community · creativity · music · play · Social

Making a little street music

For the past four years, inspired by artist Luke Jerram, donated and painted baby grand pianos have been showing up in London during the summertime. This trend has now started to be picked up in major cities around the world, from Toronto, Canada, to Salem, Oregon.

From Now. Here. This.:

‘Play Me, I’m Yours’, an installation of street pianos created by artist Luke Jerram, is back in the capital for the fourth year. This time, in celebration of the City of London Festival’s Golden Jubilee anniversary, 50 *golden* pianos are popping up across London for three weeks until July 13. They can be found all over the city including Soho Square, St Pancras International Station and Parliament Hill – you may well hear the soft tinkling of the ivories before you see them.

From the Everett City Blog:

Pianos will be out August 1-22, 2012 for the Everett Street Tunes: An Invitation To Jam. Make music in the streets during Everett’s new interactive art project, Street Tunes! Musicians – both professional and novice – are invited to play any of the ten pianos located in downtown Everett.

Everett Street Tunes is an interactive art project, from start to finish, beginning with the commissioning of artists to paint and embellish each piano.

From the source itself, Street Pianos‘ website:

Touring internationally since 2008, “Play Me, I’m Yours” is an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram. Reaching over a two million people worldwide more than 600 pianos have now been installed in cities across the globe, from New York to Sydney, bearing the simple instruction ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’.

Located in public parks, bus shelters and train stations, outside galleries and markets and even on bridges and ferries, the pianos are available for any member of the public to play and enjoy. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community. Many pianos are personalised and decorated by artists or the local community. By creating a place of exchange ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ invites the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.

The pianos are loaned with the understanding that they might not make it back in one piece, but so far in the past four years the most destruction to the pianos has been due to rain or other inclement weather.

Visit the website to find out more about this cool, interactive, playful art project, and locations near you.

brain · happiness · mental health · music

Treating the Whole Patient

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.
Treating the whole patient, including mind and body, is becoming "cool" again. Image via Wikipedia

The faculty at University of Washington is pretty progressive in a lot of its research surrounding neuroscience and the mind, especially when it comes to Mental Health Care:

Researchers and professors at the UW, such as Dr. Jürgen Unützer, are driving innovative ways to improve access to high quality mental health care delivered in a manner that treats the whole person. Their efforts are focused on health care models that integrate behavioral health services into the primary care clinic and other heath care arenas, where the patients already receive care and have established provider relationships. Known as collaborative or integrated care, these models put the patient at the center of a health team – including their physician, a care coordinator and a psychiatric consultant – that collaborates on a patient’s treatment plan.

Unützer says he knew his research into new models of mental heath care delivery was on the right track when a patient described feeling like a tennis ball. This patient had a combination of health problems associated with diabetes along with alcohol problems and depression. As is common in the current health care system, the patient was being bounced around to different specialists to treat his individual symptoms. Dr. Unützer was concerned that patients like this, with a combination of behavioral health and medical conditions, were falling through the cracks and not receiving care that treats the whole person.

“The patient expects that the various providers are all talking to each other, but that is often not the case,” he says. “Who’s connecting the dots? Patients expect their care providers to sync up and know what’s going on with all of their conditions.”

More at UW Professional & Continuing Education.

brain · cognition · creativity · music · neuroscience

How the brain reacts to music, improv

As a follow-up to my previous post about brain reactions to improv, creativity, and problem-solving, check out my post on my other blog, Art of Science, to see the TED talk by Charles Limb discussing how the brain works on music.

How the brain reacts to music, improv.

community · creativity · culture · happiness · music · play · Social

Promoting public dancing through flash mobs!

A pillow fight that took place in Lausanne, Sw...
Flash mob pillow fight in Switzerland (neutral, yeah right!). Image via Wikipedia

Thanks again to the Seattle PI for bringing us great stories of spreading joy and happiness (see posts from earlier this week)!

If you were out and about in Seattle Sunday, you might have encountered more dancing and music than expected.

You can thank the TV show “Glee” and Seattle’s propensity for flash-mob participation for that.

“Glee” flash mobs broke out in several spots around the city Sunday afternoon. Here’s video of one of the best performances I’ve seen out of a bunch posted on YouTube.

Continue on to see the video (direct link below).

This is such an awesome trend of seeing flash mobs of people performing public dancing and performance, from Michael Jackson’s Thriller to Glee to improv and beyond.

brain · creativity · design · music

10 Ways to Boost Creativity

This list was compiled by the very talented Lori McNee (@lorimcneeartist) for The Top 10 Blog.

