Archives for category: Newspaper Article

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.

Pop venues in Rotterdam sound the alarm: the austerity politics of the local authorities will result in a disaster for the pop climate in the city. Read more here (in Dutch).

Making music with musical jelly. Read here an article about this topic (in Dutch).

Mihailo Antovic, a linguist and visiting researcher at Case Western Reserve University, proposes that our musical conceptualization brings together a world of different people.
He found the commonality among children of distinct ethnic backgrounds and languages in his home of Serbia, and he’s now testing whether the same can be found among English-speaking, Serbian-speaking and seeing-impaired children in the U.S.
See article.

On February 13, 2012, the Dutch daily NRC published an article about musical tear-jerkers and a scientific explanation of this phenomenon. Such as a result of the Grammy Awards success of singers like Adele.