lördag 30 april 2016

Can music harm or heal the brain?

Music can obviously not damage the brain in the way that a stroke or a blow to the head can. But the brain is a plastic organ - one might think of it as a self-wiring computer. This means that if the wiring is faulty, its function will be impaired and it will in fact be damaged.

We know that emotions and feelings can be affected by sound. There is the notorious effect of being exposed to 7Hz, a frequency just below the threshold of hearing, matching the theta wave frequency recorded by electroencephalagrams (EEG); there is a lot of literature on this subject. It is a frequency that can easily be generated by playing low-frequency chords on the organ.

Music was used as a form of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Music torture has been common practice for the CIA ever since it began its "enhanced interrogation program" in the early 2000s. The process is designed to "create fear, disorient … and prolong capture shock" in prisoners. Sgt. Mark Hadsell, a member of the U.S. Psychological Operations team, described the efficacy of the tactic: "If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."

The same applies to rasping and grinding sounds, which create a feeling of stress. Clearly, then, sound is having a physiological effect. Then there are what are known as "earworms", catchy pieces of music that continually repeat through a person's mind after it is no longer playing.

Although the mechanisms are not yet well-understood, memory is stored in the brain through some kind of change in the pattern of neural connections, so there is a physical change in the brain tissue itself. Stress gives rise to increased levels of cortisol, which also affect the brain tissue. So the notion that sound, including music, can harm the brain, is by no means far-fetched.

The opposite is also true. The process has been noted by, amongst others, the French MD, Alfred Tomatis. Since the 1950’s he has researched the effects of Gregorian chant upon the brain and body. By the early 1970’s when Catholic liturgy was changed after the Second Vatican Council, Dr. Tomatis was being asked to visit monasteries and council the abbots and monks on their failing health and energy. He noted that until they returned to their customs of Latin singing psalmody and chant, that they would no longer feel the natural rhythms of the day.

Tomatis was not making these suggestions from a conservative, Catholic viewpoint. He realised that the power of self-generated tones, the prolonged open vowel sounds characteristic of Latin, and the power of the rhythmic breath could alter the whole attitude and physical body of a person, not to mention the spiritual relationship with God.

To stimulate the brain and charge it with energy, is most easily done with the voice, intoning vowel sounds. Gregorian chant is an ideal way to use slow vowel sounds to relax the body, mind and soul. Taking long deep breaths with a light humming sound demonstrates the effect of the voice on the body after only a few minutes. To listen to the sounds of Gregorian chants inspires the body to breathe more deeply and to centre itself. It is a simple way to balance mind and body. Gregorian music is not boring although it does not have an insistent magnetic rhythm or melody to captivate the listener. It stimulates the brain with long sounds and elongated breaths. This humming or slower toning of the vowel sounds can be thought of  as massaging the body from the inside out.

The 1970s were not the first assault on Gregorian Chant in the Catholic Church. The process began with the Reformation, when Luther abolished it and replaced it by simple melodies in strict time. This is precisely the kind of music that gives rise to earworms. It may be significant that Gregorian Chant does not have this effect, since the music follows the line and rhythm of the texts, which take precedence over the music. The two types of music have very different effects on the mood of those who sing and listen to them, which must in turn have consequences for the way that the brain is wired and its ability to function efficiently. Thus, the idea that music can cause brain damage is not so far-fetched. The damage may be subtle, but it is not negligible nevertheless and could have an effect on the individual's ability to maintain focus on tasks and make rational decisions.

Perhaps Catholics should censor the music they have at Mass and cut out metrical hymns composed for Protestant services.

fredag 8 april 2016

If I had not done this others would

"'My client Mr Tanveer Ahmed has specifically instructed me that today, 6 April 2016, to issue this statement to the press, the statement is in the words of my client.

'This all happened for one reason and no other issues and no other intentions. 'Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Mr Shah claimed to be a prophet.

'When 1400 years ago the Prophet of Islam Muhammad peace be upon him has clearly said that "I am the final messenger of Allah there is no more prophets or messengers from God Allah after me. 

'I am leaving you the final Quran. There is no changes. It is the final book of Allah and this is the final completion of Islam." 

'There is no more changes to it and no one has the right to claim to be a prophet or to change the Quran or change Islam.

'It is mentioned in the Quran that there is no doubt in this book no one has the right to disrespect the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and no one has the right to disrespect the Prophet of Islam Muhammad Peace be upon him.

'If I had not done this others would and there would have been more killing and violence in the world.  
'I wish to make it clear that the incident was nothing at all to do with Christianity or any other religious beliefs even although I am a follower of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him I also love and respect Jesus Christ.' "

The Daily Mail has published this on its website, the article being not open to comments. It does not take much imagination to predict the kind of comments that would be made, and what most people are thinking about the incident. The question that is beginning to arise is this. Since this holy and unchangeable book has the power to incite people to this kind of action, should even be allowed to distribute it and preach from its texts? You cannot ban the text of a whole religion. Or can you?

