The skeptical cardiologist has started taking Tuesdays off more or less. Whereas I used to spend this day deep in the bowels of the hospital in a darkened room viewing all manner of echocardiograms and EKGS and occasionally venturing into the special procedure room to perform cardioversions and transesophageal echocardiograms, I now “work” from my home.
Cutting back my work hours enables two things:1) It makes for a sustainable work situation-one where I can enjoy patient care and interaction more (the most fulfilling part of the job) and interact with computer screens less thus allowing me to keep working for another 10 years and 2) It allows me to do all the other things I love doing but which I never seem to find enough time for. These other things are mostly music creation, research and writing for this blog, reading, and taking care of my health.
In the realm of music creation I’ve been doing a lot more straight improvisation on my acoustic grand. I just sit at the keys and start playing whatever my brain tells my hands to do. It’s quit exhilarating but I fear that too much of it may drive the wife formerly known as the eternal fiancee’ bananas.
In order to avoid a bananas wife and to allow playing of the grand piano at any time of the night or day, I have ordered a Yamaha CP4 digital piano. This, according to all reports, plays very much like an acoustic grand and has sounds which are hard to tell from a Steinway. In anticipation of its arrival I dug up from the basement my old synthesizer workstation a Korg Triton Studio. It was upon this 76 key electronic marvel that yours truly did most of the music production for my first album “Atherosclerosis Is My Psychosis” under the pseudonym Dr. P And The Atherosclerotics.
Emboldened by the interest readers displayed in my Neil Young tickets, I am hereby offering up for sale my beloved Korg Triton Studio 76 to readers of my blog who will provide a nurturing home for the instrument. The wife just put this up plus its Korg gig bag on something called “Facebook MarketPlace” for $800 but I am willing to sell it for much less to any reader who says nice things about my blog.
What, you may ask, does all this have to do with Marilyn Monroe? Well, quite a bit (not much actually, its just clickbait.) Using my extra time off this morning I ran 2 miles in the neighborhood and while listening on my airpods the following (reasonably obscure) Monty Python sketch (cowritten by Graham Chapman and Douglas Adams) from The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail came up.
In it Michael Palin interviews film director Carl French (Graham Chapman) who has just released his latest movie which features the deceased and cremated Marilyn Monroe in every scene.
Fans of MP will enjoy but those who are easily offended by nasty words or off-kilter humour should avoid.
For multiple reasons Neil Young is the skeptical cardiologist’s favorite musician. I love everything he has done from work with Buffalo Springfield to CSNY to Crazy Horse. His solo work is simply amazing.
I last saw him at the Fabulous Fox Theatre here in St. Louis last summer and at the age of 72 he was still mesmerizing as he ambled from grand piano to acoustic or electric guitar singing in his inimitable and still powerful voice and telling stories behind his brilliant iconic songs like Ohio.
He continues to create relevant and beautiful work to this day. On top of all this he handles his musical catalogue with tremendous integrity. You will not find a Neil Young song in a Bud, Chevy or Uber commercial.
Therefore, when I heard about the benefit concert he was putting on in September I bought tickets even though it was going to be just outside of LA.
I am sadly unable to attend as I could not get out of my hospital on-call obligations for that weekend .
If any readers are interested in purchasing my two tickets let me know.
Here’s the description:
Neil Young and Norah Jones top the lineup for the inaugural Harvest Moon A Gathering. The benefit concert will be held at the Painted Turtle in Lake Hughes, California on Saturday, September 14.
Father John Misty and Masanga round out the lineup for the 2019 Harvest Moon A Gathering. The daytime concert will feature performances on a grassy hillside with views of the performers, mountains and Lake Hughes at the site, which is nestled near Los Angeles National Forest. Proceeds from the event will benefit both The Painted Turtle, a non-profit providing children living with serious medical conditions a traditional camp experience free of charge, and The Bridge School, which provides free education to children with severe speech and physical impediments.
Each ticket will include an all-star celebrity chef picnic cooked and served by SoCal’s top chefs as well as a beer and wine tasting from select California Breweries and Wineries.
Price is for two tickets. Face value. Concert is sold out.
For many years Neil and Pegi Young put on The Bridge Concert which was an annual benefit for the Bridge School. This was an absolutely awesome outdoor event in Mountain View, CA but the concerts ended after Neil and Pegi divorced.
I was fortunate enough to catch the last one in 2016 and I consider it one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Here are the artists and their setlists.
The skeptical cardiologist has of late been obsessed with a Beatles song. It is the fifth song on the second side of the four mop tops seventh studio album and the third George Harrison contribution to Revolver, arguably the best record album of all time.
