"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Friday, June 01, 2007

It Was 40 Years Ago Today!

Daniel Levitin in today's Washington Post commemorates the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper:

Yes, it's been 40 years exactly since Sgt. Pepper, having labored the previous 20 years teaching his band to play, arranged for its debut in full psychedelic regalia.

Paul McCartney may be the closest thing our generation has produced to Franz Schubert -- a master of melody, writing tunes anyone can sing, songs that seem to have been there all along.

A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people won't know who wrote them

Figuring out why some songs and not others stick in our heads, and why we can enjoy certain songs across a lifetime, is the work not just of composers but also of psychologists and neuroscientists.

To a neuroscientist, the longevity of the Beatles can be explained by the fact that their music created subtle and rewarding schematic violations of popular musical forms, causing a symphony of neural firings from the cerebellum to the prefrontal cortex, joined by a chorus of the limbic system and an ostinato from the brainstem.

In my laboratory, we've found that listening to a familiar song that you like activates the same parts of the brain as eating chocolate, having sex or taking opiates. There really is a sex, drugs and rock-and-roll part of the brain: a network of neural structures including the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. But no one song does this for everyone, and musical taste is both variable and subjective.

The act we've known for all these years is still in style, guaranteed to raise a smile, one hopes for generations to come. I have to admit, it's getting better all the time.
Read the whole thing and then give Sgt. Pepper a listen.

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