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Ballads on the brain (science)

Pamela R 10 Sep 17 - 12:34 PM
GUEST 11 Sep 17 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,guest 18 Sep 17 - 03:12 PM
DMcG 19 Sep 17 - 04:11 AM
leeneia 19 Sep 17 - 09:25 PM
Pamela R 26 Sep 17 - 03:07 AM
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Subject: Ballads on the brain (science)
From: Pamela R
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 12:34 PM

Hi all,
When I'm not singing ballads my day job is being a neuroscience researcher/professor. I have an article in press "Ballads on the Brain" in which I consider the cultural phenomenon of amateur ballad singing (as distinguished from professional performance) from a biological perspective, specifically its impact on brain circuits involved in recovering from stress, regulating emotions, and making social connections.

The publisher (EMC Imprint) is rather behind schedule in releasing the volume in which that will appear (it was due out in February) but I'll post a followup message with the link when it goes live, and would be glad to email anyone a pre-print on request.

In the meantime, however, I have given a public talk on this material under the title "The neuroscience of singing". I've now posted a video of the lecture here if anyone is interested:

Ballads on the Brain lecture

Note that although I do sing a little in the lecture, it's not a performance. My ballad singing videos are on a different channel:

Pamela San Diego channel


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Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
Date: 11 Sep 17 - 07:16 AM

Fascinating, thank you.

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Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 18 Sep 17 - 03:12 PM

Thank you it is a most interesting video of research.
I am wondering what made you choose Blooming Caroline as the example to illustrate the long song? Where and from whom did you learn that particular version?

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Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
From: DMcG
Date: 19 Sep 17 - 04:11 AM

Very interesting indeed, and I would certainly like a copy of the pre-print when it is ready.

I happen to be someone who both stammers and has a special interest in ballads. I mainly sing much shorter songs in singarounds, because it is a bit antisocial to monopolise the session for 20 minutes, but I am certainly more drawn to the longer songs. Purely anecdotal, of course, but intriguing none the less.

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Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
From: leeneia
Date: 19 Sep 17 - 09:25 PM

I enjoyed your informative talk.

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Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
From: Pamela R
Date: 26 Sep 17 - 03:07 AM

Thanks for the feedback!

In response to a question from anonymous guest:

The version of Blooming Caroline I sing was collected by Seamus Ennis in 1952 from Jean Elvin in Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Not much seems to be known about the source singer except that she was born around 1928 in Aberdeenshire. It is one of many ballads that would have served equally well: it has a slow tempo and long continuous phrases that structure breathing into quick inhalations and very extended exhalations; and a lilting melody consistent with prosodic speech. I have no scientific basis for my subjective sense that melancholy tunes and texts are particularly effective. Also in my experience this ballad seems relatively free of musical associations for listeners, compared to Child Ballads and others that are very well known from post-war revival singers' interpretations, which diverged from the delivery patterns I'm describing.

In response to DMcG: I agree -- most singabouts have other goals such as allowing time for lots of people to take turns, and providing opportunities for others to join in on a chorus or play along on instruments, which are not compatible with ballads. It's not easy to find or create gatherings geared towards ballads, but that's another thread.


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Mudcat time: 26 September 10:33 AM EDT

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