2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


Music spices up your food, not just your life.

chef_with_giant_fork_1600_wht_5285A gastrophysicist at Oxford University has discovered that specific musical genres complement different types of food you eat at home.

Professor Charles Spence worked with Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria on involving the other senses in the pursuit of taste. He goes so far as to say it won’t be long before you get a music CD with your takeaway to complement it.

The professor involved 700 volunteers in an experiment involving takeaway food and music from several different genres. (there’s been a lot of interest in musical genres of late). These were: Pop, Classical, Indie/rock, Rock, Jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and dance

The more alerting or arousing the music, the more people appreciate spicier food. So Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Guns n’ Roses, or the Arctic Monkeys made food seem 4% spicier than listening to Nina Simone. But she was good with sushi as was Sinatra.

Chinese or Thai food? Ed Sheeran plays well to that menu as does Taylor Swift

Justin Bieber or Beyoncé are no-noes however. Listening to them just turns people off food (and some people off music)

Hip hop, dance, and R & B music had no noticeable effect on the enjoyment of any kind of food.

The research was commissioned by an on-line take-away company which was seriously thinking about providing music with the food with different soundtracks with different dishes.

There is already a heavy metal-inspired restaurant in London. Not sure what food goes well with that or whether they provide indigestion medication as a rider. 

The professor previously worked with Blumenthal on the Sound of the Sea dish where the food was accompanied by the sound of crashing waves.

He also discovered that music could enhance your drinking pleasure with Bryan Ferry going down well with champagne.

Playing classical music and jazz makes customers happier to pay for their food than when pop music is played. (Shops playing classical music can sell more expensive items as they are perceived to be of better quality).

Turning up the lighting can influence people to buy spicier food; turning it down people order cappuccino rather than espresso coffees.

It all sounds finger-licking good to me and adds to what we know about the impact of music on our day-to-day lives.

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Heavy metal musicians have good verbal skills. Really?

Poncing about on stage.........Well yes. At least according to a report in the Times about  research by Musixmatch, an online lyrics catalogue, which it said had found that heavy metal music came second only to hip-hop in its use of different words.

It said the researchers looked at songs sung by the 50 most searched-for online in 8 musical genres.

Heavy metal artists such as Metallica have an average vocabulary of 1,533 words. Second only to Hip-hop artists who had an average vocabulary of 1,963 words (how many ways can they talk abut themselves?).

Electronic music came bottom of the list with artists such as Daft Punk using only 852 different words on average. Hardly surprising given that this genre largely comprises repetitive instrumental phrases.

Pop musicians like to introduce new words in their songs but still have 30% smaller vocabularies than their heavy metal counterparts and this genre ranks 7th out of 8 with an average total of 1,188 words.

So far so interesting but I wanted to know more and so looked up the original study and found that the research, carried out by Varun Jewalikar, actually looked at 25 genres and 99 artists.

However 6 of the best-selling artists (The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Def Leppard , The Doors, Chicago and Journey) don’t allow Musixmatch to use their lyrics so were excluded from the study

Rappers were top of the list, headed by Eminem, but in second place was Bob Dylan who uses a new word after writing 9 words.

But next came the multi-lingual singers such as Julio Iglesias and Gloria Estefan. Perhaps not surprising  when you think about it.

Top selling artists didn’t necessarily have the largest vocabularies e.g. The Beatles, or Elvis Presley but that didn’t stop them getting the message across.

So where did heavy metal actually come in the list? Well they were 7th and smooth jazz actually came bottom. But see for yourself here

Some genres only have a small sample and the results are open for discussion but it was an interesting idea. However  Zachary Spiro wasn’t totally accurate in his Times article. He must be a heavy metal fan.

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Niche music

vibe_headphones_speakers_1600_wht_5392Spotify has published a list of the 50 most obscure genres of music from among the 1,371 that it recognises.

First of all I’m astounded that there are over a thousand genres but when you look at some of the categories e.g. Aussitronica, or drone music you realise where they’re coming from.

Some of the names I quite like such as vintage swoon, which says it all about crooners and their like.

New weird America is not so weird really comprising an indie folk/rock variant descended from psychedelic folk and rock from the 1960s and 1970s. Come back Donovan all is forgiven! St Vincent is classified as Freak Folk apparently, presumably a reference to the music and not the artist although it can’t be long before we have gender fluid indie music.

Military pop is self-explanatory you might think but it actually combines military music with industrial, dark ambient, neo-folk and neo-classical genres. I first came across dark ambient in a music shop in Vilnius, Lithuania called Baltic music – alas no longer there – where I bought some interesting CDs.

Spytrack music is self-explanatory and Nerdcore is hip-hop for nerds i.e. the lyrics focusing on sci-fi and computer games. Beam me up!

Mediaeval Rock  has elements of mediaeval, baroque and renaissance music whereas black sludge is black metal i.e. ethereal heavy metal and sludge or droning heavy metal.

Deep Liquid bass has sleek synths from liquid (flowing) electronica with bass lines from drum ‘n bass.

Bubble trance is bright upbeat trance (hypnotic electronica) whereas Catstep is aggressive filthstep (?) which is loud, heavy, bassy, distorted electronica.

Spotify describes these genres as “the secret rainforest dwellers and deep undersea creatures of the genre world

I would describe some of them as utter rubbish but then I like to hear a tune in there somewhere with a penchant for soft rock and country rock. Having said that I did buy a Russian electronic folk album a few years ago which features the sound of ping-pong balls among other esoteric instruments. And my friend has a penchant for death thrash metal.

