Development of Language and Music

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning
by Paul Ibbotson and Michael Tomasello

All of this leads ineluctably to the view that the notion of universal grammar is plain wrong. Of course, scientists never give up on their favorite theory, even in the face of contradictory evidence, until a reasonable alternative appears. Such an alternative, called usage-based linguistics, has now arrived. The theory, which takes a number of forms, proposes that grammatical structure is not in­­nate. Instead grammar is the product of history (the processes that shape how languages are passed from one generation to the next) and human psychology (the set of social and cognitive capacities that allow generations to learn a language in the first place). More important, this theory proposes that language recruits brain systems that may not have evolved specifically for that purpose and so is a different idea to Chomsky’s single-gene mutation for recursion.

In the new usage-based approach (which includes ideas from functional linguistics, cognitive linguistics and construction grammar), children are not born with a universal, dedicated tool for learning grammar. Instead they inherit the mental equivalent of a Swiss Army knife: a set of general-purpose tools—such as categorization, the reading of communicative intentions, and analogy making, with which children build grammatical categories and rules from the language they hear around them.

Broca and Wernicke are dead – it’s time to rewrite the neurobiology of language
by Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest

Yet the continued dominance of the Classic Model means that neuropsychology and neurology students are often learning outmoded ideas, without getting up to date with the latest findings in the area. Medics too are likely to struggle to account for language-related symptoms caused by brain damage or illness in areas outside of the Classic Model, but which are relevant to language function, such as the cerebellum.

Tremblay and Dick call for a “clean break” from the Classic Model and a new approach that rejects the “language centric” perspective of the past (that saw the language system as highly specialised and clearly defined), and that embraces a more distributed perspective that recognises how much of language function is overlaid on cognitive systems that originally evolved for other purposes.

Signing, Singing, Speaking: How Language Evolved
by Jon Hamilton, NPR

There’s no single module in our brain that produces language. Instead, language seems to come from lots of different circuits. And many of those circuits also exist in other species.

For example, some birds can imitate human speech. Some monkeys use specific calls to tell one another whether a predator is a leopard, a snake or an eagle. And dogs are very good at reading our gestures and tone of voice. Take all of those bits and you get “exactly the right ingredients for making language possible,” Elman says.

We are not the only species to develop speech impediments
by Moheb Costandi, BBC

Jarvis now thinks vocal learning is not an all-or-nothing function. Instead there is a continuum of skill – just as you would expect from something produced by evolution, and which therefore was assembled slowly, piece by piece.

The music of language: exploring grammar, prosody and rhythm perception in zebra finches and budgerigars
by Michelle Spierings, Institute of Biology Leiden

Language is a uniquely human trait. All animals have ways to communicate, but these systems do not bear the same complexity as human language. However, this does not mean that all aspects of human language are specifically human. By studying the language perception abilities of other species, we can discover which parts of language are shared. It are these parts that might have been at the roots of our language evolution. In this thesis I have studied language and music perception in two bird species, zebra finches and budgerigars. For example, zebra finches can perceive the prosodic (intonation) patterns of human language. The budgerigars can learn to discriminate between different abstract (grammar) patterns and generalize these patterns to new sounds. These and other results give us insight in the cognitive abilities that might have been at the very basis of the evolution of human language.

How Music and Language Mimicked Nature to Evolve Us
by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Curiously, in the majority of our interaction with the world, we seem to mimic the sounds of events among solid objects. Solid-object events are comprised of hits, slides and rings, producing periodic vibrations. Every time we speak, we find the same three fundamental auditory constituents in speech: plosives (hit-sounds like t, d and p), fricatives (slide-sounds like f, v and sh), and sonorants (ring-sounds like a, u, w, r and y). Changizi demonstrates that solid-object events have distinct “grammar” recurring in speech patterns across different languages and time periods.

But it gets even more interesting with music, a phenomenon perceived as a quintessential human invention — Changizi draws on a wealth of evidence indicating that music is actually based on natural sounds and sound patterns dating back to the beginning of time. Bonus points for convincingly debunking Steven Pinker’s now-legendary proclamation that music is nothing more than “auditory cheesecake.”

Ultimately, Harnessed shows that both speech and music evolved in culture to be simulacra of nature, making our brains’ penchant for these skills appear intuitive.

