The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162777   Message #3879404
Posted By: Pamela R
30-Sep-17 - 01:21 AM
Thread Name: Ballads on the brain (science)
Subject: RE: Ballads on the brain (science)
Yes I agree the traditional singers are much slower as a rule than the revival singers, and I suspect the use of guitars or entire bands might have resulted in more tempo regularity as well.

I've thought a bit more about the choir singer's question since that talk.

The effects of taking very deep breaths, and exhalation with resistance taking up more time than inhalation, is in my experience also true of faster and more upbeat songs, so these might also stimulate the vagus to some extent. For example in my repertoire the only song in which I actually run out of breath before the end of a phrase is "Rocky Road to Dublin". But the rapidity would not be as consistent with natural prosody. I can imagine how to analyze recordings the songs to determine if pitch modulation or timing modulation are systematically greater in slow ballads vs. faster songs, but I'll need a Maths PhD student to actually do that work. Bottom line I think all kinds of singing are probably pro-vagal, but traditional ballad singing might be "optimal". We have experiments underway in the lab at UCSD to test this experimentally.

Also I didn't delve into it too much in the talk because I know less about this literature, but the vagus is connected up with limbic circuits and hormones, including oxytocin, that are involved in human bonding. So I don't think it's a coincidence that carol singing, football chanting, etc that are particularly emotionally gratifying are typically social experiences.

However I would speculate that the faster or more exciting songs, football match chanting etc, are fundamentally different because they are simultaneously engaging fight-or-flight (adrenaline) circuits at the same time as the vagus nerve. I still have a lot of reading to do to make sense of that neurobiological combination, which I think may also be true of sex.

More about memorization another time, that's yet another brain region (hippocampus).....