Thoughts on Radio Lab’s Musical Language: Pt 1

If you have yet to listen to a podcast on Radiolab, I implore you to do so. The podcasts are interesting and leave you wanting more. Trust me, before listening to Radiolab, I have never been able to listen to a podcast before (though various church members would implore me to do so!) all the way through.

This episode of Radiolab that I’m going to talk about is Musical Language, rather “…the line between language and music.” The podcast was broken into three roughly twenty minute sections so that I did not have to sit for an hour mindlessly at my computer. It was quite lovely. You can view the podcast here.

Music is language. (photo by Robert Couse-Baker)

Music is language. (photo by Robert Couse-Baker)

These are my thoughts on the podcast.

#1. Behaves So Strangely.

The psychological aspect of music has honestly not been something that I have spent too much time thinking of. I’m more of the person to feel through music; the logistics of it are not necessarily my focal point. Nonetheless, Diana Deutsch’s findings on how tone and pitch are more easily controlled by those who come from a “tone language” made me rethink a lot about how I grew up, both listening to my mother speak Korean and my first language, English all around me. Although the podcast pointed out that cultures with tone languages learn pitch easier than Western culture does, I find there are two sides: we have more flexibility because we don’t use tone.

 #2. Sound As Touch.

This was my favorite part of the podcast, by far.

The most riveting thing about this entire podcast was this section for me. As I stated previously, I’m more of a person who feels through music. It is euphoric. The physiology of music in our bodies gives me new understanding of how to react to music. Even our bones are touched by sound. If that is so, I almost feel as if music envelops in our very innermost core. I have seen babies cry at sad music – though they do not have understanding of what is being said or the purpose of the music. I also thought it interesting that order makes for comfort, while disorder makes for discomfort. We, as humans, have a natural disposition to strive towards orderliness. Even the most beautiful people are thought to be beautiful because of order. Because of their symmetry.

The Rite of Spring from the 1910s was also a fascinating feat of what music can do to people. It makes me wonder what other psychological and physiological factors contribute to music. I wonder the correlation between blood pressure and music. I understand the concept of growing violent, even driving faster when your favorite song is playing in the car, and even getting a headache from the discomfort you feel – but what else? And why are people crazy as a result of music? Nonetheless, disturbing music is my personal favorite. Not necessarily that it has to illicit emotions that cause discomfort, but considering that you can’t see where the song will go – that, that is worth while.

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