music, psychology

on music: don’t just listen

Today, the majority of the world listens to music, but the making of it has become something of an expert field over the past few centuries. We imply it in our culture constantly, from American Idol to the radio. The music we listen to must be worthy of our selective ears, and this makes the playing of it much more than the casual family event that it used to be. Music production has become an endeavor in itself, something you can make a career out of. There is nothing wrong with this; I’m not trying to bag on the music industry. I could probably write an entire post dedicated to issues with music and copyright today, and this is not it. I’m simply drawing attention to an issue I became aware of recently.

In This Is Your Brain on Music, musician and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin points out that “music listening, performance, and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have so far identified, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.” Music is, in short, a fulfilling experience, something that exercises both the brain and the body, and the sad fact is that only a small fraction of people the world over play a musical instrument. In the United States today, this is probably around 6%. Of course, the number of people within this fraction who actually create music is much smaller.

So why should you play an instrument? I’ll give you a list, just to make things easier on you. (Sources for this information are at the bottom of this post.) Continue reading

book reviews, media, psychology

5 books that changed me & 5 that will

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about influence. I participated in a psych study last week in which I was asked how much I thought simple decisions–what class to take, what movie to watch, etcetera–influenced my future. At first I was certain the answer was hardly at all, but when I really thought about it I realized how wrong I was. The English class I took last quarter, for instance, had a huge impact on me and how I see myself, and if I hadn’t watched Don Jon last week I would be far less enlightened about film’s capacity to reveal double standards. (Watch that movie if you haven’t yet, please.) Books, of course, are some of the most important societal influences we have, so I thought it would be interesting to make a list of books that significantly influenced my life and my decisions. Continue reading

family, writing

on the English major & blogging

I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out what part I want writing to play in my adult life. I spent most of high school in denial, telling myself that I loved chemistry just as much as I love fiction and journalism and hell, even editing. I’d say to people that I’d be a research scientist and write on the side, because that’s what you do. I’d actually make money, I’d be helping people, and I’d still get to write.

But the transition to college has made me think hard about what kind of life I want to have, and Continue reading