The sounds of movement
by Bob Holmes, New Scientist

It is this subliminal processing that spoken language taps into, says Changizi. Most of the natural sounds our ancestors would have processed fall into one of three categories: things hitting one another, things sliding over one another, and things resonating after being struck. The three classes of phonemes found in speech – plosives such as p and k, fricatives such as sh and f, and sonorants such as r, m and the vowels – closely resemble these categories of natural sound.

The same nature-mimicry guides how phonemes are assembled into syllables, and syllables into words, as Changizi shows with many examples. This explains why we acquire language so easily: the subconscious auditory processing involved is no different to what our ancestors have done for millions of years.

The hold that music has on us can also be explained by this kind of mimicry – but where speech imitates the sounds of everyday objects, music mimics the sound of people moving, Changizi argues. Primitive humans would have needed to know four things about someone moving nearby: their distance, speed, intent and whether they are coming nearer or going away. They would have judged distance from loudness, speed from the rate of footfalls, intent from gait, and direction from subtle Doppler shifts. Voila: we have volume, tempo, rhythm and pitch, four of the main components of music.

Scientists recorded two dolphins ‘talking’ to each other
by Maria Gallucci, Mashable

While marine biologists have long understood that dolphins communicate within their pods, the new research, which was conducted on two captive dolphins, is the first to link isolated signals to particular dolphins. The findings reveal that dolphins can string together “sentences” using a handful of “words.”

“Essentially, this exchange of [pulses] resembles a conversation between two people,” Vyacheslav Ryabov, the study’s lead researcher, told Mashable.

“The dolphins took turns in producing ‘sentences’ and did not interrupt each other, which gives reason to believe that each of the dolphins listened to the other’s pulses before producing its own,” he said in an email.

“Whistled Languages” Reveal How the Brain Processes Information
by Julien Meyer, Scientific American

Earlier studies had shown that the left hemisphere is, in fact, the dominant language center for both tonal and atonal tongues as well as for nonvocalized click and sign languages. Güntürkün was interested in learning how much the right hemisphere—associated with the processing of melody and pitch—would also be recruited for a whistled language. He and his colleagues reported in 2015 in Current Biology that townspeople from Kuşköy, who were given simple hearing tests, used both hemispheres almost equally when listening to whistled syllables but mostly the left one when they heard vocalized spoken syllables.

Did Music Evolve Before Language?
by Hank Campbell, Science 2.0

Gottfriend Schlaug of Harvard Medical School does something a little more direct that may be circumstantial but is a powerful exclamation point for a ‘music came first’ argument. His work with patients who have suffered severe lesions on the left side of their brain showed that while they could not speak – no language skill as we might define it – they were able to sing phrases like “I am thirsty”, sometimes within two minutes of having the phrase mapped to a melody.

Chopin, Bach used human speech ‘cues’ to express emotion in music
by Andrew Baulcomb, Science Daily

“What we found was, I believe, new evidence that individual composers tend to use cues in their music paralleling the use of these cues in emotional speech.” For example, major key or “happy” pieces are higher and faster than minor key or “sad” pieces.

Theory: Music underlies language acquisition
by B.J. Almond, Rice University

Contrary to the prevailing theories that music and language are cognitively separate or that music is a byproduct of language, theorists at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) advocate that music underlies the ability to acquire language.

“Spoken language is a special type of music,” said Anthony Brandt, co-author of a theory paper published online this month in the journal Frontiers in Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience. “Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence, and music is often treated as being dependent on or derived from language. But from a developmental perspective, we argue that music comes first and language arises from music.”

– See more at:

How Brains See Music as Language
by Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

What researchers found: The brains of jazz musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show robust activation in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax. In other words, improvisational jazz conversations “take root in the brain as a language,” Limb said.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Ken Schaphorst, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. “I improvise with words all the time—like I am right now—and jazz improvisation is really identical in terms of the way it feels. Though it’s difficult to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough with music as a language where you can speak freely.”

Along with the limitations of musical ability, there’s another key difference between jazz conversation and spoken conversation that emerged in Limb’s experiment. During a spoken conversation, the brain is busy processing the structure and syntax of language, as well the semantics or meaning of the words. But Limb and his colleagues found that brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions. In other words, this kind of music is syntactic but it’s not semantic.

