Validity

Augury is an ancient Roman method of prophecy by studying the flight of birds. Signs from birds were divided into “alites” from the flight, and “oscines” from the voice. The alites included region of sky, height and type of flight, behaviour of the bird and place where it would rest. The oscines included the pitch and direction of the sound.

The augur was a priest and official in ancient Rome. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds, whether they are flying in groups or alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are. This was known as “taking the auspices”.

Observation conditions were rigorous and required absolute silence for validity of the operation. The effectiveness of augury could only be judged retrospectively. The divinely ordained condition of peace was an outcome of successful augury.

The individual that best represents augury is Attus Navius. One day he lost one of his pigs and promised the gods that if he found it he would offer them the biggest grapes growing in his vineyard. After recovering his pig he stood in the middle of his vineyard facing south. He divided the sky into four sections and observed birds. When they appeared he walked in that direction and found an extraordinarily large grape.

Levels

Musical memory refers to the ability to remember music-related information, such as melodic content and other progressions of tones or pitches. The differences found between linguistic memory and musical memory have led researchers to theorize that musical memory is encoded differently from language.

Recent research has demonstrated that the normal right hemisphere of the brain responds to melody holistically, whereas the left hemisphere of the brain evaluates melodic passages in a more analytic fashion.

For instance, while listening to the melody of the popular carol “Silent Night”, the right hemisphere thinks, “Ah, yes, Silent Night”, while the left hemisphere thinks, “two sequences: the first a literal repetition, the second a repetition at different pitch levels… ah, yes, Silent Night by Franz Gruber, typical pastorate folk style.”

The brain for the most part works well when each hemisphere performs its own function while solving a task or problem, and the two hemispheres are quite complementary. However, situations arise musical memory when the two modes are in conflict, resulting in one hemisphere interfering with the operation of the other hemisphere.

Intensity

The Lombard effect is the involuntary tendency of a speaker to increase the intensity of the voice when speaking in loud noise to enhance audibility. This change includes not only loudness but also other acoustic features such as pitch, rate and duration of sound syllables.

Choral singers experience reduced feedback due to the sound of other singers upon their own voice. This results in a tendency for people in choruses to sing at a louder level if it is not controlled by a conductor. Trained soloists can control this effect but it has been suggested that after a concert they might speak more loudly in noisy surrounding as in after-concert parties.

Noise has been found to effect the vocalizations of animals that vocalize against a background of human noise pollution. Birds sing with a higher frequency than those in quieter area to overcome the masking effect of the low frequency background noise pollution of cities. Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River estuary adjust their whale song so it can be heard against shipping barge noise.

Combination

The concerto grosso, Italian for big concerto, is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and full orchestra (the ripieno).

The form developed in the late seventeenth century, although the name was not used at first. Alessandro Stradella seems to have written the first music in which two groups of different sizes are combined in this characteristic way. The first major composer to use the term concerto grosso was Arcangelo Corelli. After Corelli’s death, a collection of twelve of his concerti grossi was published; not long after, composers such as Francesco Geminiani and Giuseppe Torelli wrote concertos in the style of Corelli. He also had a strong influence on Antonio Vivaldi.

Two distinct forms of the concerto grosso exist: the concerto da chiesa (church concert) and the concerto da camera (chamber concert). The concerto da chiesa alternated slow and fast movements; the concerto da camera had the character of a suite, being introduced by a prelude and incorporating popular dance forms. These distinctions blurred over time.

Corelli’s concertino group was invariably two violins and a cello, with a string section as ripieno group. Both were accompanied by a basso continuo with some combination of harpsichord, organ or lute. Handel wrote several collections of concerti grossi, and several of the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach also loosely follow the concerto grosso form.

The concerto grosso form was superseded by the solo concerto and the sinfonia concertante in the late eighteenth century, and new examples of the form did not appear for more than a century. In the twentieth century, the concerto grosso has been used by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Ernest Bloch, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Bohuslav Martinů, Malcolm Williamson, Henry Cowell, Alfred Schnittke, Krzysztof Penderecki and Philip Glass.

Amount

Exformation is a term related to information for describing useful and relevant information or a specific kind of information explosion. With exformation, thought is in fact a process of throwing away information, and it is this detritus that is crucially involved in automatic behaviours of expertise such as riding a bicycle or playing the piano.

In using words, sounds and gestures, a speaker has deliberately thrown away a huge body of information, though it remains implied. Exformation is everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when, or before, we say anything at all. Information is the measurable, demonstrable utterance we actually come out with.

If someone is talking about cows, what is said will be unintelligible unless the person listening has some prior idea what a cow is, what it is good for, and in what context one might encounter one. From the information content of a message alone, there is no way of measuring how much exformation it contains.

In 1862 the author Victor Hugo wrote to his publisher asking how his most recent book, Les Misérables, was doing. Hugo wrote “?” in his message, to which his publisher replied “!”, to indicate it was selling well. This exchange of messages would have no meaning to a third party because the shared context is unique to those taking part in it. The amount of information was extremely small, and yet because of exformation a great deal of meaning was clearly conveyed.

Linguistics

Laughter is an audible expression or appearance of excitement, an inward feeling of joy or humor. It is part of universal human vocabulary. There are hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.

As a primitive, unconscious vocalization, laughter is probably genetic. In a study of the “Giggle Twins,” two happy twins were separated at birth and reunited 43 years later. Until they met each other, neither of these exceptionally happy ladies had known anyone who laughed as much as they did. The twins inherited some aspects of their laugh sound and pattern, readiness to laugh, and even taste in humor.

