5 Songs I Listen To For Just One Line – Straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day

Go to the profile of Jeff Gorra

One line is all it takes. Sometimes, it’s just one word.

It happened to me this morning. “Jeff, how long have you been standing there in that same spot? You looked so focused, but content.” This was the first greeting I received at my office today. It’s because I was thumbing through the song list on my phone like I was throwing a discus, trying to find the one song I needed to hear in that moment — all for one line. It was “The Bones of You” by Elbow.

“When out of a doorway
The tentacles stretch of a song that I know
And the world moves in slow-mo
Straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day….

… and I dealt with this years ago
I took a hammer to every memento
But image on image like beads on a rosary
Pulled through my head as the music takes hold”

Had to have it.

At this point, I had not had my morning coffee yet so the ‘The Bones of You” was to go straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day. Consider it a healthy hit.

Six years ago, I had no idea who Elbow was. I had Palladia on in my living room and they airing a Glastonbury Festival special. Elbow happened to be performing. I was in the process of fixing a front door when all of sudden I whipped my head around at the sound of Guy Garvey’s voice. That’s just it — I’m talking about a particular line of song here, but much of the gravitation has to do with the singer’s delivery. Garvey took a deep breath, dug deep, and fired out … “And IIIIIII dealt with this years ago….”

Dealt with this years ago? What does that mean? A recurring problem? A beautiful persistence? I still don’t know, but I am continually fascinated by that line and how it connects back to the verse that precedes it (quoted above). It strings together the song, the passion and a “high” all through word placement and it’s position within the composition. Garvey recognizes that then shoots it into the sky like a flaming arrow.

There are a few songs like this for me. It’s like having a shiny pair of sneakers right in front of you, but you have to wear your worn-out Nike’s in the closet because they are reliable and give you a stability to take on the day like no other pair. It’s trust, but it’s also a calibration. That one line or word matches what you feel in that moment. It gives you an injection of exactly what you need to get right. It’s an understanding.

With that in mind, here are my five. What are yours?

“Hard to Imagine” by: Pearl Jam

Line — “…I hope this works somehow.” Disclaimer — this is one of my favorite songs in the universe. But at the last chorus, Eddie Vedder changes one line. Gone is the floating lone “somehow.” Three words are added to the front in …”I hope this works.” It’s so strong and vulnerable at the same time, and I feel it encapsulates the movement of the entire song.

“Ramble” by: Silverchair

Line — “And the ocean of time.” The ocean of time? I’ve never heard anyone make that analogy before, but Daniel Johns does it perfectly. This is such a melodic (and rare) song to begin with. The verses are like smooth waves and this is the 4th swell. The ironic thing is the line before this reads “in the dark of my mind.” Whoa. Intense. But “and the ocean of time” balances it out. What a mirage. An ocean of time — it could be anything.


“Overjoyed” by: Stevie Wonder

Word — “Over”. This is a unique one because it does not center around a particular moment in the song. I’m not eagerly anticipating the 1:47 mark. The word “over” is used 13 times throughout the 3 minute, 43 second song and I’m constantly focused on it. Over — time, over — dreams, over — hearts, over — love, over — me, over — you, over-joyed. The genius that is Stevie Wonder uses the word “over” to guide the entire journey. He stresses the two-syllables each time and leverages it to send you on your way through the next topic. It’s like one of those toys that you open up where there’s a smaller version of the exact toy inside. Then you do it again and again until you find there are about 12 renditions of the same figure all contained in one. “Overjoyed” has a bunch of tiny “overs” all layered into the main figure, which is overjoyed. Off topic — but this also song reminds me of my mom who always encourages me to continuing writing pieces like this.

