Friday, February 15, 2013

Musical Language - Radiolab

1) Musical Language - Radiolab

2) This podcast dealt with topics and concerns regarding music and how the human mind perceives sound.  It dealt with the implications of speech patterns and musical tones on society and mental ability, the differences between those who possess perfect pitch in tonal languages vs. non tonal languages, the theory behind the universal language of sound, dissonant and consonant sounds and their effects at a neurological level, and musical arrangement composed using software.  I thought it was very interesting the way Jad and Robert constructed the argument for music's ability to re-sculpt or restructure the brain and how the brain processes information.  The idea that culture wins out over biology seemed fluid throughout the discussion.

3)  The podcast addressed the issues of "listening" and "hearing" mainly through example.  They spoke about Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring.  The riots that ensued with the first group who "listened" to the composition vs. the praise Stravinsky received with the second group who sat down and tried to "hear" the composition.  Another example would be the music composed by computer.  The people who merely "listened" to it did not appreciate the actual qualities of the sounds and instead focused on how those sounds were produced.  The woman who actually "heard" what sounds were produced, loved the composition made by computer. 
     Both of these instances are also examples of technologies role in "listening" and "hearing."  The first is an example of technique as technology in which brain chemistry and dopamine levels were altered by uncommon musical arrangements resulting in different audience experiences.  The second is an example of technology as tool.  Composer's block lead to the development of software that analyzed musical arrangement in order to create compositions in similar styles to other composers.

4) Theoretical and cultural contexts were initially concerned with the musical components of language.  How universal language exists in tonal structure and the way phrases are organized by sound structure like pitch, volume, and length.  This was further expounded upon by the differences between cultures that use tonal language and their greater ability to possess perfect pitch.  Another example of theoretical and cultural context dealt with sound as touch from a distance.  The idea that music can be felt.  This theory was explained through the use of dissonant and consonant sounds and their impacts on the brain. Another example of theoretical context used in the podcast is the idea of plasticity in the cortical fugal network, the neurological structure by which the brain adjusts biochemically to better hear sounds.  This example was used to explain the riots that occurred during the first performance of Rite of Spring as too much dopamine with its euphoric effects can turn to schizophrenia.

5) This podcast is exceptionally well done.  Through the use of supporting audio examples and small segments of audio clips, the makers of this program are better able to facilitate what is being discussed.  The production has a very polished feel.  They make great use of the stereophonic sound as all areas of the stereo space are employed at any given time.  This helps to keep the audience engaged with the program as there are always interesting things happening aurally.

6) If this were my podcast I think I would want the hosts to engage more with the interview subjects.  At times, it seemed more like they were documenting the experience with their guests and only providing further explanation rather than interacting with them in person.  I think direct connection to the subjects may have enhanced the listening experience a bit further and possibly could have provided a more personal feeling toward the interviews.

1 comment:

Trace said...

This is an exceptionally astute response that really pulls out some of the key ideas and themes, as well as some of the key tropes of the podcast production ... not just the reinforcing musical examples, but the little clips that keep situating us in the virtual space in which we are listening. The comment on the use of stereo is very perceptive, in that it allows the producers to keep a very active field without it become overly dense or too saturated to hear distinctly. Stereo is used to direct and focus the ear the way in which a zoom may direct our visual attention in film/video. The last comment you make is very interesting, too, as RadioLab is so definitely a product of post-production editing and remixing, and it does give every podcast a kind of removed, second-hand feel (rather than live, first-hand). This is even true of the "live" a/v smackdown episode.