“Jesus Christ, What Happened?”: Rape Culture in the World of Kids

 “Casper: Jesus Christ, what happened?”

-Final dialogue, “Kids” (1995)

Polaroid by Larry Clark, 1993

 

Created by Ernest G. Bormann, fantasy-theme criticism was created to provide insights into the shared worldview of groups of rhetors.[1] Through studying the processes of communication in small groups, Robert Bales found that group fantasizing or dramatizing often included an increase of excitement, a quickening of the tempo, and a tendency for participants to forego their self-consciousness. By extending Bales’ fantasizing phenomenon into Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory (based on the assumption that communication creates reality, and that symbols found in this communication can create a shared reality) and fantasy-theme method, one may also apply this criticism to social movements, political propaganda, organizational communication, and other various types of rhetoric.

To elaborate on symbolic convergence theory, it is important to note that as a part of communication creating reality, “the chaotic and disorderly sensory world is organized and made manageable by the symbols that are devised to dominate it.”[2] When in the midst of social, religious, cultural or societal disorder symbols are introduced and agreed upon, a kind of tangible, impermeable clarity becomes possible through linguistic expression. In 1967, Robert L. Scott argued that rhetoric was not intact for the purpose of lending usefulness to truth, but of creating truth. Just as the metaphors of the brain are manipulated and molded with the advancement of research, these metaphors and symbols are connected to the reality we define and experience. When two or more symbols converge to create a shared reality, the second assumption of symbolic convergence theory is fulfilled in convergence. It is through this very means that humans commence in building a shared consciousness, and achieve mutual understanding. Although the rhetoric’s actual literature is essential, because fantasy is the “creative and imaginative interpretation of events”[3], it is the sharing of the word, phrase or statement – the message itself – that is seen as most significant.

Within feminism, rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of society where the prevailing attitudes may allow for, turn a blind eye toward, or even excuse rape.[4] In the 1995 film “Kids,” often criticized director Larry Clark paints an extremely controversial picture of a group of teenagers’ daily life in urban Manhattan. Through a lens of glorifying addiction, manipulation, high-risk sexual behavior and violence, rape culture is introduced, and permeated. With Clark’s provided insight into some of the darkest depravities faced universally by youth today, one may use fantasy criticism to identify the three themes necessary in creating the drama to describe the world from a group perspective: settings, characters, and actions.

The setting of the scene is inner-city New York in the mid 1990s, away from most adult supervision, resulting in what the New York Times then labeled “a wake-up call to the modern world.” The setting is one of substance abuse, the rise of the AIDS epidemic, and rape culture. Although the lone teenager may serve as minor protagonists (notably the female leads Jenny and Ruby) offering the brief glimpse of hope for humanity in their efforts at solidarity and moral responsibility, “Kids” has no heroes. As main characters (male) Telly and Casper make no attempt to hide their motives, their “fallen” nature is easily identifiable. As Ruby and Jenny’s principle objective is to warn others of the rapidly spreading AIDS virus (perpetuated by the leading men’s sexual behaviors), Telly and Casper’s main intent remains to engage irresponsibility, recklessness and manipulation in seemingly any mode possible. When Jenny learns she has contracted AIDS via Telly, the sole individual she has ever had relations with, she sets out on a mission to locate, inform, and stop him. Unfortunately, as reality often echoes, this undertaking ends in atrocious tragedy, with Jenny unknowingly and unconsciously left in the hands of Casper to confirm the ultimate expression of rape culture.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the offense, it is estimated that anywhere between seventy-five to ninety-five percent of sexual assault crimes go unreported.[5] Unfortunately, this makes the publicizing of unambiguous statistics in regard to sexual violence a challenge. Regardless, it is no secret that many have dealt with such tragedy personally, or by means of someone they know. It is because of this singularity that the dramatizing and sharing of a group fantasy become possible. While the release of this film caused much concern for multiple people groups, it is safe to say much discourse has been had surrounding the depicted rape in the final scene of the film. In 2000, Roger Ebert plainly stated “Kids is the kind of movie that needs to be talked about afterward.” When a piece of rhetoric enfolding a reality that gives way to this type of reactive conversation occurs, it forms a rhetorical vision called fantasy type. By establishing this fantasy type, a larger rhetorical vision becomes possible, capable of providing a “credible interpretation of reality.”[6] When a group is able place new events and experiences into familiar patterns, a shared consciousness is either born or reinforced, and the rhetorical vision may forge a larger rhetorical community lending to a new, shared reality. It is through this shared reality that motives for change are borne, and carried out. This is one of the predominant reasons a fantasy-theme critique is appropriate in the analysis of social and political movements.