“All Night Thing” by: Temple of the Dog/Chris Cornell

Line —“I do not know… what’s going on?” It’s the pause between “know” and “what’s.” These lyrics soar above an organ and for me, it’s multi-dimensional. Cornell always had an uncanny ability to have profound lyrics that were deep and could serve as your friend. If I ever I feel puzzled by life’s twists and turns I listen to “All Night Thing” and feel a reassurance by Cornell’s spiritual admittance of I do not know what’s going on. Speaking of which — I miss Chris Cornell terribly.

“The Bones of You” by: Elbow

Line —”And IIIIII dealt with this (years ago)” already in the intro, but I just got re-mesmerized (?)… like the first cigarette of the day.


Here is what music does to your body

Countless research has been done over the years as to the positive effects that listening to and playing music can have on the brain and the body. Here is an excellent and succinct video that summarizes this.

Here Is What Music Does To Your Body

Here is what music does to your body.

Posted by Hashem Al-Ghaili on Thursday, 1 March 2018

Feel the Healing Power of Music, Regardless of Your Age

We all know that music heals, uplifts and unites, but what happens to those who have never taken up music in their lives? Do they have to miss out on the soul soothing, healing effects of music just because they discovered their passion in their later years?

Time and time again, great musicians like Pat Martino have shown the world that it never is too late to learn music. Martino lost almost all his memory after having a brain aneurysm in the 1970s, but he reversed much of the damage by re-learning to play the guitar!

Research has pointed to the astounding effects of learning an instrument; one study carried out by the Radiological Society of North America found that taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children, which is why music is such an important part of learning. Sadly, those born before these discoveries were made may have missed out on a musical education because they thought they "just weren't musically inclined."

Music and Mature Minds

If you have always dreamed of mastering the piano, violin or saxophone, by all means, make a start. These days, doctors are recommending that older people take up a musical instrument to keep their brain young; much in the way that brain games enhance important skills such as problem solving and creativity, music, too, can keep the brain sharp, staving off memory loss and dementia.

In one study conducted at Baycrest Health Sciences, researchers recommended that music lessons form part of prevention programs to help keep conditions like Alzheimer's at bay.

Music and Mood

If you need a little inspiration before your first lesson, just listen to your favorite band or better yet, enjoy a classical music concert. Research carried out at the University of Helsinki found that simply listening to classical music has powerful effects on brain function. Music by masters like Mozart or Beethoven increases our (feel-good hormone) dopamine levels and helps keep our neurons healthy. Another study showed that music lights up the whole brain, since it demands that we process so many aspects - including tonality, rhythm, and timbre.

There has never been a time like now to learn or, at the very least, listen to music. Those who believe it is one of life's great treasures will often speak of music's transformative power and its ability to soothe pain and lift our mood. Science has backed what we already instinctively knew - music is an exciting light party for your whole brain, regardless of how old you are when you first allow its magic to take over your heart and soul!!

-Sally Writes - MU Columnist

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Inside A Musical Mind – Part 1

Roger Moisan

By Roger Moisan


If they only knew what he was truly capable of, they would tremble, bow or prostrate themselves before him. Their very existence depended on his mood or whimsy at any given time. Their feeble minds could not even comprehend his being nor could their senses perceive him yet, the power of life, death or suffering lay firmly in his hands. As the powerful August sun beat down relentlessly for another seemingly endless day, the decision was made. Today they would live, undisturbed, allowed to continue their pointless tasks oblivious to how close they came to total annihilation by the hand of a single entity. Today, but only for today, he would allow the status quo to continue…

