On the nature of the mind and music…

kourosh_eusebio_freeplayvl_image Kourosh Dini’s success stems from his understanding of both the business and art of music. “The trends in the music business are elusive,” Dini said, “but lately they all seem to revolve around the idea that music has gone digital.” We quite agree. By Teddi Shamrock

Dr. Kourosh Dini, also known as Kourosh Eusebio in Second Life, is a practicing psychiatrist, whose pursuit of understanding the mind is also reflected in his musicianship.  With 15 albums to his credit already, working with piano and synthesizer, Dr. Dini creates sounds often described as relaxing and soothing, yet compelling—even hypnotic. Through his music he encourages the listener to reflect. He calls his style “Chopin and Pink Floyd drifting by the sea,” but acknowledges the New Age label is probably most apt.

Actively performing and selling his music since 2003, he credits not only Chopin, but Bach, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff among his earliest influences, and later the Beatles, Metallica, Phish and even Tool, but readily admits to enjoying and being inspired by new sounds too. Clearly he’s got it going on. From someone who has both sides of his brain working in high gear, I was very interested to hear what Dr. Dini thinks about the virtually live music scene.

Intriguingly, he sees music as information—and something that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. “A person purchasing music doesn’t really know whether it’s useful or enjoyable until they have it.” Dr. Dini credits technology with helping to make more music available, but recognizes the challenges of this tech-enabled abundance. “There is so much out there. Essentially, we are looking for filters to help us sift through the many music choices.”

“If someone already has a large fan base, this can be enough for a person to investigate—especially if that fan base has a similar range of music taste as your own,” he said. Dr. Dini also sees other filters worth considering too. “For example,” he shared, “if someone sees there’s an award for an album, that could certainly help verify quality.” He also noted that sites that allow listeners to vote for their favorites, such as thesixtyone.com, can give guidance. He also cited magnatune.com, which he said has a reputation for accepting only a small percentage of submissions, as a way of pre-screening or filtering among many music options.

This viewpoint also influences his thoughts on how musicians promote their music generally, and how it’s licensed. “There are those who advocate putting as much of your music as possible out there for free,” he shared, “but I’m not convinced of this model as of yet.” Dr. Dini raised concern too that when music is free, it may not be heard in the way intended.

He believes, “an artist should take pains to have their work presented in the frame desired.” While there is potential for exposure on YouTube.com, Dini noted there is also a lot of competition to gain a listener’s attention—which can be distracting and frustrating for the artist. Personally, he has determined having his own website helps address this problem. Given the traffic potential of channels such as YouTube.com, however, he recommends artists present a few works with ready access, but add a pull through to the artists’ own site where they can control and best present their work.

Dini also believes that cost, or the lack thereof, is a consideration when determining how to present one’s music. “When I get something for free, I don’t value it as much,” he says. “To me, it says the artist does not value their own work.” For artists just getting started, he says they should consider all the angles to make their own decision.

“There are so many tools available to broadcast to others,” Dr. Dini said. In addition to musical talent, he credits a willingness to experiment with distribution media as a factor for success. He also acknowledges a bit of luck can’t hurt either, but cited Thomas Jefferson: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Dini believes the same factors for differentiating from the crowd in the music business of old, also apply to digitally live music; specifically, the practice of listening for inspiration, and the willingness to follow through on the work involved.

In terms of performing, he uses the online virtual world to connect to his audience, performing weekly at Nitida Ridge in Second Life. “Music is an abstract space, much as the virtual worlds are, so it is not surprising to see them interact in this way.” He applauds host Bree Birke for creating an environment that adds to his performances. “This has helped me realize the environment in which one performs is as important as the audience and the performer,” Dini said. He no longer performs in physical venues.

FreePlayVL notes performing exclusively in a virtually live format is a growing trend among artists, and may be a leading indicator of how audience preferences for finding and filtering new music are changing too. Many artists find this approach equally satisfying in terms of creating the connection with the audience—and a broader audience at that—but without schlepping gear from place to place.

Dr. Kourosh Dini’s success stems from his understanding of both the business and art of music. “The trends in the music business are elusive,” Dini said, “but lately they all seem to revolve around the idea that music has gone digital.” We quite agree.

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Posted in Music. 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “On the nature of the mind and music…”

  1. Shri Szuyuan Says:

    I have been reading a lot about psychoacoustics, the science of how humans hear and process sounds. It appears that cognitive language has more common roots in all people than “musical ability”. However the ability to appreciate music is common – in particular it seems to be based on pattern recognition and surprise. The best music accomodates a bit of predictability plus a bit of unpredictability. I wonder if Dr. Dini has thoughts on this?

