Levitin, Dr. Daniel — Your Brain on Music Part Two

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music, The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006.

Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think.  He says that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language.  Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued.

In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language.

The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

Professor Daniel Levitin’s website is www.yourbrainonmusic.com.

The books Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends are, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Originally Broadcast: November 1, 2006 November 8, 2006

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Levitin, Daniel Dr. — Your Brain on Music Part One

The understanding of how we humans experience music and why it plays a unique role in our lives is this topic of two interviews with Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music, The Science of a Human Obsession,” recorded from his home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in late October 2006.   

Professor Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  He asserts that our brains are hardwired for music and therefore we are all more musically equipped than we think.  He says that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental to our species than language.  Professor Levitin believes that the music we end up liking meets our expectations of what we anticipate hearing just enough of the time that we feel rewarded, and the music that we like violates those expectations just enough of the time that we’re intrigued.

In the first interview Dr. Levitin begins by describing how the human brain learns to distinguish between music and language. 

The second interview begins with a discussion of what happens when people listen to music they like.

Professor Daniel Levitin’s website is www.yourbrainonmusic.com

The books Dr. Daniel J. Levitin recommends are, “Another Day in the Frontal Lobe,” by Katrina Firlik, and, “The Human Stain,” by Philip Roth.

Originally Broadcast: November 1, 2006 November 8, 2006

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Donahue, Terry — Alloy Orchestra: New Music for Silent Films

The Alloy Orchestra is a group of multitalented musicians with widely diverse abilities, based near Boston, Massachusetts.  This group provides live, in house orchestral backup to the Chaplin, Keaton and other classic silent films of the 1920s.

Our guest in this edition of Radio Curious is Terry Donahue, an Alloy Orchestra partner, a skilled player of the accordion, musical saw, drums and bells, to name only a few.

Terry Donahue and I visited by phone from his home near Boston Massachusetts, on May 10, 2013, and began with his description of the composition of the Alloy Orchestra.

The book Terry Donahue recommends is “Accordion Crimes,” by Annie Proulx, and “Delicatessen” a French film.

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McVicar, Gregg — 22,000 Songs=Under Currents

Our guest in this program is Gregg McVicar, the host and producer of Under Currents. Under Currents is Public Radio’s freewheeling eclectic music mix of Triple A, Rock, Folk, Blues, Native, Americana, World, Reggae, Dub and Electronica.  It brings you five hours of music every day.

Gregg McVicar and I visited in the Under Currents state of the art studio in the San Francisco Bay Area on April 6, 2013.  We were in the sound booth listening to it’s superb quality and I realized that it was really Radio Curious on tour.

The book Gregg McVicar recommends is  “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson.

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Edelman, Reid — The Music Man is Coming to River City

The Music Man is coming to town, right here in River City, also known as Ukiah, California.

In this program Radio Curious visits with Reid Edelman, the producer and director of the musical extravaganza.  Edelman is a professor of Theater Arts at the Mendocino College in Ukiah, California.  This production of the Music Man, presented by the Mendocino College Theatre Arts Department and Ukiah Civic Light Opera, involves more than 100 people from the Ukiah community. It opens April 12 and plays through April 21, 2013 at the Mendocino College Center Theater on the Ukiah campus. For more information call (707) 462 9155.

I met with Reid Edelman in the Radio Curious studios on March 29, 2013 and began our visit when I asked him:  Why the Music Man?

The book Reid Edelman recommends is “Improv:  Improvisation and the Theatre,” by Keith Johnstone.

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The Art of Political Song: Part One with David Rovics

Songs of a political nature are not surprising given the similarities and parallel community structures of politics and religions with each community promoting the behaviors and concepts it supports as being the most appropriate.  The art of Political Song which has been crafted and heard world wide since time immemorial is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

In this program we visit with singer–songwriter David Rovics, a veritable troubadour and folk musician of our time.  He visited the studios of Radio Curious on December 9, 2012, and began our conversation when he described his work, his songs, and how he creates them.

The following is his biography taken from his website ”David Rovics grew up in a family of classical musicians in Wilton, Connecticut, and became a fan of populist regimes early on. By the early 90’s he was a full-time busker in the Boston subways and by the mid-90’s he was traveling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. These days David lives in Portland, Oregon and tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has shared the stage with a veritable who’s who of the left in two dozen countries, and has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and elsewhere, and the 200+ songs he makes available for free on the web have been downloaded more than a million times. Most importantly, he’s really good. He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, he will make the revolution irresistible.”