Chapter 1 Elephants and Allegations

I remember 1976 most clearly because it was really hot and Granny had given me a large magnifying glass that spent the whole summer glued to my hands. It made small things look big, my mouth look giant to my sister but above all, it turned me into the god of ants. Had I seen ‘Apocalypse Now’, I would have shouted “ I love the smell of formic acid in the morning” each day, before setting out upon my ghoulish duties of garden eugenics, genocide and above all else, a taste of real power. I would dream of owning a suit of armour, later a real Dalek and earlier my very own elephant.
Roger’s elephant first burst on the scene during Mrs Grey’s story time, on the mat at Wordsworth First School. “Who has a pet?” was answered with the expected yet boring replies of “cat”, “dog”, “hamster” until “I have an elephant” was heard from a small brown boy in grey shorts and a yellow tie. As one can imagine, this announcement was something of a show stopper which was met with not inconsiderable disbelief. However, after explaining that because we came from India, it was quite normal for small boys to own an elephant and if anyone would like to see it, they were more than welcome to come to my house for a personal viewing. This development meant that I experienced popularity for the first time and was quite drunk on my new found celebrity. The only flaw was the undeniable fact that there was no elephant or any likely hood of there ever being one any time soon. My first major public humiliation soon followed and I say major as it was not the first I had endured. Warm up events preceding this were: The ice cream van, being hit by a car, grabbing a stranger who was not my mum and of course, the circumcision. As the hoards of expectant five year old urchins pounded on the door to 28 Howards Grove, I stood resolute in the belief that there would be an elephant in my garden somehow, by some means and provided by some higher power that I was yet to meet but would be indebted to for all eternity. Alas, no elephant.

During the period 1972 (Liverpool FC commemorative coin rolls behind the kitchen cupboard for ever) to 1976 (Dad’s car is officially hotter than the surface of the sun) I learned all about disappointment and that the mere act of wanting something to happen does not guarantee its manifestation. Concepts I still struggle with today and refuse to accept as applying to me. This meant that an alternative and better reality was needed and fast.
Power cuts, mountains of rubbish in the streets, strikes, no money and ridiculously cold winters made things a bit more interesting but the underlying sense of normality prevailed which was definitely not what I had signed up for. Bowling a googly (curved ball for Americans) became good sport for a while until a diagnosis of being ‘retarded’ was bandied about by Miss Perkis after the Bumble Bee incident in the cloakroom.

The first of these staged events took place in the summer of ’74 at the Summer Concert and Performance of ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’ at Wordsworth First School. Due to the poor and inconsiderate scheduling of the programme, the recorders were required to play ‘Summer is a Cummin in’ immediately before curtain up for the second act of the play. Musicians doubling as actors was prevalent then as now and equally under appreciated. This meant that make-up had to be applied to the Town Councillors (a moustache) back stage leaving the overworked Musos, currently entertaining the crowd, hirsutely bereft. As the only Town Councillor in Hamlin without a moustache, it fell to me to make a stand. Tonight, the delivery of the crucial line “One! Fifty thousand!!” would not be made. In its place however, a simple yet heartfelt speech of protest.

Allegations of sub-normality continued abound resulting in a trip to the optician to see if not-seeing might be the cause. This was the seventies after all and the addition of big plastic National Health spectacles to the only brown face in a white working class inner city council estate primary school must surely help with self esteem, self confidence and a sense of fitting in. It didn’t. Enter Yvonne and Sharon from the towers overlooking Wordsworth First School. This wonderful duo were the architects, engineers and the driving force behind the finest rolling barrage of mental and physical abuse by any Super Power since the Second World War. Their campaign? Quite simply, “ What colour’s your willy Roger?” Resistance to this kind of sustained attack was futile and led to the inevitable capitulation known as ‘The great unveiling’ of 1975.

Read Part 2

Music to Move the Masses: How Leaders Use Music

Politicians, motivational speakers and sports coaches all use music to energize, motivate and inspire their audiences. The Sync Project takes a look at some of the best examples of our time.

In the wake of the unprecedented events of the recent US election, it’s worth listening to the music that each of the two candidates used to inspire their audiences. Hillary Clinton’s team even released the Official Hillary 2016 Playlist, packed with millennial-appeal tracks like Demi Lovato and Jason Derulo’s Together to back up the “Stronger Together” message of her campaign. Contrast this with the music played by president-elect Trump at “Make America Great Again” rallies, with tracks like John Mellencamp’s R.O.C.K in the USA and Born on the Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival.


