Music in history: overcoming historians’ reluctance to tackle Music as a source

Despite their enthusiasm for borrowing from other fields and incorporating new types of source material, many historians remain reluctant to analyze music. For example, when the American Historical Association dedicated its 2015 Annual Meeting to “History and Other Disciplines,” organizers called for work that engaged with anthropology, material culture, archaeology, visual studies, and museum studies, but they were noticeably silent about music and musicology. What explains this aversion?

First, many historians seem to believe that music, more than other cultural practices and products, demands specialized analytical tools. Of course, the field of musicology exists precisely to explicate musical texts and performances in all their specificity, and it does seem foolhardy for historians who lack this specialized training to attempt a technical, formal analysis of music. Yet historians have long since overcome any doubts they may have felt in the face of film or visual art, even though they lack training in film studies or art history. Perhaps they can more easily detect the similarities between films and paintings on the one hand and more familiar, textual sources on the other; they can more readily see the usefulness of the historian’s analytical toolbox for dissecting these sorts of materials: unpacking narratives, decoding symbols, contextualizing meanings, etc. Music, by contrast, seems somehow impenetrable, even ineffable. It is not surprising that many histories of modern, popular music actually focus exclusively on lyrics.

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Mu­sic and nat­ive language in­ter­act in the brain

The brain’s auditory system can be shaped by exposure to different auditory environments, such as native language and musical training,

A recent doctoral study by Caitlin Dawson from the University of Helsinki focuses on interacting effects of native language patterns and musical experience on early auditory processing of basic sound features. Methods included electrophysiological brainstem recording as well as a set of behavioral auditory discrimination tasks.

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Read also: Dissertation

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Mu­sic play­school en­hances chil­dren’s lin­guistic skills

According to the research conducted at the University of Helsinki, weekly music playschool significantly improved the development of children’s vocabulary skills. Several studies have suggested that intensive musical training enhances children’s linguistic skills. Such training, however, is not available to all children.

Researchers at Cognitive Brain Research Unit in the University of Helsinki studied in a community setting whether a low-cost, weekly music playschool provided to 5–6-year-old children in kindergartens affects their linguistic abilities.

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Memories of music cannot be lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspire you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it’s fair to say that music moves people in special ways.

If you’re especially into a piece of music, your brain does something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which feels to you like tingling in your brain or scalp. It’s nature’s own little “buzz”, a natural reward, that is described by some as a “head orgasm”. Some even think that it explains why people go to church, for example, “feeling the Lord move through you”, but that’s another article for another time.

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To Accelerate Brain Development In Children, Teach Them Music

Alternative and complementary treatments such as creative art, meditation, and yoga have been proposed to bridge many gaps that conventional medicine cannot. But music, because of its ubiquity in our society as well as its ease of transmission, has perhaps the greatest potential among alternative therapies to reach people in deep and profound ways. Music matters and it heals.

Music instruction appears to accelerate brain development in young children, particularly in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills, according to initial results of a five-year study by USC neuroscientists.

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On the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language

Understanding how early humans developed their capacities of expression which led to the emergence of the language which sets us apart from other species was the topic of an article published in the Frontiers in Psychology. Led by researcher Shigeru Miyagawa, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the USA, with the participation of linguists Cora Lesure (MIT) and Vitor Augusto Nóbrega, from the School of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) of USP, the study suggests cave paintings represent a modality of language expression.

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Read also: A Hypothesis about the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language

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Musical Activity and Well-being

A relationship between participation in musical activity and well-being has frequently been observed in recent research reports. Of these, some propose various well-being-related correlates of musical participation, but the varying samples and foci leave researchers without a reasoned appraisal of these correlates or a data-driven categorization of them. To address this lacuna, the current research reviewed of existing literature, identifying 562 benefits of well-being benefits perceived to be associated with musical participation. These items were used as the basis for developing a new quantitative measure to evaluate the perceived benefits of well-being arising from music participation. Principal axis factor analysis of data using this new, 36-item measure identified five discrete dimensions: mood and coping, esteem and worth, socialization, cognition, and self-actualization. The development of this well-being measure addresses a gap in the research and provides a tool for future research concerning musical participation.

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