Norman Cousins suffered from arthritis and developed a recovery program incorporating megadoses of Vitamin C, along with hope, a positive attitude, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. He made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give him at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, he would switch on the motion picture projector again and it would lead to another pain-free interval.

Scientists have noted the similarity in forms of laughter among various primates, which suggests that laughter derives from a common origin among primate species. An extremely rare neurological condition has been observed whereby the sufferer is unable to laugh out loud, a condition known as aphonogelia.

Distortion

Phantom rings are the sensation and the false belief that one can hear his or her mobile phone ringing or feel it vibrating, when in fact the telephone is not doing so. Other terms for this concept include ringxiety and fauxcellarm. Some sound experts believe that because cellphones have become a fifth limb for many, people now live in a constant state of phone vigilance, and hearing sounds that seem like a telephone’s ring can send an expectant brain into action.

They may be experienced while taking a shower, watching television, or using a noisy device. Humans are particularly sensitive to auditory tones between 1,000 and 6,000 hertz, and basic mobile phone ringers often fall within this range. This frequency range can generally be more difficult to locate spatially, thus allowing for potential confusion when heard from a distance. False vibrations are less understood, however, and could have psychological or neurological sources.

In addition to cellular phones, other attention grabbing devices such as sirens, trucks backing up, horns or crying babies in a commercial message have been generically labeled as phantom ringing. Some doorbells or telephone ring sounds are modeled after pleasant sounds from nature. This backfires when such devices are used in rural areas containing the original sounds. The owner is faced with the constant task of determining if it is the device or the actual sound.

Listening

The cocktail party effect describes the ability to focus one’s listening attention on a single talker among a mixture of conversations and background noises, ignoring other conversations. This effect reveals one of the surprising abilities of our auditory system, which enables us to talk in a noisy place.

The effect can occur both when we are paying attention to one of the sounds around us and when it is invoked by a stimulus which grabs our attention suddenly. For example, when we are talking with our friend in a crowded party, we still can listen and understand what our friend says even if the place is very noisy, and can simultaneously ignore what another nearby person is saying. Then if someone over the other side of the party room calls out our name suddenly, we also notice that sound and respond to it immediately.

It was first described and named by Colin Cherry in 1953. Much of the early work in this area can be traced to problems faced by air traffic controllers in the early 1950s. At that time, controllers received messages from pilots over loudspeakers in the control tower. Hearing the intermixed voices of many pilots over a single loudspeaker made the controller’s task very difficult.

Cherry conducted attention experiments in which subjects were asked to listen to two different messages from a single loudspeaker at the same time and try to separate them. His work reveals that our ability to separate sounds from background noise is based on the characteristics of the sounds, such as the gender of the speaker, the direction from which the sound is coming, the pitch, or the speaking speed.

This phenomenon is still very much a subject of research, in humans as well as in computer implementations, where it is typically referred to as source separation or blind source separation. The neural mechanism in human brains is not yet fully clear.

Stimulus

Brainwave synchronization is a practice that aims to cause brainwave frequency to synchronize with a frequency corresponding to the intended brain state. The technique has been used to induce sleep or to treat numerous psychological and physiological conditions.

It is usually performed with the use of specialized medical software. It depends upon a “frequency following” response, a naturally occurring phenomenon where the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant EEG frequency to the frequency of a dominant external stimulus. Such a stimulus may be aural, as in the case of binaural or monaural beats and isochronic tones, or visual, as with a dreamachine, a combination of the two with a mind machine, or even electromagnetic radiation.

Brainwave synchronization has been used in one form or another for centuries, from shamanistic societies’ use of drum beats to Ptolemy noting in 200 A.D. the effects of flickering sunlight generated by a spinning wheel. In the 1930s and ’40s, with then-new EEG equipment and strobe lights, W. Gray Walter performed some of the first scientific research on the subject. Later, in the 1960s and ’70s, interest in altered states led many artists to become interested in the subject, most notably Brion Gysin who, along with a Cambridge math student, invented the Dreammachine.

From the 1970s to date there have been numerous studies and various machines built that combine light and sound. These efforts were aided by continued development of micro circuitry and other electronic breakthroughs allowing for ever more sophisticated equipment for measuring and inducing brainwave synchronization. One of the most important breakthroughs was the discovery of binaural beats, first published in Scientific American in 1973 by Gerald Oster. With the development of isochronic tones by Arturo Manns, combined with more sophisticated equipment, these discoveries led to many attempts to use brainwave synchronization in the treatment of numerous diseases and disorders.

Achievement

Booker T. Jones is an instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger, best known for fronting the band Booker T. and the MGs. He has also worked in the studios with some of the most highly regarded artists of our time, earning him a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.

Jones was a child prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, and piano at school and serving as organist at his church. He attended Booker T. Washington High School with future stars like Isaac Hayes’s writing partner David Porter, and Earth, Wind, and Fire’s Maurice White.

Booker T. & the MGs are an instrumental R&B band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern Soul and Memphis Soul. For many years, the official story was that the bandname The MGs was meant to stand for Memphis Group, not the sports car of the same name. However, this proved not to be the case, as musician and record producer Chips Moman, active in Stax Records when the band was formed, claims they were named after his car.

In June of 1967, they appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival, alongside performers like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane. They were also later invited to play Woodstock, but drummer Al Jackson, Jr. was worried about the helicopter needed to deliver them to the site, and so they decided not to play.