There is also the issue that people with beliefs like these are a danger to the public. The situation is not so different from the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, who heard voices from God telling him to kill prostitutes. If they were suffering from a mental illness, they would be detained under the mental health legislation. When there are thousands of people with these delusional beliefs at large, what is to be done?

torsdag 7 april 2016

Muslim murders "heretical" Muslim

In an article which is of course not open for comments, the Guardian reports that, "The man accused of murdering Asad Shah has released a statement through his lawyer claiming that he killed the popular Glasgow shopkeeper because he disrespected Islam.

"Tanveer Ahmed, from Toller in Bradford, was charged with murder after Shah was discovered with serious injuries outside his newsagent’s shop in the Shawlands area of Glasgow, a few miles south of the city centre on 24 March. The 40-year-old was taken to Queen Elizabeth university hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In a highly unusual move, Ahmed’s lawyer John Rafferty released the statement following his client’s second court appearance."

I doubt if the accused is unusual. His views appear to be widespread within his community. They are a menace to free speech in particular and to society in general. They bring shame on "peaceful Muslims", whoever they may be, and are revealing the true nature of their religion to those who do not buy the "religion of peace" myth. What to be done with them?. The murderer could be given a life sentence, but the Islamisation of prisons is already becoming a problem. Islam seems to have the ability to tip unstable people over the edge. Should this man be sent to an institution for the criminally insane? And what preventative measures should be taken to stop what is a widespread problem in Muslim countries and can only increase elsewhere if nothing is done?

onsdag 6 april 2016

What happened to Lebanon?

Lebanon was once a haven of peace and prosperity in the Middle East. It was created after the First World War, effectively as a Christian state, as it was that part of Syria which had a majority of Maronite Christians. As the Muslim minority grew, the religious balance changed, leading to a struggle for power which culminated in the civil war of 1975, after which it became another failed Muslim state.

And now nobody wants to stay in Lebanon. The difficulty is that these people bring their problems with them when they go somewhere else, because however good they are individually, their culture, attitudes and conduct are shaped by Islam.

söndag 3 april 2016

Racism is the new witchcraft

They will be burning people at the stake for it soon.

Fear of being accused of Islamophobia (the worst sort of racism), must be the reason why the popular Narnia book The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis, has not, and can not, be made into a film. There is also a good chance that someone would blow up the studios and cinemas that showed it would be hit by suicide bombers.

Burkini row - new twist, old controversy

The release of Islamic beachwear by Marks and Spencers has got the liberal left in a bit of a tizzie. The wearing of Islamic clothing is a political statement, as is acknowledged in this article here. The difficulty for the liberal left is that Islam stands in direct opposition to their progressive principles but they do not want to criticise it.

This is not a new controversy.   A seventeenth century commentator advised against nude swimming "for a Naiad will snap at a worm". Victorians swam in the nude on segregated beaches. I have swum in places in Scandinavia where it was considered impolite to cover up. Members of Brighton Swimming Club, in the 1860s, were expected to swim in "drawers". In the world of competitive swimming, the design of costumes is regulated by the Amateur Swimming Association, for the sake of decency and to prevent unfair competition, for example through the use of buoyant materials. Triathletes, however, swimming in open water, are expected to wear wetsuits which provide buoyancy and give a definite advantage.

For a decade or so, the tendency, amongst both men and women, has been to cover up more, with baggy shorts or jammers for men. Speedos with two-inch sides and bikinis are less often seen.

There are reasons for this. Unless you are youthful and skinny, skimpy swimwear is not flattering. Covering up is also more prevalent amongst competitive swimmers due to theories about muscle compression and drag reduction. Swimming in floppy clothing is also good exercise as it provides resistance training due to the turbulence.

Personally, I prefer minimal swimwear as it is easier to put on and take off, and is lighter when it is wet and easier to dry. I don't like carrying home a great heavy lump of wet nylon. Manufacturers like to sell costumes that cover more of the body as they can charge more for them. What is more, they tend to have a short life as the chemicals in swimming pools rots the fabric and elastic

For outdoor swimming there is sometimes a case for covering up as there are periodic epidemics of jellyfish and midges. There are also swimming shirts which provide a bit of warmth and sun protection, if you need it. In public pools, however, the use of extensive costumes is potentially a hygiene issue.

Gissa vart spårvagnar går?

Göteborgs spårvagnar rullar i tjänst utan linjeskyltar. Problemet uppståd i början av förre sommar. Förklaringen är att skyltar använder ett...