Posts Tagged ‘music’

Do you hear music when you read fine writing?

March 16, 2019

Every day for almost two years I would bring out a couple books — Nabokov short stories and Donald Hall “Essays after 80”. The intent was just to develop an ear for writing. I wasn’t reading for content, I was reading for ear. I would spend two hours each night on just a paragraph or two or three, and I would break it down. When I opened Nabokov’s short stories at random and started reading his sentences, my jaw dropped. I didn’t know the English language could do that. How is this guy doing that? It was so different, at such a higher level. I would dissect his paragraphs: Why did he put this word here, in this sentence and not there? Why did he use this transition from this paragraph to the next? Suppose I do it differently; it sounds worse – why? Why does it sound worse when I move this word? There are 6 words that mean the same thing, why did he choose that one? Let me try replacing it; oh, it sounds worse. I would do this repeatedly.  I picked Nabokov because his sentences and rhythm and musicality of writing was jaw-dropping. In every sentence. Every sentence is a 10 out of 10. How does this guy do it?  I started getting a weird experience after doing this for a year. I would read passages and I would hear music. I would hear the passages in my head, as music. The music was in perfect harmony. And then I would pick up a newspaper or some other stuff and I couldn’t read more than two sentences because it sounded like clashing; it was grating.

— Safi Bahcall, at time 33:30 in this podcast.

Hello darkness my old friend …

February 4, 2018

Hello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again

That song was written by Art Garfunkel in honor of his friend Sanford Greenberg, who he befriended at Columbia University in the 1950s. The two made a pact that they would always help each other in times of need. During the school year Greenberg contracted an eye disease and went blind. Garfunkel helped him through that period, reading his school assignments, encouraging him. Greenberg graduated and moved to London. One day he got a call from Garfunkel who told him that he had been writing music with a fellow by the name of Paul Simon and needed $400 to record their first album. Greenberg had $404 in his bank account, wrote out a check for $400 and sent it to Garfunkel.

It is a wonderful story, well worth listening to:

At 15 minutes, 56 seconds:

Factors that determine how much of your brain you use

April 23, 2016

I don’t think there is a single solution for maximizing how much of your brain you use. I think it’s a combination of many factors (there are many ways to influence the brain). Here are the key factors (I think) that determine how much of your brain you use:

  1. Exercise: how much exercise? What type of exercise? Frequency of exercise? Variability of exercise? Heavy or light? Endurance or strength? Balancing/coordination? Flexibility? Hormone-stimulating exercises? Walking? Running?
  2. Rest: how much sleep? Naps?
  3. Mental stimulation: reading? Writing? Debate? Games/puzzles?
  4. Food: fresh foods? Cooked or raw? Meat or no meat? Carbs or no carbs? Nutrient-dense? Fasting?
  5. Supplements: caffeine? Supplements that promote the flow of blood to the brain (e.g., Gingko Biloba)? Green tea? Black tea?
  6. Nature: how much time spent in a park? Frequency?
  7. Stress: no stress? Moderate amounts of stress? Massage? Foam roller? Body work?
  8. Music: how much? Classical or other?
  9. Social: lots of socializing? Lots of friends? A few close friends?
  10. Positive attitude: how to keep positive and motivated? Laughter? Smiling?
  11. Goals: short-term goals? Long-term goals?

One thing that I am fairly sure of is this: the body and brain adapt quickly. A strategy that works today for stimulating the brain will likely not work next week or next month. Constant change is crucial. Also, it seems that each human is unique. What works for me may not work for you.

The power of rhythm to move us, change us

June 19, 2014

There was a fascinating segment on NPR today on how speech-writers employ cadence and rhythm in speeches to motivate and change us.

Here are a few snippets from the segment:

A gentle rhythm can calm us. A thumbing beat can get our bodies moving. And an insistent, deliberate meter can motivate us.

Think about a crowd chanting in unison at a football game, or people on a dance floor moving to a pulsing beat. Rhythm can create community.

One of the wonderful things about rhythm is that, when you’re involved in a rhythm, you take on a beat other than your own. For a moment we stop being ourselves and we all become part of a powerful group. I think we’re all looking for that opportunity to step outside of the “me” and become a “we”. [Rob Kapilow, composer and conductor]

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