Prince’s new purple Yamaha grand piano was ready to tour

via NBC News
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Days before his death, Prince tweeted a photo of a custom-made purple piano intended to be a centerpiece of his scheduled tour.

The piano, which was delivered to Prince’s home at Paisley Park in Minnesota a few weeks ago, was a rush job that had to be completed in about three months, said Chris Gero, vice president of Yamaha Entertainment Group, based in Franklin, Tennessee.

“We were on the top end of the idea, but it accelerated so fast,” Gero said Friday, revealing the behind-the-scenes work that went into its manufacture.

The acoustics of the piano were fine-tuned to Prince’s specifications. The artist, 57, who was found dead in his suburban Minneapolis home Thursday, had intended it for his Prince, Piano and a Microphone tour.
Image: Yahama purple piano for Prince
Customized purple piano for Prince. Ben James / Yamaha Entertainment Group

“So the piano is an acoustical piano, but it also has a tone generation system internally that can go out to a secondary audio source that all the sounds internally are highly modified just for him,” Gero said. “They are EQed (equalized) a certain way. There were certain sounds that were made just specifically for him.”

Prince also wanted the manufacturer to match the color to a couch in his home.

“The color purple was specifically chosen by him to match an item in his house, which was actually made of several different colors of purple that made one specific color of purple,” Gero said.

The company searched everywhere for the exact shade, ultimately painting it with paint used for cars.

Gero said he was surprised to see that Prince tweeted a picture of the piano and then over the weekend unveiled it to an audience at a show at his compound.

“It was really the last big performance he had done publicly in which he unveiled it and he was very proud of it,” Gero said.

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Your brain’s music circuit has been discovered…

via Nautilus

Before Josh McDermott was a neuroscientist, he was a club DJ in Boston and Minneapolis. He saw first-hand how music could unite people in sound, rhythm, and emotion. “One of the reasons it was so fun to DJ is that, by playing different pieces of music, you can transform the vibe in a roomful of people,” he says.

With his club days behind him, McDermott now ventures into the effects of sound and music in his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. In 2015, he and a post-doctoral colleague, Sam Norman-Haignere, and Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT, made news by locating a neural pathway activated by music and music alone. McDermott and his colleagues played a total of 165 commonly heard natural sounds to ten subjects willing to be rolled into an fMRI machine to listen to the piped-in sounds. The sounds included a man speaking, a songbird, a car horn, a flushing toilet, and a dog barking. None sparked the same population of neurons as music.

Their discovery that certain neurons have “music selectivity” stirs questions about the role of music in human life. Why do our brains contain music-selective neurons? Could some evolutionary purpose have led to neurons devoted to music? McDermott says the study can’t answer such questions. But he is excited by the fact that it shows music has a unique biological effect. “We presume those neurons are doing something in relation to the analysis of music that allows you to extract structure, following melodies or rhythms, or maybe extract emotion,” he says.

When it comes to understanding subtle neurological activity, brain scans are more like magnifying glasses than microscopes. fMRI scans highlight activity in specific regions of the brain, but each data point corresponds to hundreds of thousands of brain cells. Until recently, scientists didn’t have a way to disentangle the behavior of smaller groups of neurons. Even if music and language seemed to activate the same regions of the brain, no one knew if they activated the same cells.

The results challenge a persistent claim that the brain processes music and language in the same way.

The MIT team adopted a new technique to break down the fMRI data. They tried to explain the response to each of the distinct sounds at each point in the brain as a sum of a small number of canonical responses, each potentially corresponding to a different population of neurons. It was a little like zooming in on a photograph until pixels appear, and then finding a way to separate each pixel into even smaller components.

The results challenge a persistent claim that the brain processes music and language in the same way. “You have different neural circuitry that’s involved in music and language,” says McDermott. “There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of overlap.” Could music be its own form of communication? “To the extent that music functions for communication, it’s quite different from language in that it doesn’t denote specific, concrete things in the world, like something you would say,” he says. “But it obviously expresses something, typically something emotional.”

Intriguing research by Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, Ph.D., a research neuroscientist at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that listening to music activates the brain’s mirror-neuron system, a hub in the brain, Molnar-Szakacs says, that includes the limbic system, associated with emotion, that stirs a sense of human agency and “social belonging.”

McDermott says his research “doesn’t really speak to any kind of social activity.” It locates music-selective neurons in an area anterior to the primary auditory cortex. “Beyond the anatomical location,” he adds, “we don’t really know anything more.” Yet McDermott, whose field of study is hearing, and not necessarily music, would love to know the role and purpose of musical circuitry in the brain.
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Music taste linked to personality traits. Take the quiz!

via the Independent,
by Jess Staufenberg

A test designed to work out whether musical taste is a reflection of someone’s personality has been developed by Cambridge University psychologists.

Fans of James Blunt, cheesy club music and heavy metal have long been stereotyped, but the researchers believe there is a link between the type of music people like and their general characteristics.

So far the researchers have found that those described as “empathisers”, who have a good ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others, appear to prefer music that is romantic, relaxing, unaggressive, sad or slow such as soft rock and some R&B.

“Systemisers”, who tend to lean towards jobs in maths and science, are less stimulated by how the music makes them feel than by its structural qualities. They tend to prefer more “sophisticated” music such as from the avant-garde, world beat, traditional jazz and classical genres.

“Systemisers” are less stimulated by how the music makes them feel than by its structural qualities (Getty Images)

Empathisers may get a higher dose of a soothing hormone when listening to sad music than another the systemisers, explaining why they enjoy listening to that type of music more.

David Greenberg, one of the Cambridge psychologists who has questioned thousands of people about their musical tastes, told CNN: “People who are high on empathy may be preferring a certain type of music compared to people who are more systematic.

“[Systemisers] are focusing more on the instrumental elements, seeing how the music is mixing together. It’s almost like a musical puzzle that they’re putting together.”

As part of their research, the team created a “Musical Universe” quiz, which is available online here.

The test asks each individual to rate 25 musical excerpts and answer questions relating to the five key personality traits – extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness and emotional stability.

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