In the same way that diegetic and non-diegetic music take turns in film, so do the characters and audience take turns in dramatizing the shared fantasies. As assuredly countless viewers of the rhetoric have engaged in the shared rhetorical vision surrounding the portrayal of rape culture in the film, so too have the protagonists and antagonists performing. The female roles (specifically Jenny and Ruby) are often seen complaining or protesting in regard to the many ways they are objectified by men. During these conversations, namely one discussion at a sleepover, the classic idea of the sharing of fantasy-themes and a rhetorical vision is frequently evident. Each time one of the females describes something (be it an act or attitude) that the male desires/requires, she is met with the exchange of shared laughter, bodily posture shifts, moans in annoyance and other general expressions of commonality. The male roles (not only Telly and Casper, but frequently the supporting actors throughout) are also seen sharing fantasy-themes and a rhetorical vision, only from the opposite perspective. Whereas the women desire to be independent and empowered, the men are portrayed holding the desire to conquer, occupy and manipulate. This is apparent in arguably every scene of “Kids” in which a male character is present.

Although many fantasy themes are exhibited either by image, dialogue or concept, the two chief opposing forces revolve around a patriarchal archetype of domination, the expressed desire for control either by subversion, persuasion or force, and the constant underlying (yet apparent) representation of rape culture. With the females expressing either the desire to transcend this theme (or the disputably feigned façade of “female empowerment” by giving in to the male’s primal desires) and the males expressing little more than a dogged determination to obey their animalistic urges at all costs, the audience is provided a robust platform on which to fashion their own version of collective consciousness, rhetorical vision, and shared reality. In a culture where the atrocities depicted in the film occur far too often in reality, through questionable to be sure, “Kids” remains a film hailed by many to be a documentary style work of art, succeeding at very least in bringing to light some very important issues.

Fantasy-theme criticism uniquely illuminates the artifact because it allows for the deconstruction of a complex and sensitive rhetoric into smaller, more tangible symbols. As a final example, one of the most telling fantasy themes portrayed may be found within the film’s 90 second trailer. Regarding the symbol of travel, the male is often seen running, jumping, or most importantly, skateboarding. In contrast, the female is seen walking slowly from the clinic, stumbling in a club under the influence of an accidental hallucinogenic ingestion, and despairingly transported in a male-driven taxicab. Where the male is free to participate with his surroundings with freedom as he chooses, the female is constantly depicted as slower, more ‘weighed down,’ and restrained. The film begins, and ends, with the complete theft of female innocence. By giving this type of heartbreak a voice to speak, we may not only open previously nonexistent dialogue circuits and enable the unifying of diverse audiences, but pave the way for “affecting the nature and outcome of public controversies.”[7] It is not only women who suffer from this culture – males are also victims. Overall, few are immune to the tragedy the loss of innocence through the loss of personal will. When the devastating, horrifying utilization of the word “rape” becomes heard in the same breath as “culture,” we’ve no choice but to ask ourselves, “Jesus Christ, what happened?”

Polaroid by Larry Clark, 1993

 

 

 

[1] Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1996, p. 121

[2] Ibid, p. 122

[3] Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1996, p. 123

[4] Williams, Joyce E, George Ritzer, J. Michael Ryan, ed. The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 493

[5] “Without consent: A report on the joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences.” Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. January 2007, p. 8. Retrieved 24 March 24, 2014.

[6] Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1996, p. 125

[7] Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1996, p. 130

There’s No Leaving Now

7
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Perhaps one of the most daunting questions I will face over the next few years of my academic life will be “What happens when music doesn’t heal?”
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There have been times that music has failed me.
.
Tonight is not one of them.
.
The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
.
When there’s no one here in the tryouts
who will live through your first day’s trial
of confusion when your faint and crooked smile
had to leave

And when you’re painted like a warrior
though you know it’s a raining war
when the first who spoke, but wasn’t really sure
was your heart

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now.

