A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

Have you ever thought how important music is to you? Stop telling lies now, of course you haven't. Most people don't think about it at all until it’s too late and they're on Radio 4’s 'Desert Island Discs' and Natasha Kaplinski is sitting there asking "How important is music to you?" Whereupon they suddenly realise that music is even more important than clean underwear, and without a regular supply of both they'd be sucking their shoelaces for some form of solace.

Well, you'll be delighted to hear that scientists have recently been able to measure exactly, just how important music is to the human brain with accuracy of seven decimal places and minus seven decibels. And the startling answer is directly quoted as: "Quite a lot."

We know that the brain responds to music in a very basic and primitive fashion, and that this response begins at a very early stage in our development. It starts some considerable time before we are born, often as early as the second Friday in the month before. It was knowledge of this important fact that inspired the work of the famous French obstetrician Le Boyer.

As you may or may not know, Le Boyer pioneered a new technique of obstetrics in which babies are delivered in a dimly lit delivery room to the accompaniment of soft and soothing background music. Imagine that for a moment if you will, dimmed lighting and soft background music. Isn't that what got the mothers to be, pregnant in the first place? Anyway, this is all meant to prepare the baby for its future life by giving it the idea that the world is a soft and gentle and truly wonderful place, though personally I reckon it gives the baby the mistaken idea it is being born in a supermarket during a power cut. Which I suppose is as good a preparation for future life as any other. Trendy followers of the Le Boyer school of thought point out that the soft music allows the baby to lose any inherent anxiety and aggression, and I presume that the dim lighting allows the obstetrician to put the clamp on his thumb instead of the umbilical cord.

In fact, using sophisticated electronic recording devices, doctors have been able to monitor babies' reactions inside the womb to different kinds of music. It appears that they like Vivaldi best of all, very closely followed by the likes of Eminem. Now I don't want to be a wet flannel (although no delivery suite is complete without one) but I do wonder just how important those first few hours of life really are. Opponents of Le Boyer’s theories have pointed out that Jewish babies are ritually circumcised a few days later – a ceremony that, even if performed in dim lights and with soft music, is certainly not going to give this baby the impression of being in a supermarket during a power cut. (Although I suppose it depends where you do your shopping.) Furthermore, there may well be long term effects caused by this kind of behavioural manipulation. Recent surveys suggest that the widespread application of the Le Boyer technique to circumcision has now produced an entire generation of accountants that get severe pains in their private parts whenever they hear Vivaldi on the radio. And I’m sure we all know someone like that, don’t we?

Well, now that we have established that music is of fundamental importance to the human brain, perhaps we can go on to examine why that should be so. The answer is all to do with the way that the brain is arranged. Basically the brain is divided into bits called lobes. This arrangement has evolved over many millions of years because Mother Nature has found it to be the best layout for aspirin commercials. At the front of the brain, for instance, are the frontal lobes. These are assumed responsible, roughly speaking, for inhibiting aggression and a few other undesirable behaviour traits. Thus the frontal lobes stop us from swearing, cheating at cards and spitting in busses, and help us to obey the Highway Code and pay our TV Licence fees. The frontal lobes are congenitally absent in all Frenchmen, apparently, so rumour has it.

In a similar way, neurologists have discovered other bits of the brain that are in charge of text messaging, pencil sucking, tax dodging and industrial relations. Recently however, a new bit was discovered deep inside the mid-brain. (Sorry ladies, it wasn’t the sling-back synapse, however, Brantano are still having a sale.) It is tucked under the rhinencephalon, bordering on the amygdaloid nucleus and half an inch nor-nor-east of the thalamus. It consists of a group of nerve cells that are responsible for our response to music, and has been called by neurophysiologists ‘the music centre’ because it comes complete with Dolby 5.1 surround-sound and free headphones.

Using state of the art, and somewhat highly complicated immunocytochemical autoflourescent preparations, the scientists have identified a group of specialised cells that respond to the foxtrot and other classical music. There are other cells that respond to opera, the rumba and most South American rhythms (excluding the cha-cha which is situated somewhere in the cerebellum). In another part of the area, there are cells secreting a chemical known as 2’ 4’ diphenylhydramino-butyrate-biryani, which causes the owner to do the Funky Chicken and the Mashed Potato. In most people of the modern world, this area is now shrunken and atrophied, but it has been seen to re-emerge in 30 to 40 year old fathers - Especially during wedding receptions.

It is therefore no surprise at all, that music plays such a fundamentally important role in our lives, even when we’re not on ‘Desert Island Discs’; and it seems obvious now, that our particular preferences are dictated by the music we heard when we were in the womb, or shortly after our emergence. This makes it doubly disappointing that I am so useless and tasteless (according to the youngsters around me), when it comes to music; but of one thing I am certain – they must have been playing ‘Twisted Sister’ while they were circumcising me!

THE SOUND OF MUSICSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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