“Music communication, we know it means something to the listener, but that meaning can’t really be described,” Limb said. “It doesn’t have propositional elements or specificity of meaning in the same way a word does. So a famous bit of music—Beethoven’s dun dun dun duuuun—we might hear that and think it means something but nobody could agree what it means.”


Music and Dance on the Mind

There is rhythmic entrainment that is orchestrated rapport, contributing to what some refer to as a hive mind. Taken together, this is collective identity and experience, collective thought and perception in sync with collective behavior. Most of us modern Westerners never experience it, with our obsession with individual identity and activity. But in earlier societies it would have been much more common.

Over at Ribbonfarm, Sarah Perry has written about this and similar things. Her focus is on the varieties and necessities of human consciousness. The article is “Ritual and the Consciousness Monoculture“. It’s a longer piece and packed full of ideas, including an early mention of Jaynesian bicameralism.

The author doesn’t get around to discussing the above topics until about halfway into the piece. It’s in a section titled, “Hiving and Rhythmic Entrainment”. The hiving refers to Jonathan Haidt’s hive hypothesis. It doesn’t seem all that original of an understanding, but still it’s an important idea. This is an area where I’d agree with Haidt, despite my other disagreements elsewhere. In that section, Perry writes that:

Donald Brown’s celebrated list of human universals, a list of characteristics proposed to be common to all human groups ever studied, includes many entries on music, including “music related in part to dance” and “music related in part to religion.” The Pirahã use several kinds of language, including regular speech, a whistling language, and a musical, sung language. The musical language, importantly, is used for dancing and contacting spirits. The Pirahã, Everett says, often dance for three days at a time without stopping. They achieve a different consciousness by performing rituals calibrated to evoke mental states that must remain opaque to those not affected.

Musical language is the type of evidence that seems to bridge different aspects of human experience. It has been argued that language developed along with human tendencies of singing, dance, ritual movement, communal mimicry, group bonding, and other social behaviors. Stephen Mithen has an interesting theory about the singing of early hominids (The Singing Neanderthal).

That brings to mind Lynne Kelly’s book on preliterate mnemonic practices, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies. Kelly goes into great detail about the practices of the Australian Aborigines with their songlines, which always reminds me of the English and Welsh beating of the bounds. A modern example of the power of music is choral singing, which research has shown to create non-conscious mimicry, physical synchrony, and self-other merging.

Eric Mankin, in the comment section of Perry’s article, mentions a book: Keeping Together in Time by  William H. McNeill. It’s about the history of coordinated rhythmic movement as collective ritual, from dances to drills. McNeill argues the important role this has played for groups, communities, and societies. He calls it “muscular bonding” because of the viscerality of the experience, as if the individuals involved physically expand into a larger sense of group-self and fellow-feeling.

It really gets me thinking. If Julian Jaynes was onto something with his bicameral mind, such things as group-oriented vocal and physical entrainment could explain how it could be possible. Not just vocalizations but voice-hearing as well might at times have had a group-oriented aspect, something hard for us to imagine.

One of the perplexing things is how could the early civilizations, lacking in much advanced technology and knowledge, have been able to build vast pyramids. Even today, it would require the most powerful cranes in the world to move the largest blocks of stone that were somehow moved into place in building those ancient structures. Obviously, there were some brilliant minds to help accomplish this, but there also must have been immense organized labor of a kind we never see in the modern world.

Strangest of all, this labor appears not to have been slavery, with no bureaucratic centralized government organizing it all or obvious physical infrastructure to make it possible. There was some kind of social commitment and obligation that compelled large numbers of people to take group action involving back-breaking, life-threatening labor toward a goal that required multiple generations to achieve.

Jaynes brings up one possibility in his book,

Another advantage of schizophrenia, perhaps evolutionary, is tirelessness. While a few schizophrenics complain of generalized fatigue, particularly in the early stages of the illness, most patients do not. In fact, they show less fatigue than normal persons and are capable of tremendous feats of endurance. They are not fatigued by examinations lasting many hours. They may move about day and night, or work endlessly without any sign of being tired. Catatonics may hold an awkward position for days that the reader could not hold for more than a few minutes. This suggests that much fatigue is a product of the subjective conscious mind, and that bicameral man, building the pyramids of Egypt, the ziggurats of Sumer, or the gigantic temples at Teotihuacan with only hand labor, could do so far more easily than could conscious self-reflective men.