With a subscription to Apple Music I can listen to the entire Beatles catalogue now and one day I Want To Tell You (IWTTY) began playing. I hadn’t closely listened to this song before but at 25 seconds in someone begins playing very loudly two notes on a piano and keeps playing them for 8 seconds. The effect is strikingly dissonant but mesmerizing.
It turns out much has been written about this section of I Want To Tell you (along with anything else remotely related to The Fab Four.)
The two notes are F and E and they are being played by Paul McCartney emphasizing the flattened ninth (and highly dissonant) portion of the chord E 7 b9.
Tim Riley in his Beatles song by song analysis, “Tell Me Why” writes of IWTTY:
The guitar line is central, the backbone for the esoteric lyrics, and the piano’s annoying dissonant figure at the end of each verse disrupts its stability.
The piano conveys the frustration of the singer, and its single-note solo is the peace he wants to attain
I’ve also seen this section described as “creating a frustrated bitonal disonance ( G sharp 7 diminished against E7 or E7 flat 9)
Lacking formal music training, apart from in his sitar studies…later described the harsh-sounding E7♭9 as, variously, “an E and an F at the same time” and “an E7th with an F on top, played on the piano”.
Writing in Rolling Stone’s Harrison commemorative issue, in January 2002, Mikal Gilmore recognised his incorporation of dissonance on “I Want to Tell You” as having been “revolutionary in popular music” in 1966. Gilmore considered this innovation to be “perhaps more originally creative” than the avant-garde styling that Lennon and McCartney took from Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky and incorporated into the Beatles’ work over the same period.
The Wikipedia entry goes on to say that the chord “became one of the most legendary in the entire Beatles catalogue.”
Harrison was deliberately using the chord’s dissonance to create an emotion.”The musical and emotional dissonance is then heightened by the use of E7♭9, a chord that Harrison said he happened upon while striving for a sound that adequately conveyed a sense of frustration.”
“speaking in 2001, Harrison said: “I’m really proud of that as I literally invented that chord.”
I thought it highly unlikely that George Harrison “invented” (literally or figuratively) the seventh flattened ninth chord but had no way of checking the accuracy of the Wikipedia quote (from Guitar World magazine.) or the context. Was Harrison that musically naive, was he joking or did he mean something else?
Later that day I sat at my Kawai baby grand piano and began playing songs from The Encylopedia of Jazz.
One of my favorites from this book is Satin Doll (written in 1953 by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn) and as I was playing it I realized that it was loaded with flattened ninths. There’s a D7flat9 when the word Satin is sung. These chords make the song more complex and memorable.
Next I played my favorite song in this Jazz book i “Lullaby of Birdland” (music written by George Shearing in 1952) which features two 7flat9 chords (F# and B7) in the second measure (played with the words “that’s what I.”) Later on in the song we are treated to 7flat 9 in D and the chord that George Harrison claimed to have literally invented E7b9.
Here’s Ella Fitzgerald singing it with Duke Ellington
So a cursory review reveals that the chord was being utilized a lot in 1953 (and that I have a special attraction to its complexity.)
Perhaps Harrison can claim he was the first to appropriate the chord in rock and roll music? Alas, we know that an F#7b9 is prominent in the Beach Boys’ Caroline, No which was released in March, 1966, 3 months before the Beatles released IWTTY.
He may not have invented the chord or even been the first to use it in rock and roll but his use in IWTTY coupled with McCartney’s hammering on the F and E have made me forever cognizant of that song’s beauty.
For that plus his brilliant guitar work and songwriting during and after The Beatles I will be eternally grateful.
N.B. Dear Readers. If any of you have access to the Guitar World interview of 2001 (from Wikipedia-Garbarini, Vic (January 2001). “When We Was Fab”. Guitar World. p. 200) wherein Harrison is alleged to claim he invented the magical 7b9 please share it with me.
Also, please note there is a new button on my website which allows you to sign up for my weekly emal newsletter (which i promise will be mostly related to cardiology and not esoteric musical chords.)
is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wrightcoined the term in 1954, writing about how as a girl she had misheard the lyric “…and laid him on the green” in a Scottish ballad as “…and Lady Mondegreen”.
Mondegreens are becoming extinct I fear, as today’s youth do not have to wonder what any particular lyric is-they can just Google it and have the answer in seconds.
Today, however, we hit the jackpot as the ex-EFOSC texted a snippet of the awful song “Africa” by the awful band “Toto” to a friend. I have saved my precious readers the misery of listening to the entire song and herewith present you with the audio snippet:
Misheard or wrong Toto Africa song lyrics.
