Saturday, August 30, 2008

Science Odds & Ends

I loved the Cave Painting and Music story on PRI's The World because it combines two favourite interests of mine: music and prehistory. Here is some of the transcript from the station's website (to read/hear the whole story go to the link above):

August 13, 2008
The human desire to create art is ancient. Prehistoric cave paintings show the importance of visual imagery to our early ancestors. But a French professor believes such paintings may reveal an ancient love of music as well. And he recently put his theory to the test. .......And he devised a theory: That our ancestors used these sections of the caves as paleolithic cathedrals - decorated with paint and accompanied, he believes, by singing.

But Reznikoff's theory is just that - a theory based on his personal observations. And he has skeptics.
David Lubman is an acoustical consultant from Southern California. Though skeptical, he's intrigued by Reznikoff's theory. So when Lubman came to Paris last month for a scientific meeting on acoustics, he contacted Reznikoff and asked for a demonstration. Reznikoff eagerly agreed and arranged to tour a cave in Burgundy, now owned by the Count of Varonde........It seemed that the areas with cave paintings were ideally suited to singing. But does that mean these spaces were actually used for singing? David Lubman proposed an alternate theory. The ancient artists, he said, may have looked for smooth surfaces for their paintings… and these surfaces may, coincidentally, make for more resonant spaces.......

And the very same week the above was aired, there was also an interview on KUOW with the author of Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin. His new book is out:
"Music can make you laugh, cry, and even love. But can the entire world be summed up in just six songs? Daniel Levitin claims it can. The music scientist, producer and musician joins us to talk about his new book, "The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature." What are those six songs? And what do our favorite songs say about who we are and how we think?" To listen to this interview, go to:

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