If the impairment or lessening of “the subjective conscious mind” allows for impressive physical feats and stamina (along with higher pain threshold), that could explain some of the power unleashed by group rhythmic movements and vocalization. McNeill quotes A. R. Radcliffe about the Andaman islanders: “As the dancer loses himself in the dance, as he becomes absorbed in the unified community, he reaches a state of elation in which he feels himself filled with energy or force immediately beyond his ordinary state, and so finds himself able to perform prodigies of exertion” (Kindle Locations 125-126).

This is why armies can march long distances with little rest in a way that isn’t normally possible for an individual walking alone. As armies have their chants, the oarsmen on boats had their sea chanties and to similar ends. The songs of field laborers, slave or otherwise, would have served the same purpose as well. The individual, no matter how tired, is buoyed up by entrainment to a group activity.

Imagine an entire society organized along these lines. Imagine nearly all activities being done as a group and individuals rarely left alone.

That was what impressed me in reading about the early Roman Empire, as it seems that everything was a social experience, from going to the doctor to going to the bathroom. And the Roman Empire was many centuries following the hypothetical collapse of what Jaynes considered fully bicameral societies, even though traces of bicameralism apparently were still quite common at that time. A society dominated by the bicameral mind wouldn’t merely have been highly social but beyond social as identity itself wouldn’t have been individualistic. Bicameralism, according to theory, wasn’t about individuals relating for individual consciousness as we know it simply would have been nonexistent, not yet part of their sense of reality.

In singing with a choral group or marching in an army, we moderns come as close as we are able to this ancient mind. It’s always there within us, just normally hidden. It doesn’t take much, though, for our individuality to be submerged and something else to emerge. We are all potential goosestepping authoritarian followers, waiting for the right conditions to bring our primal natures out into the open. With the fiery voice of authority, we can be quickly lulled into compliance by an inspiring or invigorating vision:

[T]hat old time religion can be heard in the words and rhythm of any great speaker. Just listen to how a recorded speech of Martin Luther King jr can pull you in with its musicality. Or if you prefer a dark example, consider the persuasive power of Adolf Hitler for even some Jews admitted they got caught up listening to his speeches. This is why Plato feared the poets and banished them from his utopia of enlightened rule. Poetry would inevitably undermine and subsume the high-minded rhetoric of philosophers. “[P]oetry used to be divine knowledge,” as Guerini et al states in Echoes of Persuasion, “It was the sound and tenor of authorization and it commanded where plain prose could only ask.”

Poetry is one of the forms of musical language. Plato’s fear wasn’t merely about the aesthetic appeal of metered rhyme. Living in an oral culture, he would have intimately known the ever-threatening power and influence of the spoken word. Likewise, the sway and thrall of rhythmic movement would have been equally familiar in that world. Community life in ancient Greek city-states was almost everything that mattered, a tightly woven identity and experience.

We aren’t as different from ancient humanity as it might seem. Our societies have changed drastically, suppressing old urges and potentialities. Yet the same basic human nature still lurks within us, hidden in the underbrush along the well trod paths of the mind. The hive mind is what the human species naturally falls back upon, from millennia of collective habit. The problem we face is we’ve lost the ability to express well our natural predisposition toward group-mindedness, too easily getting locked into groupthink, a tendency easily manipulated.

Considering this, we have good reason to be wary, not knowing what we could tap into. We don’t understand our own minds and so we naively underestimate the power of humanity’s social nature. With the right conditions, hiving is easy to elicit but hard to control or shut down. The danger is that the more we idolize individuality the more prone we become to what is so far beyond the individual. It is the glare of hyper-individualism that casts the shadow of authoritarianism.

* * *

Musical Language
from Radiolab

Study: Music, language’s common evolutionary roots lie in emotion
by Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

Speaking in Tones: Music and Language Partner in the Brain
by Diana Deutsch, Scientific American

“Music, Language, and the Brain” by Aniruddh D. Patel
by Barbara Tillmann, Psychomusicology Journal

330. Did Music Originate as a Behavioral Adaptation? — 1
(pt. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8)
by Victor Grauer, MUSIC 000001

Piraha Indians, Recursion, Phonemic Inventory Size and the Evolutionary Significance of Simplicity
by German Dziebel, Anthropogenesis

Musical protolanguage: Darwin’s theory of language evolution revisited
by Mark Liberman, Lanuguage Log

