Synapses in Rhythm: Music and Brains

There’s a lot of research out there about the effect music has on the brain, and there are a fair number of misconceptions, too.  I’m not tackling the whole Baby Mozart thing here, just interested in sharing a few music-related articles that I find fascinating, plus (as always) a few good ways to play.

Babies are pre-programmed to dance and to enjoy it, research by the University of York has shown.

The study of 120 children aged between five months and two years found that babies spontaneously started moving to music and rhythmic beats.

Scientists also found that the better the children were at moving in time with the music, the more they smiled.

It is not known why humans have developed this predisposition, researchers said.

And here’s the rest of the article for your enjoyment and edification…Because you never know when ‘baby dance’ may pop up in casual conversation.

C'mon, doesn't that just make your day? Photo credit to benrybobenry on Flickr

For a denser look at what’s popping in the brainpan, I recommend How The Arts Develop The Young Brain.  And this month there was a neat article on a rock song writing/performance pilot program for middle schoolers in Littleton, MA which was a truly interdisciplinary project.

I also ran across a fascinating blog post this past winter over on Arts Journal about whether or not there’s a benefit to watching musicians while listening to music, or watching something tangentially related.  In this visually dominated culture I think it’s interesting to contemplate whether what you look at while you listen impacts the way you hear the same way it’s been demonstrated that what you hear influences your impression of what you’re seeing.

Music’s interesting to read about, better to listen to, and best yet to play, so if you haven’t picked up an instrument for a while (or ever) but have a hankering for raindrops, chimes, and rhythm, check out Andre Michelle’s  Pulsate, a compose-your-own virtual musical accident.  Or Tonematrix by the same artist, which allows you to build chords and adjust or remove notes in a more controlled way, for those of you who prefer deliberate composing to the pleasant effects of randomness.  The whole site is actually worth poking about in, if you  have the time: there are guitar and synthesizer activities, simple composition by pinwheel, and a number of other neat sound-related experiments and ideas.

Feeling inspired?  Directions for traditional kids’ craft level homemade instruments are here.  If you were intrigued by the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra I mentioned a few posts back, here are directions on how to make a Carrot Strummer and an Eggplant Clapper.

Want more plant-produced music?  Check out the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra (kudos to my coworker for finding these guys!).

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