Just for fun I found this youtube of a metal version of a Russian electronic dance folk song.

Spotify uses a music intelligence system which classifies artists into genres by matching music on the web with songs in its catalogue. The genres emerge based on how the music sounds and how people describe it. I wonder if narcocorrido or neomelodici music is in there?

Its most played tune is Lean On by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring Danish singer MØ which is classified as electronic dance music.and has been played over 500 million times.

Bring back Spinal Tap!


Get the blues but live longer

guitar_on_fire_400_wht_12846Research into almost 13,000 musicians shows that bluesmen are less likely to die violently than their counterparts in other genres. For example in rap and hip-hop murder accounts for more than half the deaths.

Metal and punk musicians have a much higher suicide rate and along with rock musicians a very high incidence of accidental death.

For example metal musicians have a 36% risk of accidental death compared with just under 20% generally and three times the rate for suicides at 19%.

Professor Dianna Kenny, at the University of Sydney,  said that metal attracts suicidal young people and that “frequent  references to death in song lyrics were a significant part of the culture and not merely for show”.

She said that punk also attracted suicidal people but “of an angry, rather than depressed kind

Her previous research debunked the myth that rock musicians died at age 27. She says that people entering the music industry were either pre-disposed to pursuing a reckless lifestyle or were encouraged to adopt one.

She referred to “the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and other addictive substances, irregular hours, touring, high levels of stress, performance anxiety, and the vulnerability that many young musicians bring with them into their profession from adverse childhood experiences”

The picture for musician mortality is complicated. 1 in 3 jazz musicians die from cancer. Is that because they worked in smoky environments or lived longer by avoiding violent deaths?

Folk musicians are also prone to death from cancer followed by accidental deaths. Country musicians on the other hand are the least likely to be murdered or die in accidents.

Overall popular musicians lives were up to 25 years shorter than the average American; accidental deaths are 5-10 times greater; suicide rates between 2-7 times greater, and homicide rate up to 8 times greater.

I got the blues ……


Source: The Times April 3 2015


Classical music lovers miss out on bargains

figure_conducting_music_500_wht_12892More research on the powerful influence of background music. This time from Goldsmiths, University of London with eBay.

The 2,000 people participating in the study were asked to shop online while a range of sounds played in the background from roadworks to classical music.

Traffic noises put shoppers in a bad mood and made them less rational in their choices whereas the sound of birdsong or lawnmowers made people more likely to buy a BBQ.

Classical music was the worst musical genre to encourage thrifty shopping. It puts shoppers in a good mood but makes them overestimate a product’s quality as they associate the music with quality and sophistication.

Popular music on the other hand makes you sharper at finding a bargain.

Previous studies have shown that when stores play festive music at Xmas it “dumbs down” customers and makes them more relaxed and more amenable to manipulative sales ploys.

The previous post about music and wine choices also found a connection between classical music and more expensive items and pop music and bargain brands.

I’m wondering about jazz, country and rap music. Into what state of mind do those genres put potential buyers?


Rockers like Reisling, really?

wine_glass_toast_1600_wht_3574That’s according to a study carried out by a wine company so maybe not the most unbiased source.

The study claims that the type of music you listen to directly affects your taste in wine and that drinkers sub-consciously buy wines that complement their favourite songs.

So fans of Katy Perry and Rihanna drink Sauvignon Blanc whereas those who prefer Arctic Monkeys or Motorhead (an unlikely pairing I would have thought) prefer Reisling.

If you’re a classical fan you prefer Gewurtztraminer as you listen to Beethoven or Bach.

Charles Spencer, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University says there could be some truth in this as wine and music pair well together as music changes the taste of the wine. “Heavy wines demand dark, heavy music and Sauvignon Blanc matches lighter music”  He says that the kind of music people listen to makes them pick wine with similar properties.

“When you are choosing perfume you are often asked what your favourite colour is …… as this helps to identify the which scent you  might like“. It’s even been proved that the  type of music playing in the wine shop will bias your choice and that people buy significantly more expensive wine if classical music is playing rather than the top 40 as it influences them to look for more quality.

The wine company which carried out the survey say that “Sauvignon Blanc is a very accessible wine, light and zingy, and you could say similar to pop music. When they go together the experience is better and it’s the first choice of more than half of popular music fans” . They say rock fans prefer Reisling because of its classic petrol flavours (not to be confused with anti-freeze of course) and claim that one of their sommeliers says that the opening riff for Sweet Child of Mine by Guns and Roses sounds like Reisling.

The firm has created boxes of wine that come with Spotify playlists which include the likes of Lily Allen, Miley Cyrus, and Kylie Minogue to listen to while they drink their Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon. For those who prefer rock music 70% chose Merlot or Reisling to accompany the Stones, Nirvana, and Kings of Leon.

Gewurtztraminer is the least well known, an acquired taste, and is said to build in flavour like a classical crescendo. The wine company say that this Alsace region wine is the thinking person’s wine because it’s not so well known but has fantastic wines. The tunes to listen to as you drink this wine include The Marriage of Figaro and Air on a G String.

According to the survey hip-hop fans are the least fussy and will drink anything!

Much as I respect the work of the psychology team at Oxford University this does seem a bit pretentious. What happened to rock staples like champagne, whiskey, bourbon and beer!