Music and the Neanderthal’s Communication
from PBS

Steven Mithen – The Singing Neanderthals
by Andreas Bick, silent listening

Steven Mithen: The Singing Neanderthals
by John Henry Calvinist, The New Humanities

The Singing Neanderthal
by Barbara J. King, Bookslut

The origins of music, part 2: Musilanguage
by Eugene Hirschfeld, Marxist Theory of Art

Synch, Song, and Society
by William L. Benzon, Human Nature Review

Survival Dance: How Humans Waltzed Through the Ice Age
by Heather Whipps, Live Science

Working in a team increases human pain threshold
by Ian Sample, The Guardian

The Neuroscience of Dance
by Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today

Dance Songs Dissolve Differences That Divide Us
by Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today

Science-Based Madonna: Music Makes the People Come Together
by Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today

Rhythm without the blues: how dance crazes make us feel a step closer
by Ian Sample, The Guardian

Synchrony and Cooperation
from Changing Minds

To like each other, sing and dance in synchrony
by Kaj Sotala, Less Wrong

It’s All in the Timing: Interpersonal Synchrony Increases Affiliation
Michael J. Hove & Jane L. Risen, Social Cognition Journal

Dance and Drill
by Erik Buys, Mimetic Margins

Moving images–Dance and repetition make your eye and heart sing, a book review
By Roberta Fallon, Artblog

Laban’s Movement Choirs vs. Nazi Soldier Parades and Propaganda Imagery: Spectacle or Gemeinschafstanz?
by Marjie Shrimpton,

Moments of Geopolitical Choreography: Performance of Cultural Ideals in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Beyond
by Allison Bohman, The College at Brockport

Human Swarming and the future of Collective Intelligence
by Louis Rosenberg, Singularity

Ancient Greek Dance
by Michael Lahanas, Hellenica

Ancient Greek Dance

War dances in Ancient Greece
from VSLM

Choral Singing and Self-Identity

I haven’t previously given any thought to choral singing. I’ve never been much of a singer, not even in private. My desire to sing in public with a group of others is next to non-existent. So, it never occurred to me what might be the social experience and psychological result of being in a choir.

It appears something odd goes on in such a situation. Maybe it’s not odd, but it has come to seem odd to us moderns. This kind of group activity has become uncommon. In our hyper-individualistic society, we forget how much we are social animals. Our individualism is dependent on highly unusual conditions that wouldn’t have existed for most of civilization.

I was reminded a while back of this social aspect when reading about Galen in the Roman Empire. Individualism is not the normal state or, one might argue, the healthy state of humanity. It is rather difficult to create individuals and, even then, our individuality is superficial and tenuous. Humans so quickly lump themselves into groups.

This evidence about choral singing makes me wonder about earlier societies. What role did music play, specifically group singing (along with dancing and ritual), in creating particular kinds of cultures and social identities? And how might that have related to pre-literate memory systems that rooted people in a concrete sense of the world, such as Aboriginal songlines?

I’ve been meaning to write about Lynne Kelly’s book, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies. This is part of my long term focus on what sometimes is called the bicameral mind and the issue of its breakdown. Maybe choral singing touches upon the bicameral mind.

* * *

It’s better together: The psychological benefits of singing in a choir
by N.A. Stewart & A.J. Lonsdale, Psychology of Music

Previous research has suggested that singing in a choir might be beneficial for an individual’s psychological well-being. However, it is unclear whether this effect is unique to choral singing, and little is known about the factors that could be responsible for it. To address this, the present study compared choral singing to two other relevant leisure activities, solo singing and playing a team sport, using measures of self-reported well-being, entitativity, need fulfilment and motivation. Questionnaire data from 375 participants indicated that choral singers and team sport players reported significantly higher psychological well-being than solo singers. Choral singers also reported that they considered their choirs to be a more coherent or ‘meaningful’ social group than team sport players considered their teams. Together these findings might be interpreted to suggest that membership of a group may be a more important influence on the psychological well-being experienced by choral singers than singing. These findings may have practical implications for the use of choral singing as an intervention for improving psychological well-being.

More Evidence of the Psychological Benefits of Choral Singing
by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard

The synchronistic physical activity of choristers appears to create an unusually strong bond, giving members the emotionally satisfying experience of temporarily “disappearing” into a meaningful, coherent body. […]

The first finding was that choral singers and team sports players “reported significantly higher levels of well-being than solo singers.” While this difference was found on only one of the three measures of well-being, it does suggest that activities “pursued as part of a group” are associated with greater self-reported well-being.