And with your quiet damn devotion
to be lost like your child again
claim “forever” is a close and honest friend
to your ways

Will there be time to harvest rivers
that for so long refused to grow?
All the little things you need to build a home
for your love

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now.

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now –

 

The Healing Power of Music in Loss: Music Therapy for Kids

If you know me, you know I wholeheartedly believe in the power of music. You may also know that in some cases and practices of music therapy, I remain the skeptic, and try to retain a critical lens. Simply put, music doesn’t always heal. Ah, but when it does.

Soma Children’s Orchestra and Chorus

For the third anniversary of the great earthquake in Eastern Japan, a group of Japanese animators have come together for a relief project.

Founded in 2012, the Zapuni LLC organization unites Japanese artists and musicians to work together on various projects in order to raise awareness and money for general aid. Set to Sade’s Grammy nominated song By Your Side, this animated video tells the story of a rabbit and bear who lose a friend in the earthquake, and how music acts as a healing agent in helping them come to terms with their loss. I have found this video incredibly powerful, and hope you will too.

Directed by Tsuneo Goda, it has been created by the stop-motion animation company Dwarf for children’s charity Soma Children’s Orchestra and Chorus which has been inspired by El Sistima, and uses music therapy to help children who have been emotionally and psychologically traumatised by the disaster.

If you wish to donate to the cause, funds attained will be used for instruments, teaching and classes.

Photo and info courtesy of http://www.designweek.co.uk

Any Port in a Storm – Say Something

imagesI have a dear friend (we’ll call him Nathan). Though I haven’t seen him in years, we keep in touch as much as life’s seeming entropy permits. I met Nathan in college when I began voice lessons and needed an accompanist. As proved typical for me, I simply looked for the most dashing, accomplished pianist available to join me in practicing my Italian arias and favorites from Phantom. Though young, Nathan was a great musician, and though our personalities couldn’t be more opposite, I held a great amount of respect for him.

One day, a curious thing happened. I was driving on my way to school after grabbing coffee when I saw Nathan walking down the road about a mile out. I was already nearly late to class, so I rolled down my window and offered him a ride. When I became close enough to see his face, I understood immediately that Nathan would not be joining us in World History that day. We awkwardly mumbled something to each other, he declined the ride, and I reluctantly kept going. When I arrived in class, I discreetly explained to the professor that though I was unsure of the cause, something was very wrong with Nathan, and he would be absent for the day.

As time passed, Nathan and I became inseparable. As I was a couple years his senior and lived off campus, it became the unsaid ritual that after choir, we’d grab food. After ensemble, I’d kidnap him to Starbucks so he could tease me as I refused to budge until I had studied for my philosophy class for no less than 4-6 hours at a time. He tried to help me in music theory, and I tried to help him gain confidence in singing. Although like many pianists, he had a lovely but timid singing voice, I really never heard it until recently – some five years after meeting him.

A year or so into our friendship, Nathan transferred to a college back home. I was devastated, as I had lost my best pal. Who was I going to call for a long drive to do nothing but sit in silence and listen to Radiohead’s Videotape over and over when it felt like my existential world of faith was caving in? Who was going to teach me the rest of the Mendelssohn piece (by ear, mind you, as I refused to read the sheet music at the time)? Who was going to roll his eyes at me when I showed off in the ear training portion of collegiate, or play Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu for me as only he could? I didn’t know. I eventually made new friends, but the uniting factor that brought us together was a bond so strong it was never replaced, and has never faded. The type of bond that although we haven’t seen each other in four years, he remains available for my call anytime, day or night, and I for his. That bond is the blinding desolation of loss, and the dogged, unyielding courage of resilience.

Jonathan's PianoWhen Nathan tragically lost one of his best friends the day I found him slowly trodding down the side of the road, I somehow knew. Though up to that point, I’d only lost a few people in my life, I was no stranger to loss of the purest kind. As Nathan and I grew closer, we grew to develop a stronger empathy for one another – many demons that plagued him also plagued me, and sadly, the young friend Nathan lost that day was not the first, and would not be the last.  Although the friend I lost to cancer at age 18 was nothing short of heartbreaking, it could not prepare me for the following loss of my gran, my father, and a dear friend taken far too young just last summer.

