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9 Ways to Enhance Your Music-Listening Experiences

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Music is somewhat of a universal language. A song can move us to tears, make us dance like buffoons, and steep us in long-lost memories. Whether you’re a casual listener or a full-on audiophile, here are a few ways to take your music habits to the next level.

1. Listen more than once

If you’re serious about expanding your appreciation for music, don’t give much weight to your first impressions of a song. Researchers know we tend to dislike new things at first, but grow fond of them with time and repeated exposure. This is called the mere-exposure effect, and you’ve no doubt experienced it firsthand. How many times have you re-listened to an album you weren’t crazy about at first, only to find you can’t stop grooving to it now? That’s because your brain likes repetition and knowing what’s coming next. “The brain is a pattern-seeking organ, so it looks for patterns in music to make sense of what we hear,” Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct, says.

So, with new music, ignore your initial reaction and listen again. And again. As American violinist Maud Powell wrote in 1917, “Familiarity with worthwhile music steadily increases one's enjoyment in it. New beauties are ever being revealed from time to time, and more and more pleasure comes from fuller appreciation and understanding. One never tires of good music.”

2. Listen to as many different kinds of music as possible

In contrast, listening to music you’ve never heard before also does good things for your brain. Last year, Canadian researchers demonstrated that listening to new tunes activates the brain’s reward center, which prompts the release of dopamine, a chemical also associated with feel-good activities. So, when it comes to music, do some exploring and reward your brain.

3. Learn an instrument

It hasn’t been confirmed by science, but anecdotally, musicians often say knowing how to play an instrument changes how they experience music. It seems that understanding the intricacies of how the music is made--the physical and mental skill that goes into it--creates a whole new dimension of appreciation for the sound itself.

4. Listen to each track individually

If you can’t or don’t want to learn an instrument, another good way to understand the layers of a song is to listen to each track individually. Musicians can do this naturally, according to Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. "A musician will be listening to the sound of his own instrument even though many other instruments are playing,” Kraus says. You can do this too with a little help from the Internet. Here’s a good YouTube playlist of isolated tracks found in popular songs. Another resource is MultitrackMaster.com, which has a good selection. Here’s the guitar track on Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”:

5. Choose an experience, not a song

When searching for the right tune, Tyler Gray, co-author of the book The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel and Buy, suggests looking beyond the artist and title. “Instead of trying to think about what song you'd like to listen to, start by thinking about what kind of music best suits your situation,” he tells mental_floss. “We live in a pretty magical time when you can pretty much instantly access—through Spotify or Songza or iTunes—whatever music you want to hear. What's the perfect music for your commute, your road trip, your work day, your date? Start there, and you'll set yourself up for a better experience.”

6. Use Spotify’s “related artists” option to explore new stuff

One great way to find new tunes is through Spotify’s “related artists” feature. Can’t stop listening to The Decemberists’ new release? Spotify will recommend you check out a bunch of similar bands like Cloud Cult or The Mountain Goats. If you end up liking The Mountain Goats, you might also dig Neutral Milk Hotel, and so on. The farther down the rabbit hole you go, the more new music you’ll uncover. It’s only a matter of time before you land on a gem. Gray also suggests following the New Music Tuesday playlist there.

“You'll get new releases delivered to your app every Tuesday (and sometimes on other days). It's passive discovery in its best form.”

7. Try meditation

Bear with me here. In a recent study, Frank Diaz, professor in the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, reported that students who participated in 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation, bringing their consciousness to the present, were more focused on and engaged in an opera segment as a result. “We really found significant increases in the participants' aesthetic and flow experience,” he says. “Some were intense. They were really in the zone."