Second, they found choral singers appear to “experience a greater sense of being part of a meaningful, or ‘real’ group, than team sports players.” This perception, which is known as “entitativity,” significantly predicted participants’ scores on all three measures of well-being. […]

The researchers suspect this feeling arises naturally from choral singers’ “non-conscious mimicry of others’ actions.” This form of physical synchrony “has been shown to lead to self-other merging,” they noted, “which may encourage choral singers to adopt a ‘we perspective’ rather than an egocentric perspective.”

Not surprisingly, choral singers experienced the lowest autonomy of the three groups. Given that autonomy can be very satisfying, this may explain why overall life-satisfaction scores were similar for choral singers (who reported little autonomy but strong bonding), and sports team members (who experienced moderate levels of both bonding and autonomy).

Always Summertime (sung by Sarah Gregory)

I just wanted to post something less serious. I find this song rather catchy. In case you’re unfamiliar, Sarah Gregory is married to one of the Gregory brothers. She, along with the brothers, are the creators of Auto-Tune the News which is an awesome series of videos. I recommend it as your primary source of news.

If you enjoyed the accompaniment of the babies, the following is an earlier video featuring the babies.

Pink’s Newest Album Funhouse

Pink’s Newest Album Funhouse

Posted on Jan 11th, 2009 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I feel like commenting on a musician I don’t normally give much attention to.  I just came across Pink’s new album Funhouse.  I was merely curious, but was rather surprised to really enjoy some of the songs.  Here is one song from that album that is more low-key than some of the others.
I was trying to pinpoint who her voice and style reminded me of.  There is the obvious influence of No Doubt, but she can be edgier than Gwen Stefani.  Its funny that one of her influences is supposedly Mariah Carey… I just don’t get that.  Anyways, from the above song, I can hear a hint of Bonnie Tyler which also amuses me.  I’m trying to imagine Pink doing ’80s Rock Opera.  Something about her singing does remind me of Freddie Mercury for a reason I can’t entirely explain.  Maybe its because she seems to have a Rockstar presence like he had, but Freddie Mercury had more of a depth of sorrow in certain songs that I don’t think she can match.

Here is one of her more rocking and playful songs which is the one that first caught my attention, and its a good video.  Its supposedly her biggest hit so far in her career.

I also get a sense of other aspects to her singing.  I hear some folk-rock in certain songs and I think she could even do alt-country if she gave it the slightest effort.  I’m not sure what is, but I hear something familiar in songs like the following.  There is the slight gravelly voice that is reminiscent of any number of other female vocalists.  I almost want to say Melissa Etheridge, but I’m not sure that is quite right.
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1 day later

Terrill said

Wow Marmalade! The diversity of this singer/songwriter reminds me of Tom Waits – you just never know what to expect. As for alternative country… I don’t know. My exposure is really limited and mostly includes a group No Horses. she seems pretty tame compared to their work. Maybe I just need to listen to more alternative country but to be honest… I like the slow mellow stuff with lots of emotion like Glitter in the Air.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

I just wrote a long response and of course it disappeared.

Basically, I don’t know the merit of my analysis of Pink. This blog is based on listening to only one of her albums, but have been listening to some of her other albums for comparison. As for Alt-Country, I didn’t mean much by that as I’m not an expert there either. It seems a broad category. I just listened to No Horses and she isn’t anything like them for sure. Maybe what I meant by the Alt-Country reference is that some of her songs sound like something that could be sung in the style of Alt-Country.

On Rhapsody, Pink is categorized as Pop and Contemporary R&B. I was just comparing her newest album to some of her earlier work. I like the new album more. There is afair degreeofvarietyin thestyles she useson it. Like No Doubt, she has some of the Ska Punk influence. I’m listening to Ska Punk right now andPink definitely has a cleaner Pop sound, but her newest album has less of a Pop sound than her earliest music.


Music and Movies of Oz

Music and Movies of Oz

Posted on Dec 27th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I was just watching some of The Wizard of Oz again.  For some reason, I never think of it as a musical.  It does have music, but the songs seem more spread out than a typical musical.  Watching it again I was as impressed as ever. 

