Archives for category: Newspaper Article

In today’s RTL Nieuws EditieNL a short interview with me why Q Music‘s radio quiz “Het Geluid” was so difficult. (The text is in Dutch.)

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Conclusion of a research done by a Dutch Professor of pop music: adolescents listening to ‘non-conventional’ music – metal, gothic, hardcore house, hip hop – have a much greater chance of becoming involved in vandalism, shoplifting, or brawls than kids listening to top 40, classical music, jazz, or singer-songwriters.

What do this Dutch Professor, the Taliban, Richard Taruskin, and Frank Zappa (although with a wink) have in common? Somehow they all seem to agree with what Plato said some 25 centuries ago: (certain) music should be forbidden in order to create and maintain a decent and stable society. Yeah, music is dangerous …

Want to read the whole article? Click here (in Dutch)

According to the German studio Finally one cannot understand music. One can be seduced by music, or simply enjoy it. But to understand it – that’s impossible. See their animation below.

The main idea reminds me of an interview Pierre Boulez once had on a French television station with a writer whose name I’ve forgotten. First music is a mystery, the writer told Boulez. Then, after studying it, everything becomes clear. But, finally, with the performance, it becomes a mystery again. 

The central question, however, remains: can some knowledge about music enhance the enjoyment or is knowledge sometimes obstructing certain encounters with music? Or do both statements contain some kind of truth?

British scientists have ‘discovered’ the most annoying sound: not the famous nail scraping on a blackboard, but scratching a glass with a knife. The more annoying, the more activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain controlling our emotions. A second category of annoying sounds consists of sounds that evoke bad associations.

To read more about this research, click here (in Dutch)

On September 12 elections were held in The Netherlands. What kind of music did the political parties choose while they were waiting for the final results and just before the party leaders went on stage to give their speech? The choice for a particular tune says a lot about the party’s mood, whether they’ve lost or won. Sometimes the choice is rather awkward: the liberal (right-winged) party playing Coldplay’s ‘Viva la Vida’ for example. Did they really understand the lyrics? Moreover, the clip of ‘Viva la Vida’ starts with a bursting red rose – the symbol of their biggest adversary, the social democrats.
Read more here (in Dutch)

Toshiyuki Anzai is a cab driver in central Tokyo whose love of jazz drove him to start a unique Jazz Taxi service. His 90-minute cruises pair cityscapes with the most fitting music. Anzai plays songs that match not only the view but his passengers’ moods — though he is partial to jazz, he sometimes throws Deep Purple and Wagner into the mix. The article is from 2009 but still worth reading …

Jazz Taxi driver Toshiyuki Anzai | The Japan Times Online.

In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma. During a study involving information technology specialists, it was found that those who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t, because the music improves their mood. See the whole article here.

For decades, critics, historians and even neuroscientists have been pondering the question of why so-called modern music seems to perplex the average listener. After all, adventurous artists in other fields have met with a very different reception. In Why do we hate modern classical music? Alex Ross assumes that the core problem is neither physiological nor sociological. Rather, modern composers have fallen victim to a long-smouldering indifference that is intimately linked to classical music’s idolatrous relationship with the past. What must fall away is the notion of classical music as a reliable conduit for consoling beauty – a kind of spa treatment for tired souls.

I agree with Ross that (classical) music is not (only) about beauty. However, I would take physiological and sociological explanations more serious: it seems like music affects us more than other arts do – at least on a different plateau. This might be a reason why we tend to react much more passionately when it concerns music.
Click here for a German essay on modern classical music and our cerebral functions.

Award-winning musician Christopher Cerf has composed music for the famous children’s television show Sesame Street for 40 years. During this time, he has written more than 200 songs intended to help children learn how to read and write.
But these innocent children’s songs were abused for inhumane purposes.
In 2003, it transpired that US intelligence services had tortured detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib with music from Sesame Street. Human rights researcher Thomas Keenan explains: “Prisoners were forced to put on headphones. They were attached to chairs, headphones were attached to their heads, and they were left alone just with the music for very long periods of time. Sometimes hours, even days on end, listening to repeated loud music.”
“The music was so loud,” says Moazzam Begg, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram. “And it was probably some of the worst torture that they faced.”
Stunned by this abuse of his work, Cerf was motivated to find out more about how it could happen. “In Guantanamo they actually used music to break prisoners. So the idea that my music had a role in that is kind of outrageous,” he says. “This is fascinating to me both because of the horror of music being perverted to serve evil purposes if you like, but I’m also interested in how that’s done. What is it about music that would make it work for that purpose?”
Cerf embarks on a journey to learn just what it is that makes music such a powerful stimulant. In the process, he speaks to soldiers, psychologists and prisoners tortured with his music at Guantanamo Bay and finds out how the military has been employing music as a potent weapon for hundreds of years.
The resulting film, Songs of War, explores the relationship between music and violence.

Today I’ve published a short article about art, subsidies, and quality standards in the Dutch daily De Volkskrant . What is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art? In short: the difference cannot be determined on the basis of intrinsic or objective features of an art work. What is good/bad is decided in a network of persons, most of them quite influential in the art worlds.