind your forehead. This region is
connected to, but different from, the temporal lobe, which is involved in more basic sound processing.
"This region in the front of the brain where we mapped musical activity," says Janata, "is important for a number of functions, like assimilating information that is important to one's self, or mediating interactions between emotional and non-emotional information. Our results provide a stronger foundation for explaining the link between music, emotion and the brain."
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, the researchers asked their eight subjects, who all had some degree of musical experience, to listen to a piece of original music. The eight-minute melody, composed by Jeffrey Birk, Dartmouth class of '02, when he was a student, moves through all 24 major and minor keys. The music was specifically crafted to shift in
particular ways between and around the different keys. These relationships between the keys, representative of Western music, create a geometric pattern that is donut shaped, which is called a torus.
"The piece of music moves around on the surface of the torus, so we had to figure out a way to pick out brain areas that were sensitive to the harmonic
motion of the melody," explains Janata. "We developed two different tasks for our subjects to perform. We then constructed a statistical model that separated brain activation due to performing the tasks from the activation that arose from the melody moving around on the torus, independent of the tasks. It was a way to find the pure representation of the underlying musical structure in the brain."
The two tasks involved
1.) asking subjects to identify an embedded test tone that would pop out in some keys but blend into other keys, and
2.) asking subjects to detect sounds that were played by a flute-like instrument rather than the clarinet-like instrument that prevailed in the music. As the subjects performed the tasks, the fMRI scanner provided detailed pictures of brain activity. The researchers compared where the activation was on the donut from moment to moment with the fluctuations they recorded in all regions of the brain. Only the rostromedial prefrontal area reliably tracked the fluctuations on the donut in all the subjects, therefore, the researchers concluded, this area maintains a map of the music.
"Music is such a sought-after stimulus," says Janata. "It's not necessary for human survival, yet something inside us craves it. I think this research helps us understand that craving a little bit more."
Not only did the researchers find and map the areas in the brain that track melodies, they also found that the exact mapping varies from session to session in each subject. This suggests that the map is maintained as a changing or dynamic topography. In other words, each time the subject hears the melody, the same neural circuit tracks it slightly differently. This dynamic map may be the key to understanding why a piece of music might elicit a certain behavior one time, like dancing, and something different another time, like smiling when remembering a dance.
Janata adds, "Distributed and dynamic mapping representations have been proposed by other neuroscientists, and, as far as we know, ours is the first paper to provide empirical evidence for this type of organizational principle in humans."
Not only are these results published in the journal Science, the raw data from this study will also be submitted to the fMRI Data Center at Dartmouth College. The fMRI Data Center provides a publicly accessible repository of peer-reviewed fMRI studies and their underlying data. All traces of personal identity information are removed and the image files are converted into a standard format. This provides access to anyone interested in order to develop and evaluate methods, confirm hypotheses, and perform meta-analyses. It also increases the number of cognitive neuroscientists who can examine, consider, analyze and assess the brain imaging data that have already been collected and published.
Janata's co-authors on the paper are Jeffrey Birk, Dartmouth class of '02, John Van Horn, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth; Marc Leman, Ghent University, Belgium; Barbara Tillmann, formerly a Research Associate at Dartmouth, now faculty at Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique in Lyon, France; Jamshed Bharucha, formerly Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth, currently Provost at Tufts University, Medford, Mass. This research is part of the Program Project in Cognitive Neuroscience funded by the National Institutes of Health.


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