8. Understand the lyrics

One of the best ways to connect to a song is through its lyrics. For this, we used to rely on the little pamphlets that came inside a CD case. Now, there’s Genius. This tool was originally aimed at exposing the meaning in rap lyrics, but has expanded to include rock, pop, and R&B, and even goes beyond music to pull the meaning out of things like news and sports. For our purposes, Genius is a great resource for finding and understanding thousands of song lyrics. Annotations let you dig deep into their hidden meanings. To continue with The Decemberists, here’s Genius on "Calamity Song."

9. Use MusicSmasher to find great music quickly

This tool makes quick work of streaming your favorite songs online. Search for a song and MusicSmasher scans various services like Spotify, Soundcloud, and rdio to tell you where to find it. Press play, and enjoy.

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The Star Trek Theme Song Has Lyrics
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Star Trek theme song is familiar to pretty much anyone who lived in the free world (and probably elsewhere, too) in the late 20th century. The tune is played during the show's opening credits; a slightly longer version is played, accompanied by stills from various episodes, during the closing credits. The opening song is preceded by William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) doing his now-legendary monologue recitation, which begins: "Space, the final frontier ..."

The show's familiar melody was written by respected film and TV composer Alexander Courage, who said the Star Trek theme's main inspiration was the Richard Whiting song "Beyond the Blue Horizon." In Courage's contract it was stipulated that, as the composer, he would receive royalties every time the show was aired and the theme song played. If, somehow, Star Trek made it into syndication—which, of course, it ultimately did—Courage stood to make a lot of money. And so did the person who wrote the lyrics.

WAIT... THERE WERE LYRICS?

Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, wrote lyrics to the theme song.

"Beyond the rim of the star-light,
my love is wand'ring in star-flight!"

Why would Roddenberry even bother?

The lyrics were never even meant to be heard on the show, but not because the network (NBC) nixed them. Roddenberry nixed them himself. Roddenberry wanted a piece of the composing profits, so he wrote the hokey lyrics solely to receive a "co-writer" credit.

"I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches."

As one of the composers, Roddenberry received 50 percent of the royalties ... cutting Alexander Courage's share in half. Not surprisingly, Courage was furious about the deal. Though it was legal, he admitted, it was unethical because Roddenberry had contributed nothing to why the music was successful.

Roddenberry was unapologetic. According to Snopes, he once declared, "I have to get some money somewhere. I'm sure not gonna get it out of the profits of Star Trek."

In 1969, after Star Trek officially got the ax, no one (Courage and Roddenberry included) could possibly have imagined the show's great popularity and staying power.

Courage, who only worked on two shows in Star Trek's opening season because he was busy working on the 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie, vowed he would never return to Star Trek.

He never did.

THE WORDS

If you're looking for an offbeat karaoke number, here are Roddenberry's lyrics, as provided by Snopes:

Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

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Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
The 'David Bowie Is' Exhibition Is Coming to Your Smartphone
 Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images

"David Bowie is," an exhibition dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of the pop icon, concluded its six-year world tour on July 15. If you didn't get a chance to see it in person at its final stop at New York City's Brooklyn Museum, you can still experience the exhibit at home. As engadget reports, the artifacts displayed in the collection will be recreated in virtual and augmented reality.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, the curator of the exhibit, and the David Bowie Archive are collaborating with Sony Music Entertainment and the sound and media studio Planeta on the new project, "David Bowie is Virtual." Like the physical exhibition, the digital experience will integrate visual scenes with the music of David Bowie: 3D scans will bring the musician's costumes and personal items into the virtual sphere, allowing viewers to examine them up close, and possibly in the case of the outfits, try them on.

"These new digital versions of ‘David Bowie is’ will add unprecedented depth and intimacy to the exhibition experience, allowing the viewer to engage with the work of one of the world’s most popular and influential artists as never before," the announcement of the project reads. "Both the visual richness of this show and the visionary nature of Bowie and his art makes this a particularly ideal candidate for a VR/AR adaptation."

"David Bowie is Virtual" will be released for smartphones and all major VR and AR platforms sometimes this fall. Like the museum exhibition, it will come with an admission price, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

[h/t engadget]

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