Politicians are not alone in this use of music to inspire and carry a message. Another great example of someone who uses this technique is American motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Before and during his live events — which consistently sell out to massive crowds — Robbins uses music to build energy, unleash emotion and draw the crowd together. Music is so much a part of Robbins’s shows that his website even has a list of tracks commonly used at his events. It features familiar songs like American Pie by Don Maclean (universally appreciated and likely used to bring the crowd together as one); Jump Around by House of Pain (perfect for when energy levels start to drop and you want everyone to, well, jump around); and Clocks by Coldplay (for those moments of euphoric epiphany that are the reason people go to see Robbins the first place.)

Robbins is in fact not the only one to have used Coldplay for motivational effect. During the European professional soccer season of 2008–2009, coach Pep Guardiola chose Coldplay’s track Viva La Vida to inspire the FC Barcelona team before games. With its upbeat pace and feeling of gathering momentum, the track appears to have been a smart choice as that season Barcelona won all six competitions they could possibly have played in — a feat that no team had ever pulled off before.

music therapy


It must have been a tricky gamble for Guardiola, because we all know that feeling of “oh no not again” when a song is overplayed. As Psychology Today points out in an article from 2012: “Predictability… can make songs you love seem mundane by reducing anticipation and creating a rut. Randomness in music has been linked to increases in dopamine.”

Guardiola thought was using the track as part of a self-reinforcing virtuous circle: the team listened to it, got psyched up, and went out and won the game — week after week after week. Rather than getting tired of the track, the players presumably came to associate it with winning, and with a pre-game feeling of “we can do this, we’ve done it before, now let’s go and do it again.”

Fortunately, there’s a bit of research to backup the intuitions shared by sport pros about the power of music. Studies have examined the support of music during sports and athletic training, all the way from warm-up, exercise and recovery, and shown it has real physiological benefit.

Scientists have studied runners and cyclists during their exercise routines and shown that movement to so-called “motivational” music helped runners have lower lactate levels. Cyclists completing high-intensity interval training showed felt less tired after giving it their all when music was used during the exercise. Sync Project launched it’s first study last year with Hintsa Performance to evaluate the effects of personalized music on high-intensity interval cycling.

Music therapy

The benefits also extend to warm-up routines where music raised heart rate and increased peak anaerobic power during their workout. It turns out music can even make you like exercise: a recent study showed when people listened to music or watched music videos when exercising with considerable effort they reported more enjoyment than without it. Research has also shown that music can help with recovery after strenuous exercise, by motivating listeners to move after their workout and reduce lactic acid buildup.

Some tracks seem to become forever associated with sporting prowess and success, such as the title tune from the 1981 historical drama “Chariots of Fire.” The film is about two British athletes competing in the 1924 Olympic Games — one of whom is running against all odds — but it’s the theme by Greek composer Vangelis for which the film became iconic. Vangelis in fact won an academy award for the film’s musical score, the title track of which has been associated with the glory of sporting achievements ever since. It was even used during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, having seemingly made a leap into popular culture forever.

Written by Marko Ahtisaari, CEO and Co-founder Sync Project

Originally published at syncproject.co on November 23, 2016.

Sync With Others to Feel Closer

Music automatically moves us. Even if you are sitting absolutely still, your motor cortex is still active when you listen to music.

This special link between movement and sound is thought to have been around since music began. It has been proposed that through its capacity to synchronize movements of individuals, music made it possible for us to cooperate more efficiently and thereby survive as a species. Music can therefore be thought of as an inherently social phenomenon, and as something that exists to move us in synchrony, in order to help us bond.

This aspect of music perhaps explains why one of the most common ways of enjoying music is at a concert setting, or at a dance party where we are also able to move together. But what actually happens when we move together to music? Is the thought of bonding through dance just a theory or is there evidence to support that dancing truly makes us closer to one another?

A recently published study¹ revealed the surprising effects of merely moving together in synchrony.

