Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Notes On My Membrane


“Music may be the activity that prepared our pre-human ancestors for speech communication and for the very cognitive, representational flexibility necessary to become humans.” ― Daniel J. LevitinThis Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


Motivation is that which moves us or in some cases what makes us move. It is no surprise then that music has been a motivating force for many over eons. With its chords, lyrics, notes, rhythms and everything between, music moves us more than only physically.

I was conceived, born, and raised in a Pentecostal church in suburban Jamaica, West Indies. The music at church was almost always up-tempo, unmistakably loud, and never subtle. Back then music played an integral role in my life. Whether I was leading the choir in song or I was lost in the congregation; tears running down from my eyes, hands raised up to the heavens. Today, though I'm no longer religious, music is still at the center of my life like the nervous system is to the human body.


"What, if baby, I cannot see the sound? What, if baby, I cannot hear the light?" - tUnE-yArDs


According to our class blog, aninroductiontopsychology.blogspot.com, 'drive is the motivational tension that energizes behavior to fulfill a need'. Music is my 'drive', but what is the need to be fulfilled? Happiness mostly. Sometimes, however, music is an escape, an understanding melody, and a reassuring rhythm wrapped up in octaves. There are several songs that have been a neurological source of motivation in my short but eventful life. 

Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place is one such standout. The song kicks off the band's sea change album, Kid A, which Pitchfork describes as 'an emotional, psychological experience.’ The track is set in motion with an electric piano as the soundtrack to what must be alien chitchat. However, Yorke, the band's lead vocalist insists reassuringly, ‘Everything, everything, everything, in its right place...’ It’s the type of song that can make you emotional before you even notice it.

'Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.’ - Yip Harburg

With its uncanny chord progression; ascending and descending at once, this song provides an escape from Earth to space or vice versa. By the time the singer gets around to ‘there are two colors in my head’, the lines have all been blurred. Somewhere betwixt the dissonant harmony and the ominous vocal effects we can’t really tell the difference between singer and listener.

The band wields repetition throughout the four minutes and eleven seconds like mind control, every line at least double-coated into the listener’s psyche. No matter what mood I find myself in, this alien lullaby always manages to neurobiologically set me back in my ‘right place’. The effortless aural fantasy, Everything In Its Right Place restores my neural balance and sets my mind at ease on any given day.