The wife was impressed with the fact that Toto worked some unusual words into a particular line of the song, which she had always thought was “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leprous above the Serengeti.” When I questioned her as to what a leprous was (a female leper?) she laughed and realized she was thinking leopardess, as in female sphinx-type thing. A friend of hers always heard “rises like a limp wrist,” which explains my blog title.
The wild dogs cry out in the night As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company I know that I must do what’s right As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become
Now those are some amazingly pretentious and unintentionally humorous words! (This coming from someone who maintains Jim Morrison is a great poet.)
I am not alone in considering this a silly song with pretentious lyrics-
In an article (How Did Toto’s Africa become a millennial anthem?) on the love that millennials have for Toto and Africa, Toto founder and guitarist Steve Lukather is quoted as saying:
“I could never have called this. We’ve always worked, but to have everything blow up again over this silly song… All these young kids are coming to our shows. We’re at half a billion streams, getting ten million a month. All of our albums are selling. It’s a trip for us.
Yes, this is truly a silly song by a bad band but it has produced a wonderful mondegreen.
Please feel free to share your favorite mondegreen.
N.B. Millennials even love this terrible video of Africa and have watched it 445 million times!
The skeptical cardiologist began using Apple products during his cardiology fellowship in 1984. My first research was done on an Apple II and my first personal computer was an original Mac.
These days I am unabashedly and totally immersed in Apple stuff which I use at work, at home, on vacation and while exercising.
In the last year I have fallen in love with Apple AirPods.
I use these bluetooth earphones for listening to music and podcasts and telephone conversations and I like them far better than anything I have previously stuck in or around my ears.
Apple AirPods are amazing.
Here are a few things off the top of my head that I find amazing about them…
They come in an incredibly slick little white case that serves as storage and charging dock and looks like a container of dental floss. You literally never run out of juice if you put your earphones back in the case when you are done and charge it occasionally.
Pairing with my iPhone and my various Macs is a breeze. Once paired the device automatically plays music through the AirPods if they are in your ears and nearby.
They sense when they are in your ears, give you a tone that they are working and start playing from your paired device on their own.
If you double tap on one of them you can have it advance to next song, bring up Siri, or stop playing.
If you bring up Siri you can give complex commands like call the Eternal Fiancée or remind me to bring in Jen’s new shoes package on the porch.
They are so comfortable you don’t notice you are wearing them.
What about appearance you may ask?
Well, when I first started wearing them the Eternal Fiancée made fun of me because, she said, it looked like I had q-tips in my ears. Four months later she borrowed mine to go on a run and decided to order her own the next day
What about the sound you may ask? I think the sound is awesome. I’m a musician and a music fanatic but don’t consider myself an audiophile. I find the sound quality on these little things perfect for my needs and equivalent to any headphones I have used. I spend a lot of time while listening to songs picking out individual instruments and these are great for that.
What if you forget and leave the AirPods out and they become almost fully discharged. Have no fear, within 10 minutes they are fully charged in the case and ready to go-amazing.
They can survive a washing machine/dryer assault (see below).
AirPods: The Cons
There are some downsides…
-Because they are so small and unobtrusive I forget about them and lose them easily. You can actually use the Find My iPhone Apple feature to have them make a sound and track them down but a few months ago I misplaced one so badly I had to replace it.
–One quick visit to my local Apple Genius Bar and 69$ later I had a new right AirPod.
-Early on in my AirPods experience I left them in my running shorts pocket and they went through an entire washing and drying experience….. and after a several hour period of dormancy they worked perfectly well!
-The case is so small and unobtrusive it is very easy to forget. I have left it on treadmills innumerable times. One time I left it on an airplane….Another visit to Apple required.
I am not alone in my love of the AirPods.
I came across this review on The Verge by Vlad Savov (“‘The Verge’s resident Bulgarian, headphone and mobile reviewer”)
But when I look at the limits of what’s possible today — in terms of miniaturization of audio and wireless components — I can’t see a better combination of price, features, and performance than what’s offered by the AirPods. The price is fair and the compromises are acceptable. I make it my job to review (and enjoy) super heavy and expensive headphones that do amazing things with music, recreating and illuminating every minute detail of a recording. That makes me extremely picky about any products I listen to, and the thing the AirPods share with the giant cans built by the likes of Audeze and Focal is that they convey the sense and intent of the music. And the reason I now reach for the AirPods even when I’m at home, the unique thing that delights all their users, is their unrivalled ease of use
N.B. The AirPods greatness at unobtrusively staying in your ear was initially thought to be a design flaw. This writer at Business Insider recently noted that
Most earbuds have gummy tips, which create a “seal” around the inside of your ear that’s important for two reasons. First, it creates an environment where outside sound can’t leak in, so you can listen to your music without being interrupted by outside noises, like a subway car or people walking on the street. Second, by creating that ideal environment, your music will actually sound better, especially lower bass frequencies.