    • Kourosh Says:

      Shri, I’d be interested in looking at what you’re reading lately. Music, I believe, is a language itself. In fact, I believe it to be more primary than that which we speak in some sense.

      You’ll notice that our spoken language has a prosody and rhythm to it, though it doesn’t sound necessarily like the music we frame and put on the radio. It is still founded in and formed from a musical sense.

      Patterns and their recognition are certainly a part of this process. But, I think more fundamental to the ideas of predictability is the idea of meaning that we project onto the sounds themselves.

      • Shri Szuyuan Says:

        Sure – it’s “The Artful Universe” by John D. Barrow, Chapter 5, “The Natural History Of Noise.” Barrow is a physicist who publishes popular (but substantive) books on math (e.g., Pi) and science (e.g., Physics). He has interesting ideas about why certain images and sounds engage our attention, based on our having always been a natural part of the world.

  2. Kourosh Says:

    Thanks for the reference – I’ll make sure to look it up.

  3. Komuso Tokugawa/Paul Cohen Says:

    I don’t think language is the right word for describing music. (that’s a little reflexive statement in itself!)

    I think music is more a system for emotional expression that works at a much more primitive and lower level than language. Timbre, intervals, texture, rhythm, composition…

    The difference is language is designed to communicate concepts via words, fundamentally different from musical expression. The common element between the two is both are auditory based brain mechanisms but language exists to service a different need, but is built upon music/auditory brain functions, such as pitch and rhythm.

    Put the two together and we have lyrical songs, but pure instrumental music conveys something different than words alone. The interesting part is when instruments are used to imitate the human voice, to vocalise lyrical lines either alone or in a call and response format.

    So linguistic intelligence sits atop musical intelligence, so to speak. How one affects the other is interesting.

    Daniel Levitin, Oliver Sachs & others have some very interesting research on the neuro aspects of music and language.

    I have a six week old child growing up in a (musical) bi-lingual environment so this is a very interesting area for me atm;-)

  4. Komuso Tokugawa/Paul Cohen Says:

    To answer shri’s questions on neotony and pattern recognition (in music and lyrics) see http://howmusicreallyworks.com/ for some great explanations, including the wundt curve.

  5. Kourosh Says:

    Komuso!

    I think we are talking about the same thing – rather there is a difference of definition. If we use the term language as a mode of communication, then, I think music fits fine. But, in your description, language seems reserved for words.

    As far as primacy of communication is concerned, I wholeheartedly agree that music is more primary and speaks significantly more in the realm of emotions and the unconscious.

    Music is still something of a communication though. It may only be said to oneself, but it is still an expression of sorts which may or may not have a receptive ear.

    PS I’ve got World in 6 Songs and Musicophilia sitting on my reading queue … :-)

  6. Komuso Says:

    “This is Your Brain on Music” is also highly recommended! http://www.psych.mcgill.ca/levitin/

    Without being pedantic I think it’s more accurate to say they are both modes of communication, but as you know from your own musical/professional work in this area, Music can go beyond “just” communicating emotional states and into the realm of transforming mind/body/spirit through powerful effects such as brainwave and bodily rhythmic entrainment – for example.

    If you look at other non-verbal language representations, such as sign language and body gestures, they are also designed to convey word based concepts.

    I guess the difficulty I have labeling music as a “language” comes from my current readings on languages in raising a bi-lingual child http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Bilingual-Child-Living-Language/dp/1400023343 is eye opening in this regard.

    I would agree with you music can be PART language, depending on the compositional technique, but is also more than a language – if we take the definition of language to be a mode of communication.

    For example, is a tibetan chant designed to induce a trance meditative state through entrainment a form of language? or music? or both? or just music perhaps? Is it communicating something or is it transforming the mind/body/spirit through powerful lower level brain functions?

  7. Komuso Tokugawa/Paul Cohen Says:

    Interesting topical article:
    Music Helps Stroke Victims Communicate, Study Finds
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703791504575079720683324874.html
    “The theory behind the treatment is that there are separate brain networks associated with vocal output, with one more engaged with speech and the other with music. With certain types of stroke, fibers on the left side of the brain that are important to the interaction of the auditory and the motor system are disrupted. But if the brain could recruit the fibers from the right side, which are more engaged with music, then the system could adapt. Dr. Schlaug believes that the tapping of the left hand works to engage the auditory and motor systems.”


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