I have never written about that friend publicly, but as he was loved by so many, it was a terrible loss. I had shared many a silly, procrastinating evening listening intently to his outlandish stories in college, and have been affected in so many positive ways by his compassionate charisma. When I got the news, I knew outside of his family and immediately local friends, telling Nathan would prove the toughest, as it seems he is cruelly losing a loved one every time I turn around. I believe it is because of this, however, that we have remained the strongest of allies. There is no more universal plight than death, and a multitude of historical events simply show that trial, grief and hopeful resilience simply bring people together.

A couple of weeks ago, Nathan sent me his cover of a Say Something (A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera) with little explanation other than “Listen to this if you will – you can’t imagine the day I’ve had, and I’m sorry my voice is frail but this holds a lot of personal significance to me.” I received the email mid-lessons, and only remembered to put it on right before pulling into my apartment for the night. I figured I would hear a few moments, and then replay it later on when settled. However, for whatever reason, from the split second I heard the first four solo notes in complete isolation, I knew this was going to be a tough listen. As the song opened and the words “Say something, I’m giving up on you” fell from his mouth, my heart jumped to my throat. Nathan was currently going through a loss of the worst kind, and I knew immediately the type of “day” he had been referring to.

As the song played on, it fastly became one of those pieces you never forget the first time hearing. It was also the first time I’d truly heard Nathan sing, and it was beautiful, captivating, and utterly devastating. Surrounded by the common and simple vi IV I V progression, his voice radiated of pain and brokenness, but also of survival – he had recorded it, after all.  After sitting stunned for what felt like ages, I went inside, dropped my books on the floor, immediately pulled up the lyrics for the song, played, recorded and sent the first portion of the song back to him.

a-great-big-world-christina-aguilera-say-somethingThough the song was poignant and evocative then, it passed into vague memory until quite recently. I lost something myself, this time, that left me feeling like nothing more than a bewildered little girl hiding under the bed. As I wandered aimlessly around my apartment that evening, I remember the song Nathan had sent me, and the words came rushing back in my head like a merciless yet somehow relieving migraine. I made myself a cup of coffee to brave the chill of three in the morning out on my balcony, put my headphones on, and watched the video to Say Something for the first time. Maybe the most surprising thing was not even the almost at once literal depiction of the little girl hiding under the bed (a harsh but tender parallel indeed) but that the song depicted more than one type of loss. The two lovers, the scared, sad child, and the elderly man mourning his fading wife on her deathbed. I do not know what it is about such a simple song – maybe the slight, fleetingly frozen dissonance in the V chord, or maybe the emotion with which it is performed, but that song somehow brought to life everything that I could not.

I’ve since spoken to various people about the song’s effect, and have heard only the most positive things. “My boyfriend and I split this morning, and this song just helps me feel.” “I’m moving to a new city by myself, leaving all my friends behind, and I can’t stop listening to it.” “My dog died recently, and I know it’s silly, but it’s so pretty that it soothes me.” I also caught the video that recently went viral of the young boy moved to tears by the pop ballad. Though the dad was wise enough to request the ‘thumbs up’ to confirm the little guy was okay, 4-year-old Jackson was clearly and utterly moved by the music, as assuredly so many others around the globe have been. Does the young child have the capacity to intuitively understand what’s going on in the song or in his brain to evoke such elicit feelings of sadness? I don’t know. What I do know, is when the father provided the option to change the song, Jackson objected – he wanted to hear it.

banksygirl Why is it that circumstances of loss and turmoil unite us so? Why is Banksy’s girl with the red balloon (always just out of reach) a personal favorite of thousands? Why was Adele’s Someone Like You a global affective phenomenon? Why was I glued to my phone and laptop nearly every moment of the Egyptian revolution a couple years ago? Why it is that Nathan and I always know exactly what to say to each other (which is often little more than solidarity’s knowing silence) when something dreadful happens? And above all, why does it so frequently involve or resort to music? Can music truly heal? I know it can, because I am a living attestation. 