In the study, 94 participants first learned four basic dance moves. Then, they were asked to dance together with three unfamiliar individuals. Each participant had their own headphones through which they heard music, as well as short instructions on which pre-learned dance moves they should execute. This use of individual headphones made it possible to look at the effects of synchronized movement independent of the effect of study participants all being exposed to the same sound stimuli. (As a side note, having people listen to music from headphones but still dance in the same space is called “silent disco”. And it seems to be getting quite popular at the moment!)

Study shows dancing in synchrony increased pain threshold ratings

Image Credit

The silent disco created in this study had three different conditions for dancing together: in the synchrony condition, all participants executed the same dance moves to the same music. With the partial synchrony condition, the participants danced the same movements to the same music, but at different times, meaning that no two individuals were doing the exact same move at any point. In the asynchronous condition, the participants danced completely different moves, meaning that each individual’s dance had a completely unique set of moves. In addition, in the asynchrony condition, the music pieces were not played at the same time for any participant.

Before and after the dancing session, the participants were asked to rate the amount of social closeness they felt towards the other participants they had danced with. In addition, as a more objective measure of bonding, the pain thresholds of the participants were measured before and after the silent disco.

Why did the scientists measure pain thresholds? Interestingly, elevation of the pain threshold may be used as an indicator of social bonding. According to the article, previous research has shown that synchronous activity with others like group exercise or synchronous rowing elevates pain thresholds; implying the group activities actually made it easier to deal with pain. It has been suggested that this happens because such activities activate the endogenous opioid system — triggering release of our body’s own painkillers. The release of these endogenous opioids has in turn been associated with feelings of closeness towards others.

Image Credit

According to the results of the study, dancing in synchrony with others increased pain thresholds, and also resulted in significantly higher ratings of closeness, than dancing in partial synchrony or asynchrony. In other words, moving together to the same music in synchrony made the participants feel closer to each other and also increased their tolerance for pain, possibly signaling an increased release of the body’s painkillers in the synchrony condition.

In summary, moving together with others to music can act as a quick icebreaker — making you feel closer to previously unknown people. As an added bonus, as well as a potential mechanism for increasing closeness, synchronous movement may also increase your pain threshold. This finding is an important addition to the body of literature showing that music listening can be used for pain management. Perhaps including a social aspect to enjoying music could increase its analgesic effects?



  1. Tarr, B., Launay, J., & Dunbar, R. I. (2016). Silent disco: dancing in synchrony leads to elevated pain thresholds and social closeness. Evolution and Human Behavior. DOI:/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.02.004

Originally published at syncproject.co.

The Science Backed Ways Music Affects Your Brain and Productivity

Go to the profile of Chad Grills

There you sit again: browser open in front of you, the hum of your office in the background, your to-do list sprawled out on your notepad.

And… you don’t feel like doing anything.

Faced with this lack of motivation, you start to experiment:

You try working offline. You try the pomodoro method. You take that a walk around the block, as suggested by everyone. No major improvements. You’re not being as productive as you should, and you need to fix that… fast.

So you put on your headphones, pull up your favorite pop song or ambient rain mix and listen. Instantly, you can focus on those boring tasks on your to-do list (looking at you, email).

And now you got one of them done. Then another. Now you’re bobbing your head and in the zone.

When nothing else seems to help make us productive, the right music can supercharge us. But in terms of our brain and work, what does music do and why does it help us?

Science, music, and your brain

Studies about how music affects our brains and emotions have been ongoing since the the 1950s, when physicians began to notice the benefits of music therapy in European and U.S. hospital patients. However, humans have been using music to communicate thoughts and feelings to one another for centuries.

Today, research suggests that music can help relieve negative emotions like stress, anxiety and depression. It can even decrease instances of confusion and delirium in elderly medical patients recovering from surgery. Furthermore, research says that listening to happy or sad music can make us perceive others as being happy or sad, respectively. All of these findings make it clear that, for better or worse, music’s impact on our emotions is very real.

