INTERESTING RESEARCH. Young people not prepared for life after school. Creativity is associated with connections between brain hemispheres. Music education promotes lifelong engagement with the arts. Cultural organizations’ strongest impact is in low-income neighbourhoods. Experimenting with ambient music in the Intensive Care Unit. Creative people physically see and process the world differently.


Young people not prepared for life after school

A Mitchell Institute report has that found school leavers are not graduating with the skills they need to become successful adults. The report, ‘Preparing young people for the future of work’, finds that school leavers are taking longer to find permanent jobs, and around 60 per cent of young people are turning to unpaid work experience to try to advance their careers.

Megan O’Connell, report author: “Our education system was formed in the manufacturing era, it was not designed to teach students how to navigate complex environments and multiple careers. Young people need different skill sets to what is taught in the traditional curriculum if they are to thrive in high-tech, global, competitive job markets.”

The report (complete with infographics) can be viewed in full at

Creativity associated with connections between brain hemispheres

A new study, published in the journal Bayesian Analysis, is based on brain-scan research conducted by University of New Mexico neuroscientist Rex Jung, who measured neural activity in a group of college-age volunteers.

Participants took a series of creativity tests, including the classic in which they were asked to come up with new uses for everyday objects. They also reported their achievements in the arts, science, and other realms where creativity is prized. Based on all of the above, they were assigned composite creativity scores.

David Dunson of Duke University and Daniele Durante of the University of Padova analyzed the brain activity recorded on the scans, and found highly creative people (those whose scores were in the top 15 percent) had significantly more connections between the right and left hemispheres than those in the bottom 15 percent.

Earlier research has found heightened connectivity between hemispheres among young musicians — especially those who started playing an instrument by the age of seven. There are brain benefits to mastering those tricky rhythms.

Much more here 7

Music education promotes lifelong engagement with the arts

Kenneth Elpus

The purpose of this study was to understand the effects of school-based music education on later adult engagement with the arts using nationally representative data from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

Results suggest that both music performance and music appreciation courses are strongly associated with later arts participation as patron/consumer and performer/creator, even after controlling for socioeconomic status, sex, and race/ethnicity.

Former music appreciation students were 93% more likely to attend classical music or opera performances as adults and 255% more likely to play a musical instrument as adults than were non-participants.

Former music performance students were 342% more likely to play a musical instrument, 258% more likely to sing, and 186% more likely to take photographs as an artistic endeavor than were non-participants.

Results of this study suggest that lifelong engagement with music and the arts is one measurable outcome of school-based music education in the United States.

The abstract and bibliography for this study are available at this website. So is the entire study but at a fee.

Cultural organizations’ strongest impact is in low-income neighbourhoods

A study found that cultural organizations’ strongest impact on social wellbeing is not in areas with the largest number of resources, but rather in lower-income districts where the social connections they facilitate operate as a form of capital, substituting for the financial capital available in other places. As SIAP writes: “culture makes a difference in these communities by enhancing social connection, amplifying community voice, and animating the public environment.”

Read the story at Hyperallergic

Experimenting with ambient music in the Intensive Care Unit

Psychologist Charles Ferneyhough writes of the trauma of being a patient in an ICU. The noise levels are very high, the sounds often unpleasant, patients are under stress, possibly in delirium and frightening delusions. They actually may suffer long-lasting PTSD as a result in part of the aural experience.

So Ferneyhough and some colleagues got together and performed a couple of hours of ambient music, transmitted to patients through iPads linked to the ward’s WiFi system. It’s an interesting article, including this account of ambient music that includes the perceptions of Brian Eno, ‘its greatest modern pioneer’.

‘A problem is that one person’s easy listening is another’s aural poison. That’s a reason for thinking that music might be particularly useful when it is not aimed at the centre of the listener’s attention. In many respects, ambient music takes the default settings of pop music and flips all the switches the other way. Instead of distinctive rhythms, it gives us shifting periodicities. The melodies of pop command the attention, and we want our ambient performance to be there and yet not there at the same time. In the words of its greatest modern pioneer, Brian Eno, ‘ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.’ This is music aimed simultaneously at both the centre and the periphery of experience. It’s about what you don’t play as much as what you do.

‘It is not music for tapping your foot to. It’s music designed to take you into another mental space.

‘Another thing about ambient music is that it turns down the predictability. In her writing on the effects of noise on patients, Nightingale stressed the importance of the psychological significance of certain sounds. “Unnecessary noise, or noise that creates an expectation in the mind, is that which hurts a patient.” A repeating rhythm can be like a dripping tap: an agonising, predictable annoyance. If you hear one drum beat in a pattern, you are instinctively waiting for the next. Our music is mainly improvised, and thus less likely to get stuck in relentless patterns. It mostly eschews regular beats. Think of those apps you can buy to simulate soothing nature sounds: it’s no accident that they use periodic but non-repeating sounds such as rainfall or waves on a shore. The power of a regular pulse to command attention is one reason why I personally can’t listen to pop music while working: all those seductive beats screw up the rhythm of my thoughts.

‘Rhythmic unpredictability is only one of the things going on. By not commanding the listener’s attention, ambient music frees the mind to wander.’ In the sleevenotes to his pioneering Music for Airports (1978), Eno wrote that ambient music ‘is intended to induce calm and a space to think. It is not music for tapping your foot to. It’s music designed to take you into another mental space.’

More information at aeon.3

Creative people physically see and process the world differently

Alice Klein

If you’re the kind of person who relishes adventure, you may literally see the world differently. People who are open to new experiences can take in more visual information than other people and combine it in unique ways. This may explain why they tend to be particularly creative.

Openness to experience is one of the “big five” traits often used to describe personality. It is characterised by curiosity, creativity and an interest in exploring new things. Open people tend to do well at tasks that test our ability to come up with creative ideas, such as imagining new uses for everyday objects like bricks, mugs or table tennis balls…

Anna Antinori at the University of Melbourne and her team are showing that people who score more highly when it comes to the openness trait “see” more possibilities. “They seem to have a more flexible gate for the visual information that breaks through into their consciousness,” Antinori says…

The results could explain why people with a high degree of openness tend to be more creative and innovative, Antinori says. “When they come up with all these crazy new uses for bricks, it might be because they really perceive the world differently,” she says.

Journal reference: Journal of Research in Personality, DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2017.03.005

Read the article in New Scientist 1


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