Based in Portland, Oregon, David Rovics spends most of his time on tour.  The book he recommends is “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves,” by Naomi Aldort.

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Schaeffer, Jessica — The Harp: The Second Oldest Human Musical Instrument

The harp, in its early form, is second only to the flute as the oldest known human musical instrument.  The Radio Curious theme music this week is played by professional harpist and harp teacher Jessica Schaeffer, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.  Intrigued by the harp when she saw it at a piano lesson when she was four years old, she began her formal training to play the harp when she was ten.  Jessica Schaeffer holds a bachelor’s degree in the study of the harp and a Master’s Degree in music; she plays in symphony orchestras and teaches the instrument she loves.  We visited in the studios of Radio Curious where she brought her harp, played for us and told stories, on December 3, 2012.

Jessica Schaeffer’s website is www.jessicaschaeffer.com.  The book she recommends is “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle.

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Schwawrtz, Maya — One Holocaust Survivor’s Wonderful Thrill of Life

There are two kinds of Holocaust survivors:  Those who didn’t die yet could no longer experience pleasure and those who yearned to feel alive and were able to create anew.

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Maya Finkel Schwartz, born in France in 1932 to Jewish parents from Poland.  After being separated from her father at the beginning of World War Two, her mother had the foresight to introduce then seven year old Maya to as many social workers and nuns as her mother could locate.  It was these people who Maya credits with saving her life as they sheltered her in barns and convents.  She never saw her parents after the war.  As an older teen-ager she arrived in Los Angeles, California where she still lives after a decades long career teaching high-school, and later as a singer, as we shall hear.

The story of Maya Finkel Schwartz is one of 52 childhood accounts of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany documented in the book “How We Survived:  52 Personal Stories by Child Survivors of the Holocaust.”  More information about this book is available at childsurvivorsla.org.

Maya Schwartz visited the studios of Radio Curious on April 20, 2012.  Maya shared her story and a song, accompanied by her son Michael Charnas.

Her theme is the “joy of life,” which is where we began our conversation.

The story of Maya Finkel Schwartz is found in the book she recommends.  She wrote one of 52 childhood accounts of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany documented in the book “How We Survived:  52 Personal Stories by Child Survivors of the Holocaust.”

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Blank, Les — The Chef of Film Making

In this edition of Radio Curious we visit with Les Blank, film maker extraordinaire. Les Blank will receive the Albert Maysles award at the 2011 Mendocino Film Festival where his films “Burden of Dreams” and “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins” will be presented.  John Rockwell, writing in The New York Times, describes Les Blank as, “…a documentarian of folk cultures who transforms anthropology into art.”

Though he had a long fascination with films, his career turned to film making after he saw “The Seventh Seal,” by Ingmar Bergman.   Our conversation, which was recorded by phone from his home in Berkeley, California on May 23, 2011, began when I asked him why he makes films.

The films Les Blank recommends are “The Seventh Seal” and “Through a Glass Darkly,” both by Ingmar Bergman.

Les Blank’s website is www.lesblank.com

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Reinhart, Ed — Boogie Woogie Pianist

In my opinion, when my friend Ed Reinhart comes here to Ukiah, it is well worth the effort to track him down and listen to him play someone else’s piano and sing along.

And that is what happened the last few days of 2010. The sign said Ed would be playing at the Himalaya Café at the south end of town on New Year’s Eve beginning at 6:30 pm. Now it may seem a bit early to start a New Year’s Eve Party, but Ed is always ready to do things his way, and under the guise of liking to get to bed early, he played and sang Old Lange Syne when it was New Year’s in New York, or in the Ukiah vernacular, 9 p.m.

Now Ed, who masquerades as Earl Dixon, a semi-unknown sort as he likes to say, and/or Rico Suave, a moniker he adopted while living in Ecuador, can play boogie-woogie piano better than most anyone. And that to me makes Earl and Rico all the more confusing as to who they may or may not be.

Ed, etc. have been guests on three previous editions Radio Curious, and those visits are available at www.radiocurious.org. Why so much Ed on Radio Curious? I like him and his music and enjoy our visits. We hope you do too. So Happy New Year to each of you and welcome to the first Radio Curious program recorded in our 21st year on the air.

This interview with Ed Reinhart was recorded in the studios of Radio Curious, in Ukiah, California on January 7, 2011.

The book Ed Reinhart recommends is “World Without End,” by Ken Follett.

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