Instant Recall

Let’s say that Key to the Highway by Derek and the Dominos is one of your favorite songs, as it is one of mine.  How long would it take you to hear the first few notes and recognize that it’s being played on the radio?

According to some recent research, the answer is exactly 0.1 to 0.3 seconds.  That’s virtually instantaneous.

anim_homepageThe research focused on pupil dilation and certain brain activity that was triggered by hearing a favorite, familiar song and compared it to the reaction to listening to unfamiliar tunes. The study determined that hearing even a fraction of a second of a favorite song caused pupil dilation and brain activity related to memory retrieval — which would then cause you to immediately remember every note and every lyric.  One of the researchers noted that “[t]hese findings point to very fast temporal circuitry and are consistent with the deep hold that highly familiar pieces of music have on our memory.”

Why do researchers care about the brain’s reaction to familiar music?  Because the deeply engrained neural pathways that are associated with music might be a way to reach, and ultimately treat, dementia patients who are losing other forms of brain function.

The human brain is a pretty amazing thing, and its immediate recall of music is one compelling aspect of its functioning.  But here’s the thing the researchers didn’t consider:  immediate recall isn’t limited to favorite music.  In fact, it’s provoked by familiar music, whether it’s a tune you’d happily binge listen to or whether its a piece of music that you wish you could carve out of your synapses.  If I mention the Green Acres theme song, and you then think of the first few guitar notes for that song, I guarantee that every bit of the song will promptly come to mind, whether you want it to or not.  (Sorry about that!)  And isn’t it a bit disturbing to think that, if you eventually lose your marbles some day far in the future, one of the last things to go will be the tale of the Douglases and their “land, spreading out so far and wide”?

Concerto For Oboe In C Major

My post about Julianne’s performance of Gabriel’s Oboe got an incredibly strong positive reaction, and several readers have asked if there are other available videos of her artistry.  Yesterday another portion of her recent performance with the Austin Youth Orchestra was posted on YouTube.  This video shows Julianne and the AYO performing  Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Oboe in C Major.  It’s another terrific and impressive performance by Julianne.  This time, she tackles a longer, classic piece by one of the great baroque composers that features the kind of intricate structure that is typically found in baroque music.  It’s another beautiful piece of work by Julianne and the AYO, who obviously enjoy performing together.

It’s nice to know that oboe performances have struck a chord — pun intended — with Webner House readers!

Gabriel’s Oboe

Our daughter-in-law, Julianne, was the featured soloist on this performance of Gabriel’s Oboe with the Austin Youth Orchestra on October 20.  I’ve never heard that piece of music before, but it is beautiful — and very beautifully played in this performance.  If you’ve never heard the piece, or even if you have, this version is well worth a click and a listen.

Congratulations, Julianne, for your talent and your hard work!  You deserved that standing ovation!

BOOM

Yesterday we drove over to the Brooklin Inn to listen to a performance by BOOM — the Baroque Orchestra of Maine.

480Heidi Powell, on baroque violin, and Max Treitler, on baroque cello, performed two sonatas by Georg Freidrich Handel and two familiar pieces by Archangelo Corelli, and Ms. Powell also performed a beautiful solo piece, the Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, that I had never heard before.  The concert took place in one of the central rooms of the Brooklin Inn with an audience of about 40 people — the kind of intimate, up close and personal setting that was the normal performance venue when baroque music was the prevailing music of the day back in the early 1700s.  It was a wonderful performance of my favorite genre of classical music, which Ms. Powell and Mr. Treitler made even better by providing some interesting commentary to introduce each piece, talking about the differences between baroque instruments and their modern counterparts — and even answering a question from the audience.  I should add that, after the BOOM performance, we had a very fine dinner thanks to the Brooklin Inn kitchen.

It’s pretty cool that this part of Maine has its own baroque orchestra — but then again this area is full of surprises and interesting things to discover, and there are lot of people out there who have a passion for classical music generally and baroque music in particular.  When I thanked Ms. Powell after her performance and asked whether there was a BOOM website where we could make a contribution toward future performances, she said there wasn’t one, but we could send an old-fashioned letter and she’d let us know about future performances via postcards.  It’s an example of the kind of old-school, off-the-grid approach to the modern world that you often find in this area — well-suited to a group that performs vintage music with authentic instruments.

