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What Radiohead Teaches Us About Musical Innovation
It’s obvious why we are motivated to eat, drink and reproduce; the origins of our desire to push musical boundaries, on the other hand, are less clear.
The following is a forthcoming article for CreativityPost.com
When Radiohead sat down to record the follow-up to their 1995 album, The Bends, lead singer Thom Yorke said he wanted to create a record with, “an atmosphere that’s perhaps a bit shocking when you first hear it.” So the band traded in the guitar-driven sound of The Bends for more diverse instrumentation, “including electric piano, Mellotron, cello and other string, glockenspiel, and electronic effects and rhythm.” In addition, Yorke replaced the introspective and soul-searching lyrics that defined The Bends with a more positive tone. The result was an unconventional sound that, in the eyes of the record company, was unmarketable. Regardless of these initial concerns, OK Computer was released in June 1997 and went on to sell millions of copies, receiving near universal critical acclaim and launching Radiohead into international fame.
What’s remarkable about OK Computer is how different it is from The Bends. By any account, The Bends was a commercial and artistic success. It reached number four in the UK Album Chart and went triple platinum in the UK and Canada as well as platinum in the US and the EU. It also landed on numerous end-of-year lists and was ranked 111 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time. Despite its success Radiohead chose to completely change their sound. Why?
Radiohead has never been fully satisfied with their direction. However, this musical malaise drives them to craft novel songs that challenge the listener. Fans of the band know that this is precisely what makes them great. Each album is an innovation, not an imitation. Whereas ten years of Nickelback singles sound identical, the difference between “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Paranoid Android” is far-reaching.
Radiohead, of course, isn’t the only band compelled to constantly reinvent its sound. Nor is Thom Yorke the only musician who despises the musical status quo; Igor Stravinsky, Bob Dylan, and others also come to mind. What unites these creative geniuses is their yearning to replace the expected with the unexpected. As Yorke would say, they want to shock the audience.
When viewed from an evolutionary perspective, musical innovation appears odd. It’s obvious why we are motivated to eat, drink and reproduce; the origins of our desire to push musical boundaries, on the other hand, are less clear, especially considering that spending a lifetime crafting songs doesn’t appear to serve any adaptive advantages whatsoever.
In trying to understand why people like Thom Yorke are intrinsically motivated to innovate their craft, it helps to understand why humans enjoy music in the first place. One line of reasoning, which many cognitive scientists endorse, is that our appreciation for music, as well as our ability to create it, is a byproduct of evolution. That is, music is the product of several cognitive mechanisms that are functional outside of their intended purpose. Steven Pinker, for instance, famously called music ‘auditory cheesecake’ to suggest that music stimulates our auditory system in the same way that delicious food stimulates our taste buds.
If music is about auditory pleasure (as a result of a byproduct or otherwise) then good bands write songs that “[stimulate] our senses in novel ways.” Pop music does this especially well. Regardless of your music preference, the catchiness of the latest Rihanna or Lady Gaga single is undeniable. However, Rihanna and Gaga songs illustrate that the pleasure we receive from pop music is usually fleeting. Although pop songs are initially more pleasurable as a function of exposure, they eventually reach a peak and we enjoy them less and less thereafter. In fact, after enough further exposures they can even be annoying - no one has ever rejoiced in having a song stuck in their head. Anyone who listens to music understands this from experience and knows that this pattern is certainly not limited to western pop music.
Great bands and musicians that have transcended time and sustained interest over long periods of time follow a different trajectory. Classics such as “The Rite of Spring” and “Like a Rolling Stone” were bemoaned at first because they were exceedingly novel and complex. Whereas pop singles share many similar components (i.e., length, bpm, time signature and placement of choruses and verses), the work of Dylan, Stravinsky and other musical geniuses typically goes against musical norms by introducing new and more complex sounds. With enough exposure, though, listeners adjust and eventually appreciate the novelty. This is why classic aren’t fleeting: innovative instrumentation and complex sounds give us something different with each listen. That is, we don’t get sick of “Paranoid Android” because there is something new with every listen; it takes many repeats for overabundance to downgrade its value.
The implication is that great bands and musicians are masters at reverse engineering our cognitive capacities for music in the same way bakers are masters at reverse engineering our taste buds. In both cases, they are taking advantage of what the brain finds pleasurable. Like a good chef, Radiohead’s eminence might be a result of their superior taste. What’s novel to us is stale to them.
The evolutionary mechanics behind Radiohead’s musical aspirations are not completely understood, of course, and we might never fully understand why some musicians and bands spend their entire lives creating music. But it appears that a byproduct of our auditory system (in addition to other distinct cognitive processes) gives us a craving to seek out and create novel sounds. The members of Radiohead likely feed off of this evolutionary quark in a way that motivates them to innovate their music for the better.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.