Much of it touches upon favorite tropes in our culture.  I wonder why our culture has such an obsession about young girl characters that are excitable and have wild imaginations.  LIke Anne of Green Gables, she is raised by an older couple who aren’t her parents and she gets in trouble with a crotchety old neighbor lady.

There have been many fictional works (both books and movies) spawned off of the original books.  In particular, I enjoyed the movie Return to Oz and the tv series Tin Man.  I also just watched the musical Wicked and thought it well done.

Of course, when The Wizard of Oz is mentioned Judy Garland immediately comes to mind.  She does a good version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but here is my favorite version.

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Post-Modern Pop

Post-Modern Pop

Posted on Dec 20th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’ve been trying out a trial of Rhapsody.  I must say I like the service and can find nearly everything I’m looking for.  In the process, I discovered a music genre that they had… Post-Modern Pop (top albums, top tracks).  I’d never heard of that category, but they had several of my favorite artists listed: Bjork, Ween, They Might Be Giants, Beck, and Tegan and Sara.  Here is Rhapsody’s definition of Post-Modern Pop:

Post-Modern Pop alternately mocks and celebrates trashy culture — sometimes at the same time — through a hodgepodge of sampling and genre-bending. Beck, Post-Modern Pop’s point man, crystallized the genre’s junkyard vision by blending nearly every imaginable musical style — from folk to hip-hop to Indie Rock — on his groundbreaking mid-1990s albums Mellow Gold and Odelay. L.A. production duo the Dust Brothers have played a significant role in forming Post- Modern Pop’s eclectic sound, producing Odelay as well as the Beastie Boys’ cult favorite Paul’s Boutique plus several tracks on I Become Small and Go, the sleeper debut of Bay Area band Creeper Lagoon. Post-Modern Pop’s success rests in its ability to tap into an overwhelming variety of stylistic sources to assemble hazy yet gripping amalgamations of sound that somehow reflect the essence of pop culture.


Music Online

Music Online

Posted on Dec 18th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I’ve been checking out sites where you can play music and create channels.  I’ve so far only played around Last FM to any great extent, but plan on checking out the others.  Here is a good recent review of the top four by Nathan Chase:

Slacker,, Pandora, & LaunchCast – A Personalized Radio Roundup

Here is an article by Matt Rosoff at Digital Noise:

CBS adds Launchcast to its online radio arsenal

Launchcast was owned by Yahoo and was the original online music service, but I don’t get the sense that its as popular as some of the others.  CBS already owns Last FFM and plans on changing Launchcast to fit a different niche.  Last FM and Launchast combined will create quite a competition to the other offerings.

Edit: I want to add a couple of links and comments.

The first comparison I came across was this one by Steve Krause.  Its a good analysis of the differences between the two biggest players that have free services.

Pandora and Nature vs. Nurture in Music Recommenders

Here is a review by Gary Savelson that gives a quick synopsis of many different services.

Discovering Music: Jango, Finetune, Meemix, Slacker, Deezer, MOG,, Pandora, Haystack

This one that is very detailed.

Rocketsurgeon Blog

This is interesting… a couple of sites that allow you to use your Last FM account to discover videos on Youtube. mashup

I Love Music Video

The comment I wanted to make is that there is some nice software that helps connect between these services.  There is one that sends what you listen to on Pandora to your Last FM account and one that does the same sending your Rhapsody music to Last FM. 

Last FM seems to be the most popular and sounds like its probably more useful for most people.  It has a simpler model and the community aspect creates a strong loyalty base.  I’ve found it easy to use and it gives me solid recommendations for similar music.  I’ll explore Pandora some and I might even choose to pay for Rhapsody, but whatever the case I’ll probably still visit Last FM.

Its hard to tell which services might survive in the long run as the music industry is always looking to increase their profits which might force under some of these free services.  I don’t know about Pandora because it was having some trouble recently, but I’m willing to bet Last FM lasts as it has a large company backing it.  Pandora could easily lose out as soon as other companies start trying the same thing they do.

