Vitamin A(rt)

Art is good for you.

Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.

The NYTimes breakdown and a link to the study are worth being aware of.



On the decline in culture

The Rite of Spring – Wikipedia

Final rehearsals were held on the day before the premiere, in the presence of members of the press and assorted invited guests. According to Stravinsky all went peacefully. However, the critic of L’Écho de Paris, Adolphe Boschot, foresaw possible trouble; he wondered how the public would receive the work, and suggested that they might react badly if they thought they were being mocked.

…there is general agreement among eyewitnesses and commentators that the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew into a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in “Augurs of Spring”. Marie Rambert, who was working as an assistant to Nijinsky, recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage….The demonstrations, he says, grew into “a terrific uproar” which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers…

Monteux believed that the trouble began when the two factions in the audience began attacking each other, but their mutual anger was soon diverted towards the orchestra: “Everything available was tossed in our direction, but we continued to play on”. Around forty of the worst offenders were ejected, either by the police or by the management. Through all the disturbances the performance continued without interruption. Things grew noticeably quieter during Part II, and by some accounts Maria Piltz’s rendering of the final “Sacrificial Dance” was watched in reasonable silence…

The critic Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi…failed to observe any direct hostility to the composer—unlike, he said, the premiere of Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande in 1902. Of later reports that the veteran composer Camille Saint-Saëns had stormed out of the premiere, Stravinsky observed that this was impossible; Saint-Saëns did not attend.

It’s really hard to believe claims about the decline of civilization and the harm of art on culture when history is filled with things like this, yet we’re still here.

Here’s a link to Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring on Spotify. Listen to this riotous music!

Looper score, and another meal to eat

I think I just added another person to my “I want to eat a meal with” list: Nathan Johnson. I’ve always dug sound production things, and I like how he talks about the music and it’s connection to the film, and people’s feelings when they hear the music.

Not to mention I’m excited about Looper — it has phenomenal reviews.

Here’s an interview with Nathan, and here’s the Rolling Stone link that the video is from.

On Learning Someone Else’s Song

I finally own sheet music from a band I’m excited about — Led Zeppelin. “Whole Lotta Love” is one of my favorite songs, and even though there’s not that much drumming in there (the whole middle of the song is basically Bonham clicking the hi-hat and not much else), I’ve started learning it.

Bonham is really good. He keeps time with the hi-hat, and plays complex patterns on the snare and kick drums.

The trick that I realized will help me on this is to learn each pattern alongside the time-keeping, one at a time. So, I can play the hi-hat and kick easily, and the hi-hat and snare easily. Doing all three still leads me to throw notes in the wrong places.

I think that breaking a three-limb harmony into two separate two-limb harmonies will make it easier to memorize, and then I’ll be able to bring them back together.


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

If – Rudyard Kipling

On Tools & Results, part 2

NPR has an article about violins.

They gathered professional violinists in a hotel room in Indianapolis. They had six violins — two Strads, a Guarneri and three modern instruments. Everybody wore dark goggles so they couldn’t see which violin was which.

Then the researchers told the musicians: These are all fine violins and at least one is a Stradivarius. Play, then judge the instruments.

Joseph Curtin, a violin-maker from Michigan, was one of the researchers. “There was no evidence that people had any idea what they were playing,” he says. “That really surprised me.”

Curtin says of the 17 players who were asked to choose which were old Italians, “Seven said they couldn’t, seven got it wrong, and only three got it right.”

I think I called this one. It’s the same thing, no matter what field. There should have been a 50/50 split, and instead, only 3/17 were right.

Batman drank ginger ale

Bruce Wayne drinks ginger ale at parties to help keep his body and mind in top shape. I don’t have a good source for this, in that there’s no single authoritative reference that I can link to.

Since I don’t have a single authoritative reference, let’s go with this: a comic about two dinosaurs, one of whom is going to give up drinking. I’m talking about a comic character anyways, right? Another comic is basically a primary source.

There’s also Wikipedia. Just go to the Batman page, and then search in the page for “ginger ale”.

This makes me happy, because I like Batman/Bruce Wayne, and I also like ginger ale. Generally when I’m at a bar, there’s whiskey and a slice of lime involved, but this isn’t a bad idea for ending the night if I have to drive.

Also, Batman used ginger ale as a replacement for champagne. Something worth remembering for NYE. Happy 2012, everyone!