The AirPods break that design rule. Instead of having gummy tips, they have a hard plastic shell, like Apple’s wired earbuds, the EarPods. They don’t create a tight seal, and sit on the inside of my ears instead of totally plugging them up. This design lets outside sound leak in, which is annoying, but it actually helps the AirPods stay in my ears.
Totally wireless earbuds rely on their seal for more than just audio quality. They actually need that tight seal to stay securely in your ears. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if I’m sitting, walking, or running — all of the gummy-tipped wireless earbuds I’ve tried fit into my ears nicely for a couple of minutes, then start loosening up.
Eventually, the seal the earbuds created breaks, and one or both of them fall out of my ears. Because the AirPods don’t have to maintain a seal, they’re the only totally wireless headphones I can reliably keep in my ears for more than a few minutes at a time.
The skeptical cardiologist was a second year medical student when the Talking Heads released their debut album, Talking Heads 77. Along with Elvis Costello and The Clash, the Talking Heads kept my spirit alive between crushing sessions of memorizing microbiologic, biochemical and anatomic minutiae.
The band went on to a very successful and highly influential career. I followed them closely through 1985’s commercially successful album, Little Creatures, which features two of my favorite songs from the mid to late 1980s “And She Was” and “Road To Nowhere.”
David Byrne, the idiosyncratic songwriter and frontman for the
Talking Heads, is currently on a concert tour in support of his solo album American Utopia
We caught his performance in St. Louis at the Peabody Opera House Friday night and I have one word to describe it: awesome!
an eye-popping, mind-blowing concert that was achieved without the aid of props, video screens, or even a conventional stage set. Byrne’s 11-piece band — each of them clad in a gray suit and barefoot, like Byrne himself — carried their instruments like members of a marching band, allowing them to dance and assemble in various formations.
Beaded curtains lined the sides and back of the stage, forming a boxlike space that the musicians could perform within, effortlessly exiting and entering as needed.
The overall look and feel of the show was hyper-theatrical, yet utterly human at its core. There were no backing tracks, Byrne emphasized at one point. “Everything you hear is being played by these incredible musicians,” he said.
No stranger to innovation, Byrne reinvented the concert experience in the Talking Heads’ 1984 film “Stop Making Sense.” This current outing is, if anything, even more radical and engaging.
Stop Making Sense is considered by many to be the greatest concert film of all time ((although I’m sure the eternal fiancee’ would place The Last Waltz above SMS) )but I think a Jonathan Demme or Martin Scorcese film of David Byrne’s current concerts might claim that honor.
Until such film is released this performance of “Everybody’s Coming to My House” (arguably the best song on his new album) by Byrne and his band on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will have to suffice.
The information available through the internet never ceases to amaze me. You can click here to see exactly what Byrne played Friday night complete with links to the songs and/or videos of the songs.
If you click on the 9th song on the setlist you will be taken to this iconic existential video:
So, if you ever liked the Talking Heads or just love good music try to catch David Byrne’s show..
You might find yourself singing along with him as the audience did last Friday night the following words:
And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
And you may find yourself asking “Why is David Byrne so Awesome?”
Letting the days go By,
h/t Lauren at www.allezgourmet.com for alerting me to Byrne’s St. Louis concert.
The coolest music venue in St. Louis in my opinion is Joe’s Cafe.
Fortunately, for the skeptical cardiologist, the venue remains fairly obscure, even to music lover’s who reside in Saint Louis.
For example, last Thursday the Eternal Fiancee’ and I, along with Doug, the Guitarist of the Band of the skeptical cardiologist (GOBOSC) and his wife were able to sit within a couple of feet of Spencer Bohren as he played roots, blues, folk and Americana on a banjo, a lap steel or two, and an acoustic guitar.
Bohren, based out of New Orleans, also sang and told stories, often at the same time.
The GOBOSC and I, being musicians, appreciated the proximity which allowed us to observe closely what Bohren did with his non-finger-pick covered fingers and thumb.
You can watch a video of Bohren relating the history of a Blues song using five guitars here:
I’ve also seen Kinky Freidman at Joe’s. I’ve been a fan of Kinky’s since I heard “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed” from his 1973 album Sold American. His wikipedia entry pretty accurately summarizes his career as follows:
I had forgotten about the Kinkster since reading one of his (18) detective novels a few decades ago; I figured he had retired from the music business. To my surprise one day last year, I received an email from Joe’s Cafe indicating he would be playing there on an upcoming Thursday night.