To speak plainly, sometimes the events of our lives can leave us feeling shattered in tiny pieces, strewn so haphazardly across the floor that Heaven only knows how or when we’ll find the strength to put them back together. Unfortunately, all the psychiatric drugs, diversions of the city, yoga classes and mindfulness apps in the world remain unable to glue us back together all at once. No, the process of feeling whole again can sometimes seem long, arduous and even hopeless. But if we make a little progress as often as we are able, slowly those little shards of who we are will begin to soften back into place, and the stiff and aching joints of defeat will begin to piece back together in a strengthened empathy and love. I am convinced now more than ever that music can be one of the most compassionate and brutal yet tender healers. I am overwhelmed with learning more of how this may be possible, and I intend to continue reporting my findings along the way.

Though we may always be able to see those little lines of glue reminding us of the time we nearly fell apart, healing is possible, and there is hope to be found. 

                                       

Music, Mind and Meaning Conference at the Peabody Institute– Day 1 Recap

IMG_9755 Music, Mind and Meaning Conference – Day 1

Apart from the seventy (yes, seventy) degree temperature shock going from Los Angeles to Baltimore, I had a wonderful evening at the opening of the Music, Mind and Meaning conference at the Peabody Institute. The evening began with rousing introductions all around, and I was wonderfully honored to finally meet some of my favorite scholars face to face.

At 7pm, Dr. David Huron took the floor for the keynote address. In his talk, “Emotions and Meanings in Music, he posed the question, “In what ways can music convey meaning?” Songs have lyrics, works have evocative titles, but most of music’s meaning comes from other sources including:

  • Cultural schemas
  • Learned expectations
  • Personal associations

In his over sixty minute presentation, Huron covered everything from how musical associations become universal cultural icons, to the psychoacoustics of intimacy (which contained brilliant perspectives I had never visualized), to an explicitly detailed account of how ethologists differentiate between signals versus cues, and what we can take from learning about hostile versus friendly behavior in animals to musical studies. Since my arrival, I’ve listened to one out of nine lectures, and am, at present, blown away. Let’s just say this: you know it’s good when you have world-class academics on either side murmuring in awe at what is being presented. I look very forward to recounting the full presentation when time permits.

Following Dr. Huron’s talk, a duo took the stage like I haven’t quite seen before. I’d venture it’s not uncommon, but when Grammy-nominated pianist and composer (and MacArthur genius fellowship recipient) Vijay Iyer improvises a single-song performance – for thirty-five minutes nonstop – one listens. Joined by Gary Thomas (Director of Jazz Studies, Peabody) on the saxophone followed by flute, the enigmatic chemistry that was created simply devoured the room like a thick trance. One of my favorite enigmas of the evening was simply glancing down the two rows of conference speakers to see who was bobbing side to side, or front to back; the eyes that were closed or engaged, or (my favorite) watching the woman who periodically plugged her ears as if to reimagine what she had just heard.

The evening closed with a reception lasting well past eleven in the Peabody library. Accompanied by a presentation of the exhibit from the personal collection of Eugene S. Flamm, the final talk included introducing some of the very oldest texts surrounding neurosurgery and the cradle of medicine known to exist. I look very forward to the continuance and development of the conference tomorrow morning.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: What Music Therapy Is and Is Not

AMTALogoSmall

January 23, 2014—SILVER SPRING, MD— The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time; we say the more music the better! But clinical music therapy is the only professional, research-based discipline that actively applies supportive science to the creative, emotional, and energizing experiences of music for health treatment and educational goals. Below are a few important facts about music therapy and the credentialed music therapists who practice it:

  • Music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of AMTA’s 72 approved colleges and universities, including 1200 hours of clinical training.
  • Music therapists must hold the MT-BC credential, issued through the Certification Board for Music Therapists, which protects the public by ensuring competent practice and requiring continuing education. Some states also require licensure for board-certified music therapists.
  • Music Therapy is an evidence-based health profession with a strong research foundation.
  • Music Therapy degrees require knowledge in psychology, medicine, and music.

