So I will be playing the part of Conor this week. Hi, strangers.
As befits playing the part of Conor, I am running late on my promised delivery of my column, in part because I spaced and in part because my original topic which was planned for this week fell through. It was to be a discussion on live hip-hop, comparing the shows of Mos Def and Black Milk.
But then Mos Def postponed his show because of Brisbane floods and a sick band member and possibly the chance to hang with Prince, and now I have to get a refund because the scheduled date is the same night as Les Savy Fav, and to be honest now that I’ve heard that Mos Def spends half his live set singing along to Al Green and Prince songs I’m not too fussed by this turn of events.
None of which really has anything to do with Black Milk, who’s a talented J. Dilla protege and puts on a quite good show that you should check out, but I don’t feel passionate about writing about it, though I do feel passionately about you listening to his track “365” if you feel remotely sympathetic to hip-hop, which I tried to embed but for the life of me I can’t figure out WordPress.
So, instead, let me point you to a link that will be familiar to you if you follow my Facebook page, where Jonah Lehrer writes about the neuroscience of music.
What’s interesting to me about the article for the tl;dr folks:
1. “it turns out that the most important part of every song or symphony is when the patterns break down, when the sound becomes unpredictable”.
2. “In essence, the scientists found that our favorite moments in the music were preceded by a prolonged increase of activity in the caudate.“
I’ve been trying to draw a parallel for a month now between three songs that I love and my favorite parts of each song:
Superchunk, “Unbelievable Things”
(the simultaneous introduction of the high chiming 2nd guitar line and new vocal melody/lyrics at 3:06)
Drive Like Jehu, “Here Come The Rome Plows”
(the screeching slide down the guitar fretboard as prelude to new part of song 2:33)
Sunny Day Real Estate, “Seven”
(the additional measures of pre-choral breakdown into the big chorus at 2:18)
In the case of all three of these songs, I reliably get shivers when those parts of the song hit, and to understand, at least at some level, why that happens, is interesting to me.
The observation of slight complexity is also an interesting one to me. If the system is too chaotic or elusive, then the pattern is lost to the brain. Which might explain why some musicians are really fond of really wanky bands that experiment a lot with time signatures or Phrygian modes or whatever – when you know the rules, you understand the complexities a lot better.
But then there’s also the discussion to be had about the involvement of dopamine. I’m pretty sure this isn’t news, but to be reminded at a certain level that doggedly seeking out an affective response from music is the same sort of dopamine-questing activity that propels the quest for sex or drugs is never not disquieting.
And maybe more so because, after a lull of sorts, I have been fully passionate about seeking out new music in the past few months, and particularly the past few weeks, with a fervor that I haven’t known in ages. I’ve discovered Buke & Gass, found that I actually like the new Decemberists album, finally bought an Avett Brothers album, and much, much more.
Hunting, always hunting, for that next moment, that next reliable dopamine hit.
I am an addict, and I miss hanging out with you other addicts.