Lori is an internationally recognized professional artist who specializes in still life and landscape oil paintings. She shares valuable fine art tips, art business tips and social media advice on her superb blog

Lori writes: Artists, writers, musicians and even bloggers have a common need to create. But, sometimes we hit a mind block and often find ourselves stressed, overwhelmed and unable to produce original ideas. This happens to me from time to time, so I decided share my top ten ways to boost your creativity.

1. Set aside a time and place.
2. Give yourself a break from technology. (um, but continue reading this blog for more ideas before you take a break!)
3. Try something new.

Read all of her ten tips and why here:

music · neuroscience

Listen with your skin

That’s right. We humans listen to music with our skin!

Totally stolen from Not Exactly Rocket Science:

What part of the body do you listen with? The ear is the obvious answer, but it’s only part of the story – your skin is also involved. When we listen to someone else speaking, our brain combines the sounds that our ears pick up with the sight of the speaker’s lips and face, and subtle changes in air movements over our skin. Only by melding our senses of hearing, vision and touch do we get a full impression of what we’re listening to. 
When we speak, many of the sounds we make (such as the English “p” or “t”) involve small puffs of air. These are known as “aspirations”. We can’t hear them, but they can greatly affect the sounds we perceive. For example, syllables like “ba” and “da” are simply versions of “pa” and “ta” without the aspirated puffs. 
If you looked at the airflow produced by a puff, you’d see a distinctive pattern – a burst of high pressure at the start, followed by a short round of turbulence. This pressure signature is readily detected by our skin, and it can be easily faked by clever researchers like Bryan Gick and Donald Derrick from the University of British Columbia.
Gick and Derrick used an air compressor to blow small puffs of air, like those made during aspirated speech, onto the skin of blindfolded volunteers. At the same time, they heard recordings of different syllables – either “pa”, “ba”, “ta” or “da” – all of which had been standardised so they lasted the same time, were equally loud, and had the same frequency.
Gick and Derrick found that the fake puffs of air could fool the volunteers into “hearing” a different syllable to the one that was actually played. They were more likely to mishear “ba” as “pa”, and to think that a “da” was a “ta”. They were also more likely to correctly identify “pa” and “ta” sounds when they were paired with the inaudible puffs.
Read the full post, complete with charts, graphs, and all! 
music · psychology

Musicians hear better

Interesting study I read on Wired about a small, small study showing that musicians can pick out different sounds from a sea of noises, be it voices or flute toots or whatever, better than non-musically trained humans.

What got me really interested was the part about how people with learning disabilities have a hard time picking up voices out of a crowd in general, and what musical training might imply for helping this.

Like I said, small study, but really interesting to see where it might go.

Read on.


Archaeology News

This was also posted in my other blog, The Art of Science:

First news item: the cave paintings at Lascaux (France) are currently being threatened by mold. One of the possible causes: bright lights. The caves have a history of threats, all directly or indirectly caused by humans. This case exemplifies the hard challenges faced with old artifacts – or just limited natural resources in general – and weighing the benefits of preservation/isolation, scientific intervention and study, and public access to knowledge and such resources.

Next up: The re-creation of musical instruments from Central America. The story discusses Roberto Velazquez, a musical historian/archaeologist/mechanical engineer who studies ancient musical instruments found in archaeological sites all over Central America and recreates them and experiments with their sounds. What is not mentioned but inferred is the spectral analysis done on these instruments in order to determine what they are made out of – clay mostly, but also feathers, reeds, frog bones? – and how to recreate them. Velazquez will also experiment with making sounds with the flutes and whistles, and some of them are really eery; there is a sound clip with samples of all the different sounds, and I was not prepared for the first sounds that they played. It was from the appropriately-named Whistle of Death, and it is creepy to put it mildly.

*Edit*: exclusive only to Complex Interplay and MSNBC: Archaeologists have determined when Odysseus finally made it home.


Interesting cultural media tid-bits

First, this article is an interesting follow-up to my previous mother/father post. This woman looks at why her toddler has bonded more to her husband than to herself, and specifically at the idea that culture tells her it should be the other way around. I know, it sounds like I’m making an “it’s all culture” argument, but the author is merely looking at forms of bonding and what our culture says “should” happen.

Then, a recent This American Life broadcast looks at the topic of mapping. The first two acts are also REALLY impressive and interesting sociological and psychological studies; one mapping cultural behavior of a neighborhood, the other looking at modern electronics and how their constant humming and buzzing, each with its own melodic tone, affects our mood.