These examples of therapeutic music are noteworthy, but are not clinical music therapy:

  • A person with Alzheimer’s listening to an iPod with headphones of his/her favorite songs
  • Groups such as Bedside Musicians, Musicians on Call, Music Practitioners, Sound Healers, and Music Thanatologists
  • Celebrities performing at hospitals and/or schools
  • A piano player in the lobby of a hospital
  • Nurses playing background music for patients
  • Artists in residence
  • Arts educators
  • A high school student playing guitar in a nursing home
  • A choir singing on the pediatric floor of a hospital

Finally, here are examples what credentialed music therapists do:

  • Work with Congresswoman Giffords to regain her speech after surviving a bullet wound to her brain.
  • Work with older adults to lessen the effects of dementia.
  • Work with children and adults to reduce asthma episodes.
  • Work with hospitalized patients to reduce pain.
  • Work with children who have autism to improve communication capabilities.
  • Work with premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain.
  • Work with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function.

AMTA’s mission is to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world. In consideration of the diversity of music used in healthcare, special education, and other settings, AMTA unequivocally recommends the unique knowledge and skill of board certified music therapists.

For more information on this topic please visit the American Music Therapy Association at http://www.musictherapy.org and click on the Research tab. To set up interviews with board certified music therapists please contact AMTA at (301)589-3300.


Background informtion
1. American Music Therapy Association
2. Brain injury:
Bradt, J., Magee, W.L., Dileo, C., Wheeler, B.L., & McGilloway, E. (2010). Music therapy for acquired brain injury. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010(7), doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006787.pub2.
3. Lessen effects of dementia:
4. Reduce asthma episodes:
5. Reduce pain:
6. Improve speech in people with Autism:
7. Improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain in premature infants:
8. Increase motor function in people with Parkinson’s:
Clair, A. A., Lyons, K., & Hamburg, J. (2012). A feasibility study of the effects of music and movement on physical function, quality of life, depression, and anxiety in patients with Parkinson disease. Music and Medicine, 4 (1), 49-55.
SOURCE American Music Therapy Association

Learning to modulate one’s own brain activity: the effect of spontaneous mental strategies

At a time where buzzwords such as audio-visual entrainment, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), electroencephalography (EEG) or hemoencephalography (HEG) permeate our media culture (Okay, “brain exercise” at least), short of attaining a postgraduate degree in neurophysiology or imaging, it can prove quite the challenge to sort through the data and Facebook advertising – and I hear it’s no cake walk even then. With companies here and abroad making the grandiose promise “Change your brain, change your life – with a few simple sessions!” for hundreds  or thousands of dollars, we need to begin realizing our task cannot simply entail questions of which method or provider to go with, but to understand what they are as well. I’m not convinced everyone is approaching these treatments with quite enough healthy skepticism. Sure…you’re not going under the knife, but come on…you do realize in some of these they’re hooking wires up to your brain…right?
This ideal works on both ends, however. Take neurofeedback, for example. Due to the many unfortunate claims of finding the “cure” to autism or ADHD, (and somewhat failing to date), treatments like neurofeedback have from time to time been given somewhat of a bad rap. And why would it not? The pharmaceutical industry has little to gain from the moment the right person publishes the right study showing just how beneficial and life-changing (for some) these treatments really can be. Without delving too deeply just yet, here is a recent study I came across in regard to the process of learning to control one’s own brain activity. While it is essential to view everything with a skeptical eye, I have of late heard too many first-hand accounts of what neurofeedback  has done to revolutionize the lives of the afflicted to stop at a setback largely at the fault of needy headlines and faulty business marketing. Necessitated by the how of neuroscience and why of psychology, I plan on making no small task of digging deeper in the near future.