Death Bands

The recent passing of Ginger Baker, the brilliant drummer for Cream and Blind Faith, made me think that, if there’s a rock ‘n roll afterlife, somebody’s band just had a great addition to its rhythm section.  And that thought, in turn, made me think:  okay, this is morbid and probably insensitive to boot, but if you were to assemble a dream band out of dead rockers, who would be the members?

depositphotos_5334627-stock-photo-rock-n-roll-is-deadThis isn’t a novel concept.  Back in the ’70s the Righteous Brothers recorded a song about dead musicians called Rock and Roll Heaven that had artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bobby Darin, and Jim Croce putting on a big show in the Great Beyond.  (And now that I’ve mentioned the song, those of us old enough to remember it will have a hard time getting it out of our heads.)  But there’s a big difference between putting on a single show featuring disparate artists and assembling a functioning band.  You’ve got to factor in styles, for example.  How would Jim Morrison mesh with, say, Kurt Cobain?

I think I’d go with John Lennon, George Harrison, and Chuck Berry on guitars, with Ginger Baker on drums and John Entwistle of the Who on bass, for a band that could really play some classic, old school early rock ‘n roll.  But you also have to wonder about what kind of interesting music could be produced if you put together combinations like Hendrix, Morrison, and Keith Moon of the Who, or Elvis Presley, Cobain, Glenn Frey, John Bonham, and Clarence Clemons, or Prince, Leon Russell, and David Bowie.  With more and more old rockers passing on with each new year, unfortunately, there’s a lot of choices.

A Beatles Reunion — Of Sorts

Ringo Starr is coming out with his 20th solo album, called What’s My Name, next month.  The album will feature an intriguing track for the Beatles fans among us.

ringo-starr-paul-mccartney-perform-2014-billboard-1548Sir Ringo will be singing a song written by John Lennon shortly before his death. The song, called Grow Old With Me, was recorded by Lennon on demo tapes for Double Fantasy, Lennon’s last album.  When a record producer played the song for Ringo, who had never heard it before, he was touched by it and decided to record it — and he asked Paul McCartney to play bass and sing back-up.  Sir Paul agreed, so the two surviving Beatles perform together again, on a song written by a third Beatle that includes a string arrangement that quotes from Here Comes The Sun, written by the fourth Beatle, George Harrison.  Ringo’s new album also will feature a cover of the song Money, which the Beatles also recorded and performed.

I’ll be interested in hearing the song, which is as close as we’re going to get to a Beatles reunion these days.  I also think it is pretty cool that Ringo, who is 79, and Paul, who is 77, are still active in performing and recording — and are thinking from time to time about their days in the Beatles and their now-departed bandmates in the greatest musical group ever assembled.

Countdown Lists

The other day I drove up to Cleveland.  I tuned in to Sirius XM’s Symphony Hall for the drive, and learned that they were counting down the Top 76 classical recordings, as voted by their participating listeners.  I caught the countdown at number 11, which was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  I was immediately intrigued by the countdown notion, and then was immediately astonished when the countdown continued and I learned that Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue came in at number 10.  Rhapsody in Blue, over Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony?  Seriously?  In what universe?

1200x600bfBy the time I reached Cleveland the countdown was at number six — Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons — and I was sorry that my drive had ended.  When I got home that night, I checked out the final few songs that rounded out the Top 10.  Beethoven dominated, with three pieces in the Top 10 and the Ninth Symphony coming in at number one, but the more modern composers did pretty well too, with Rachmaninoff, Barber, and Copland — as well as Gershwin — all getting Top 10 slots.  But wait a minute . . . no Bach?  No Handel?  No Haydn?  No Boccherini?  The baroque era and Haydn got horribly short-changed by Symphony Hall listeners, in my view.  You can check out the Symphony Hall list here.

Why are people like me interested in countdown lists?  Those of us who grew up listening to Casey Kasem doing American Top 40 every week, to see which songs were moving up, which were moving down, and who was up there at number one, are pretty much conditioned to pay attention to countdown lists.  But ultimately, the lists are just a way of keeping your finger on the pulse of the world at large and what other people are thinking, and liking.  They don’t really mean much in terms of actual quality or lasting significance — after all, the Pipkins’ Gimme Dat Ding reached the American Top 10 in 1970.  Retrospective lists, like the Symphony Hall list, provide great fodder for argument, though and you might just learn something or try something new as a result.  I’m going to give a listen to some of the unfamiliar pieces on the Symphony Hall countdown list.