I’m not sure what is going on with Yahoo.  There changing everything around and I don’t know what they’ll be offering in the future.  They shifted some of their services off onto Rhapsody.  I have no idea how Yahoo compares, but it doesn’t seem to be in the same league with Pandora and Last FM.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 16 hours later

Nicole said

For me, the biggest problem with Pandora is that it only works in the US. I found it quite promising before it became unavailable to us, now it’s only frustrating to think about. I don’t know why I stopped using Last FM, guess I just got too busy and forgot to come back to it. One thing was that I found it quite limited in terms of classical music. I would love a good site like this that really has the breadth and depth of classical to explore and link. But that’s probably unlikely.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

Ahhh, yes, I’d heard that Canadians can’t get some of the services. Sorry to hear that. Its easy to forget about national bordres when online… or maybe its easy for an American.

I’m also sorry that Last FM is limited in terms of classical music. I wonder that is. I suppose Last FM focuses on more popular music, but you’d think that classical would have a large audience… maybe the typical person interested in classical doesn’t tend to look online for music. I wonder if there are any other free services that offer classical music.

I suppose you might have to go to a pay site to get classical. Have you ever tried any of the download or subscription services? I’m really curious about them.

There are two reasons I got out of the habit of listening to music on a regular basis. For one, I didn’t like spending money on cds. The second is that the musical offering on local radio stations is worse than it used to be.

I’m thinking a subscription service could make me more interested in music again. I’m really enjoying gathering my favorites on Last FM, but it doesn’t offer subscription to unlimited listening to all songs available. Last FM hasa severe limitation to what you can playwithout buying and there aren’t too many songs I would want to permanently own.

I came across Rhapsody via Yahoo. I’m checking them out right now and did some searches for reviews. Looking at comparisons with other services (Napster, Zune), Rhapsody seems maybe the best fit for me. Supposedly, they have around 4 million songs available which might be the biggest collection available online. The price seems reasonable. The only downside is that if you stop subscription, you lose your library of favorites.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 24 hours later

Nicole said

i’ve been quite happy with emusic as a paid site from which one can get a large variety of really good music, including classical. I don’t spend as much time there as I could though.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 24 hours later

Marmalade said

I’d heard people give great praise to emusic. From what I understand, its a good place to find more altenative music which I guess in this case includes classical. I wonder if it has anything Rhapsody wouldn’t. I keep seeing new numbers on Rhapsody. The last one I noticed said there was something like6 or7 million songs on Rhapsody and that they add new songs as they’re released on a weekly basis.

So, emusic has everything you want? Have you ever looked for something there and not been able to find it?

Rhapsody and emusic seem to have different purposes. Rhapsody ismore massiveand more expensive. Rhapsody is probably trying to be everything to everyone, but I don’t know how successful they are at doing that. Another thing is that someone said that emusic isn’t a subscription service in the way Rhapsody is. I’m not quite sure what the specific differences are though.

What attracted you to emusic? I suppose it being available in Canada was a point in its favor. 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

One thing I coudn’t find on Rhapody was the soundtrack to the movie Billy Elliot. I was surprised because it was a major movie. I did a search around. It didn’t seem to be available on other music sites which is strange because the music on the soundtrack can be found through the albums of the musicians themselves.

There is one reallynice thing about Rhapsody and Last FM. I’ve set it up so what I play on Rhapsody gets show on my profile on Last FM. They balance eachother out well. There is more music available on Rhapsody of course, but Last FM lets you see what others with similar tastes are listening to.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

I’ve made another happy discovery.

Both Last FM and Rhapody have some spoken word… specifically William S. Burroughs, but not as muh as I’d like. I even befriended a fellow Burroughs fan and joinedthe Burroughs group this person started. I already own practically all of the available cds of Burroughs, but its still nice to find Burroughs on the main music sites.

I’d like to find other spoken word authors. I’ll probably have to check elsewhere for a more full selection. That is my only major disappointment so far with Rhapsody. Still, they do have a fair amount of spoken word considering its not their focus.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

That’s really cool!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

Ya know, I have to give props to Last FM. They have a very simple and intuitive system. And its quite amazing how much you can find on it considering its basic services are free.

On another note, soundtracks seem hard to find on the music sites. Along with Billy Eliot, I couldn’t find the soundtracks to either Dancer in the Dark or Songcatcher. All three of those movies were very musically-oriented to say the least. I would imagine that the music sites would like to offer these soundtracks, but apparently they have a hard time making deals with the movie industry.

Going back to my previous comment, I did look around for sites that offered spoken word. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be anything similar to these music sites. The spoken audio sites seem to be where the music sites were years ago… maybe there just isn’t enough money in that industry to bring about innovation.