In terms of how music affects the brain, we can turn to a specific niche of research called neuromusicology, which explores how our nervous systems react to music. Basically, music enters the inner ear and engages many different areas of our brains, some of which are used for other cognitive functions, as well. (If you want to know the specifics of this detailed process, Dawn Kent explains it neatly in her thesis.)

Somewhat surprisingly, the number of brain areas activated by music varies from person to person, depending on your musical training and your personal experiences with music. Therefore, how music impacts your ability to concentrate or feel a certain emotion can be expected to vary from person to person, too.

However, there are some general brain and mood patterns that modern music research reveals, and these can help us decide what kinds of music to listen to at work.

How music affects your brain and mood at work

For the most part, research suggests that listening to music can improve your efficiency, creativity and happiness in terms of work-related tasks.

However, there are stipulations to these benefits. For example, studies seem to agree that listening to music with lyrics is distracting for most people. Therefore, it’s often recommended that we avoid listening to music featuring lyrics when working on tasks that require intense focus or the learning of new information.

In contrast, listening to music with lyrics may actually help people working on repetitive or mundane tasks, perhaps because the distracting nature of lyrical music can provide a kind of relief from the monotony of boring work.

For a greater understanding of how music affects work, here are just a few of the many studies conducted on workplace productivity and music in recent years:

In 1972, a study published in Applied Ergonomics suggested that people doing repetitive tasks worked more efficiently when background music was played.

In 1994, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that surgeon accuracy and efficiency improved when surgeons worked with music playing. Music selected by the participants had the best results and, even when working with music selected by researchers, the surgeons performed better than those who worked with no music at all.

A 1999 study in the journal of Neuroscience and behavioral physiology showed that playing classical or rock music allowed study participants to identify numbers more quickly and accurately.

In 2005, research from the journal of Psychology of Music showed that software developers experienced more positive moods, better quality of work and improved efficiency when listening to music. The study also notes a learning curve for participants using music to alter their moods.

These examples are merely a snapshot of the research that has been conducted on music’s affects on employees, but we can already start to see the benefits music has on work.

Science shows some ambient and natural music can boost your productivity

To some extent, one can make the case that music is a form of ambient noise.

Research suggests that ambient noise, or ambient music as we may prefer to think about it here, could be the best kind of music for work productivity.

A 2006 study from the journal of Ergonomics found continuous noise to be the least annoying background noise, while distinguishable speech was “the most disturbing, most disadvantageous and least pleasant environment” for participants. The study also included a “masked speech” variable, which proved to be the most effective means of arousing participants’ mental states, while (somewhat surprisingly) continuous noise was the least effective.

In 2012, The Journal of Consumer Research published a study investigating the effects of ambient noise on creativity. The study suggested that creative processes improved when participants listened to ambient noise at a moderate volume — about 70 decibels, approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner. The study also found that creativity suffered in the presence of high-volume ambient noise — about 85 decibels, slightly louder than a garbage disposal.

Additionally, research in 2015 from the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that using ambient natural sounds like a flowing stream was an effective way to improve employees’ productivity and moods in the workplace.

Considering those studies above, it’s very probable that ambient music has the potential to help improve your mood and productivity. However, for music to really improve your productivity at work, you’ll likely need to alternate between periods of no music and periods of different kinds of music.

We can recall that, when learning new information, music without lyrics is preferable to lyrical music. However, if we complete this task at work and need to switch to a more repetitive, well-known task, we may benefit emotionally and productively from listening to music with lyrics. And, depending on the complexity of the task, we’ll likely encounter instances throughout the day when we need to ditch our headphones altogether and simply focus on what’s in front of us.

That said, finding the right kind of music can be challenging at times. This is part of the learning curve mentioned in the Psychology of Music research above. Clicking around to find the right artist can certainly detract from workplace productivity but, once you know what works for you, music can become a tool for near-instant concentration.