Learning to modulate one’s own brain activity: the effect of spontaneous mental strategies

Abstract

Using neurofeedback (NF), individuals can learn to modulate their own brain activity, in most cases electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythms. Although a large body of literature reports positive effects of NF training on behavior and cognitive functions, there are hardly any reports on how participants can successfully learn to gain control over their own brain activity. About one third of people fail to gain significant control over their brain signals even after repeated training sessions. The reasons for this failure are still largely unknown. In this context, we investigated the effects of spontaneous mental strategies on NF performance. Twenty healthy participants performed either a SMR (sensorimotor rhythm, 12-15 Hz) based or a Gamma (40-43 Hz) based NF training over ten sessions. After the first and the last training session, they were asked to write down which mental strategy they have used for self-regulating their EEG. After the first session, all participants reported the use of various types of mental strategies such as visual strategies, concentration, or relaxation. After the last NF training session, four participants of the SMR group reported to employ no specific strategy. These four participants showed linear improvements in NF performance over the ten training sessions. In contrast, participants still reporting the use of specific mental strategies in the last NF session showed no changes in SMR based NF performance over the ten sessions. This effect could not be observed in the Gamma group. The Gamma group showed no prominent changes in Gamma power over the NF training sessions, regardless of the mental strategies used. These results indicate that successful SMR based NF performance is associated with implicit learning mechanisms. Participants stating vivid reports on strategies to control their SMR probably overload cognitive resources, which might be counterproductive in terms of increasing SMR power.

(Taken from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, open access). The complete study may be found here.

Learning to modulate one’s own brain activity: the effect of spontaneous mental strategies 
Silvia E. Kober, Matthias Witte, Manuel Ninaus, Christa Neuper, Guilherme Wood
Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7: 695. Published online 2013 October 18. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00695 PMCID: PMC3798979

Music, Mind, Meaning Conference 2014 at the Peabody Institute of Music

peabody library (January 30-31, Baltimore, MD) The Music, Mind and Meaning Conference will bring together scientists from the field of music cognition  and renowned musicians for a two-day event to explore the relationships between music and science at the Peabody Institute of Music. The events will include presentations from leading scientists and a special musical performance by the Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, Chair of Jazz Studies at Peabody. Keynote speakers will be Drs. David Huron, Aniruddh Patel, and Isabelle Peretz, three remarkable scientists who have led groundbreaking studies of how and why people have engaged in musical behaviors throughout human history. Conference participants will include scientists, clinicians, musicians, students and interested members of the public. Presentations will explore the idea of musical meaning by examining issues of expectation, creativity, evolution, culture, language, emotion and memory from the viewpoint of cognitive psychology, musicology and auditory neuroscience. The conference is generously supported by a conference grant from the Brain Sciences Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For more information visit http://www.mmmbaltimore2014.org/.

I will be attending and covering this conference, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter @pathwaysinmusic and look for coverage here directly following. A special thanks to Mr. Cooper McClain for making this trip possible.

9th Annual ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO Set for April 24-26

ascap2014

**SAVE THE DATE**

ASCAP is pleased to announce that the 9th annual ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO will be held April 24th-26th, 2014 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. The three-day event is the premier conference for songwriters, composers and producers in all genres of music. The ASCAP EXPO will feature creative and business-focused panels, workshops, master classes, keynotes, One-on-One sessions, song critiquing, networking events, product displays, state-of-the-art technology demonstrations, performances and more. Video of panels and performances from this past year’s ASCAP EXPO – over 40 panels, totaling nearly 60 hours of content – is available to stream online for the newly discounted price of $75.

Since 2006, the ASCAP EXPO has brought together some of the biggest names in music. Keynote sessions have featured Katy Perry; Diplo & Big Sean; Ne-Yo & Stargate; Justin Timberlake & Bill Withers; Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora; Tom Petty; John Mayer; Quincy Jones interviewed by Ludacris; Carly Simon; The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine); Lindsey Buckingham interviewed by Sara Bareilles; Randy Newman; Jackson Browne; Steve Miller; Ann & Nancy Wilson (Heart); and Jeff Lynne. Writer-composer Master Sessions, performances, panels and the signature “We Create Music” panelshave included an impressive list of music creators, such as Pharrell Williams, Peter Frampton, Natasha Bedingfield, Marcus Miller, Desmond Child, Rodney Crowell, Dr. Luke, Jermaine Dupri, James Newton Howard, Fergie, Steve Lillywhite, Paul Williams, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Wyclef Jean, John Rich, Stephen Schwartz, Nico Muhly, Jill Scott, Ricky Skaggs, James Levine, Jimmy Webb, Mike Posner, Jared Leto, Rufus Wainwright, John Rzeznik, Ryan Tedder, Seth MacFarlane, Jason Mraz, Don Was, Judy Collins and Chaka Khan to name a few.

