Does Music help you Concentrate?

The right music can hit the sweet spot between predictable and chaotic for which the brain has a strong preference.’ Illustration: Sophie Wolfson

 

Music is wonderful.  It can make us feel almost any emotion.  It can make us dance, make us cry, and it can even help us stay focused, but what is it about music that keeps us focused on everyday tasks, like driving, reading, or writing?

As a new article on theguardian.com by Dean Burnett explains, the brain has two attention systems: a conscious, and unconscious one.  The conscious attention system focuses on our current task, such as writing an article, while the unconscious system, “shifts attention towards anything our senses pick up that might be significant,” like the sudden, sharp ring of a fork being dropped onto a plate in the other room.

When we listen to music, we block out sounds or distractions that the unconscious attention system might otherwise pick up.  Some companies have tried to use this to their advantage, playing music over speaker systems to keep their employees focused on their tasks.  Burnett explains that results have been mixed.  It seems that the type of music plays a major role in focus increasing effectiveness.

“Some studies suggest that it really is down to personal preference. Music you like increases focus, while music you don’t impedes it…Music also has a big impact on mood – truly bleak music could sap your enthusiasm for your task. Something else to look out for is music with catchy lyrics. Musical pieces without words might be better working companions, as human speech and vocalization is something our brains pay particular attention to.”

Finally, Burnett notes that some of the best music for keeping focus has breen credited to video game soundtrack music.  “This makes sense, when you consider the purpose of the video game music: to help create an immersive environment and to facilitate but not distract from a task that requires constant attention and focus. ”

You can read the full article over on theguardian.com.

Why Does Repetition Work in the Music We Love?

Repetition.  It’s a tool used to memorize, hone skills, and make lasting impressions.  In many cases though, repetition causes fatigue or boredom, so why does the technique work so well in the world of music?

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Author Tom Service writing for The Guardian wanted to know why.  In his article, Stuck on Repeat: Why we love Repetition in Music he states that not only does repetition within a song work for us, it also explains why we like listening to the same song over and over again.  He states that repetition, “Far from dilutes our pleasure… [it] only seems to amplify our involvement in these musical experiences.”

Consider repeating a word over and over again.  After some time, that word loses its meaning and ceases to sound like an actual word.  This phenomena is known as “semantic satiation” and although it plagues words and phrases, it doesn’t have the same effect on music.  Instead, repetition causes us to anticipate with excitement the upcoming chorus or tune, and increases our feeling of “participating” in the music.

When you think about it, that anticipation of getting ready to belt out the chorus of your favorite song is in many cases what keeps us going back again and again.  It’s part of what makes music special and sets it apart from other art forms.

You can read more in detail in Service’s full article here on The Guardian.

 

George Martin, The 5th Beatle

George Martin, known as “the 5th Beatle” for his influential role in the production of The Beatles’ original albums, died this past Tuesday at the age of 90.

Bob Boilen of NPR writes, “George Martin’s skills as an arranger are on all of The Beatles albums: the strings on “Yesterday,” a trumpet on “Penny Lane” and the crazy brass and strings on “I Am The Walrus” are just a few of the ways he stretched the bounds of popular music. What you have to remember is that nothing had sounded like this EVER, and he played a large role in that progression.” Read the full article here.

 

 

Read a more in-depth discussion of Martin’s career on The Guardian.

The Beatles Are Finally Streaming!

For the Beatles fans out there (so basically….everyone?): the band’s music is now available on all streaming services! All of their albums became available worldwide at midnight on Christmas Eve.

 

 

“The Beatles, the biggest-selling group of all time, waited more than seven years before coming to iTunes in 2010. Until now, the group was one of most high-profile artists not available to stream, The Guardian reported.” Read the full article Buzzfeed here.

 

What Fiona is listening to:

I’m back! What have I been listening to for the past year? too many interesting things…so I’ll start with what I’m listening to right about now:

D’Angelo’s Really Love

Paul Lester’s review in The Guardian of D’Angelo’s album Black Messiah praises the singer’s political and musical integrity: “…a beaming, single-minded statement of spiritual rebirth and political reckoning,” and “…a restatement of faith in the principles and sounds of the pre-digital era of black music.”

 

D’Angelo

 

Master of the Queen’s Music!

Judith Weir

Judith Weir is going to be the next master of the Queen’s music! She is the first woman in the position, and is pledging to work towards creating compositions that will enhance music education throughout England. To learn more about this interesting role, and what Weir is going to do with it, read this article: Judith Weir prepares to be a radical master of the Queen’s music.

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