How music moves us physically to tears

In “The Science of Opera,” actor Stephen Fry and comedian Alan Davies convene a panel of researchers from University College London to discuss what happened physiologically when they were hooked up to various sensors as they attended Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House. The gadgets attached to Fry and Davies measured their heart rates, breathing, sweat, and “various other emotional responses.” What do we learn from the experiment? For one thing, as neurobiologist Michael Trimble informs us, “music is different from all the other arts.” For example, ninety percent of people surveyed admit to being moved to tears by a piece of music. Only five to ten percent say the same about painting or sculpture. Fry and Davies’ autonomic nervous system responses confirm the power of music (and story) to move us beyond our conscious control and awareness.

Also amazing is this video of a centenary debate, Wagner Vs Verdi.

I’d say it’s a draw, but partisans of either one will likely come away with their opinions intact, having learned a thing or two along the way.


The Plastic People of the Universe

Back in time to September 1976, four long-haired youths in Prague and three in Pilsen were standing trial, accused of behaviour that in the judicial jargon of the time was called hooliganism. In truth, the “hooligans” had done quite banal things, but things that the communists considered “disobedience”. These included wearing their hair long, playing their own music, going out with friends for their own amusement and avoiding the rituals required to demonstrate loyalty to the totalitarian regime.

The Plastic People of the Universe and their friends did not put on a spectacular political provocation, and did not intend to remove anyone from power. Their concerts were held in secret, and if there was anything spectacular about them, it was their lack of interest in what was going on in the Czechoslovak state. They just wanted to live their own lives.

The judge the Pussy Riot trial used the same wording and arguments as the courts that tried the “hooligans” in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. This time it was not long hair but shamelessly short skirts.

The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones keep giving satisfaction, 50 years on.

The show happened 50 years ago today, at the Marquee Club in London. Most London shoppers rush by 165 Oxford Street, now a branch of a spanish bank, without a second glance—but it was there 50 years ago that The Rolling Stones played their first gig and changed the landscape of music forever.

It’s only rock n’roll but I like it!