What happens when a BELONG Staffer gets up early on a Saturday to attend a program that mixes science and music? A lot of “Hey, have you heard about…?” stories like the one below.
Last Saturday, I went to a symposium—doesn’t that sound impressive?—called Music and the Brain. Part of an arts festival here in Dallas, the speakers included a neuroscientist who is also an opera singer, a Juilliard/Harvard-trained psychiatrist who is also a concert pianist, and other highly-educated smart people. (And yes, I did feel just a wee bit under-accomplished in their company but they were engaging speakers so I forgave them their overachievements.)
Among the talks about things like a stethoscope that listens to brains (you can tell by the rhythm if a brain is healthy or having a seizure), how tone-deaf people experience music, and more, a few things stood out to me:
- “We have always been fascinated with our eyes, as if our ears were stupid.” Dr. Parvizi, the Stanford professor who helped develop a method that turns brain activity into music, went on to say that scientists should rely more on their ears. I’m thinking that may not just apply to scientists. Listening is fast becoming a lost art.
- Studies show that experiencing music in sync promotes collaboration. So if you’re having trouble getting a group to cooperate, try having them sing a few verses of . . . anything, really. It seems it’s the act of doing it together that counts.
- After critics gave American composer George Gershwin bad reviews, he decided to study composition with the world’s great (living) composers. Sounds reasonable, right? But his would-be mentors refused his request. “You are a first-rate composer,” Maurice Ravel told him. “If you study with me you’ll be a second-rate Ravel.” Sometimes you just have to be you.
The speakers were all interesting and entertaining but one of my favorite ideas came not from a talk, but from a comment during a Q&A session. A woman courageously stood up and told the room she suffered from depression, but had been inspired by the Texas Rangers baseball team. She had noticed when a player heads to the plate for his turn at bat, the stadium plays what she called “walking up music.” She decided to choose her own “walking up” songs; music that would help her face issues much like batters stare down opposing pitchers.
Don’t you love that idea? Imagine having your own personal theme song, something you can play for a little boost of confidence when you need to get out there and hit a home run. I’m auditioning songs right now; the front-runner is the theme song from Pirates of the Caribbean. I like the mix of swagger, sweeping musical phrases, and call to adventure.
What would you choose for your walking up song?