All music creators, publishers and executives will benefit from this unique creative event, which is designed around personal interaction, education and networking. The ASCAP EXPO is open to anyone, not just ASCAP members. Registration for the event is now open.

To learn more and to stay up-to-date on the latest ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO news, visit www.ascap.com/expo, and connect with ASCAP on Facebook and Twitter.

For 2013 coverage by Diana Hereld for Hypebot, please redirect here.

About ASCAP
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP’s mission is to license and promote the music of its members and foreign affiliates, obtain fair compensation for the public performance of their works and to distribute the royalties that it collects based upon those performances. ASCAP members write the world’s best-loved music and ASCAP has pioneered the efficient licensing of that music to hundreds of thousands of enterprises who use it to add value to their business – from bars, restaurants and retail, to radio, TV and cable, to Internet, mobile services and more. The ASCAP license offers an efficient solution for businesses to legally perform ASCAP music while respecting the right of songwriters and composers to be paid fairly. With over 460,000 members representing more than 8.5 million copyrighted works, ASCAP is the worldwide leader in performance royalties, service and advocacy for songwriters and composers, and the only American performing rights organization (PRO) owned and governed by its writer and publisher members. www.ascap.com

Rest In Peace, Benjamin Curtis.

IMG_1586A couple years ago, a friend took me to see one of my all time favorite bands, Silversun Pickups. Living in LA, I had seen the band around, but never seen them play live. I was making music with my friend at the time, and he joked that any bandmate of his should get to see SSPU live at least once. That show was musical magic for me, but for more than just meeting the band after. 

That night, School of Seven Bells opened. I’d never seen them, or even heard any of their music. I was simply patiently waiting to hear Future Foe Scenarios or the like later on. However, School of Seven Bells began, and I was immediately mesmerized. I left my friends, and went awkwardly closer. As I watched them perform, I had one of those feelings I experience only every couple of years or so- the feeling of being completely intoxicated by musical and visual movement. I later learned the song I had seen and heard was called “Scavenger.”

If you know me or have been around me in the past couple of years, you know this song, whether you realize it or not. You know it, because you have heard it in my car, on a mix I made you, or in my apartment at a party. You know it because I have listened to it at least a thousand times, in a literal sense. My favorite song in 2013 was Where Do My Bluebird Fly by The Tallest Man On Earth. My favorite of 2012 was Scavenger, and I can’t stop listening to it. I have never tired of this beautiful, driving rhythm. I need not say anything of these dark, brutally honest lyrics, because they speak for themselves. They have jaggedly carried me in solidarity through more frustration and turmoil than I can convey. And I am a better person for it.

A mutual friend who also attended the SSPU concert alerted me earlier this year that they were on hiatus because Benjamin had fallen ill. LA Weekly explains that in February, School of Seven Bells announced Curtis’ cancer diagnosis, and artists including Devendra Banhart, and members of the Strokes and Interpol participated in fundraising efforts for his treatment. In October, bands including Silversun Pickups, M83, Cocteau Twins and Blonde Redhead wrote messages of support for Benjamin during his treatment.

I never met Benjamin. Even though I grew up in the Fort Worth/Dallas music scene, and was also an avid fan of Secret Machines, I knew nothing about him. What I do know is what it feels like to lose someone to cancer. He was far too young, and I humbly share that my heart breaks for so many others in learning this shattering news.

I know I am not alone when I say that it seems that every time I turn around this year, there is a death of a loved one. A devastation and losing of something that cannot be replaced. As we ring in another year, God help us take nothing for granted. May we love one another, support one another, and be there for one another. There’s no time not to.

I gave you the tide You didn’t stay You didn’t want it You let the day slide Into a drain Until you lost it You took me like a drug To make you feel loved To make you feel wanted To make you feel fire To make you feel like I made you feel something ‘Cause you can feel nothing I know what you are And you’re a fake You’re a scavenger Too scared to take part You only take ‘Cause you’re a coward On your own, You have no love On your own, You’re not enough You took me like a drug To make you feel loved To make you feel wanted To make you feel fire To make you feel like I made you feel something