Bill Christman, Impresario And Connoisseur Of Signs
Joe’s Cafe is the brain child of Bill Christman, a one time sign painter, now fine artist, and lover of good live music.
Bill decides who will perform, and introduces the acts, always with a quirky sense of humor, but a stern warning that we audience members should be listening when the artist is performing, and not talking or playing on iphones.
Christman’s studio, Ars Populi sits next to Joe’s Cafe. According to the RFT:
Christman quit the sign-painting business more than two decades ago in order to devote himself full-time to fine art — Ars Populi doubles as his studio — and today St. Louisans can find his handiwork all over town, perhaps most famously at Beatnik Bob’s Museum of Mirth, Mystery & Mayhem inside the City Museum. His homage to bohemia, Joe’s Café, is the stuff of legend in Christman’s Skinker-Debaliviere neighborhood and beyond; its sporadic schedule of music events and invite-only policy have combined to create a speakeasy vibe that — improbable as it might seem in this day and age — is uncontrived and genuine.
Arrive early to Joe’s Cafe for the best seats (although there are no “bad” seats-some do require a climb up a wooden ladder to the balcony) so you can wander through the wonder of the back yard.
Words are insufficient to describe what one encounters either inside or outside Joe’s Cafe, so let’s savor some snapshots of both.
Joe’s is a BYOB, BYOF music club.
Doors open around 7:00
Music starts at 8:00
Alcohol consumption ends at 10:15
Recycle your own stuff
Smoking outside only
Park on Des Peres Ave. Thou shalt not annoy our neighbors.
Since determining that running would lower my cardiovascular risk and that it was actually good for my wonky knees (running is associated with a lower risk of ostearthritis or hip replacement, see here), I’ve been trying to do it regularly.
I’ve even contemplated running 5 kilometers, although not as part of any formal exhibition: just a personal , private goal. To this end I have for the first time recently run 4 kilometers.
Listening to music during these longer runs greatly helps the time pass and sometimes I am able to find songs which fit my running cadence, albeit not through any systematic analysis but through mere serendipity. I let my entire musical collection (nicely streamed by Apple music) be my running playlist and this ranges from the Talking Heads to Thelonius Monk to Bach.
This morning’s run (the second time I reached 4K) I was aided by two songs: one by the king of surf guitar, the other by the kings of psychedelic jam rock.
Dick Dale and Miserlou
Although, Dick Dale was huge in the early sixties, he did not register on my musical radar until I watched Pulp Fiction and in its dazzling opening scene and was jolted by Dale’s staccato machine gun guitar riffs alternating with his plaintive trumpet solo on “Miserlou“.
I immediately strapped on my Strat and began trying to emulate his unique playing style.
Here’s Dick and the Del-Tones performing their version for the movie “A Swinging’ Affair”
This version contains none of the rhythmic power and electrifying guitar attack of the single and the band appears to be on tranquilizers. To make matters worse, Dick doesn’t play that magical melodic moaning trumpet solo which contrasts so brilliantly with the pile-driving reverb-drenched guitar riffs on the original version.
You can see some of the power of the left-handed Dale in this live performance of Miserlou from 1995 but alas, no trumpet solo.
Dick Dale, remarkably, is still touring and playing well at age 80.
As fortune would have it the beats per
minute of this song is 173 which fits my preferred running speed stride cadence perfectly.
The Other One (Not Cryptical Envelopment)
The next song to aid me on my run was a live performance from the Grateful Dead’s 1972 European Tour which is 36 minutes long.
I was slow to revere the Dead but when I first listened to their live album Europe ’72 I was hooked. Instead of studying in college, I spent way too many hours playing Sugar Magnolia (and Blue Sky, et al..) thereafter.
The Other One highlights their free and wild improvisational style. While running I could focus on what Keith Godchaux was doing on the piano and that takes me to a psychic place in which I feel no pain.
Please excuse my hubris but I am convinced that I could have done a good job as the Dead keyboardist. It’s probably a good thing I never got that gig, however, as it carries a very high mortality rate (not to mention that I’m a much better cardiologist than keyboardist.)
As Billboard pointed out in its obituary on the last keyboardist, Vince Welnick (who committed suicide by slitting his throat at age 55 in 2006):
Welnick was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group’s fans to conclude that the position came with a curse.
Welnick had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. And Godchaux had replaced the band’s original keyboard player, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who died at 27 in 1973.
Last week a very good Grateful Dead documentary (Long Strange Trip) was released on Netflix. I’ve been somewhat mesmerized by what I’ve watched so far. For example, at one point, Phil Lesh reveals that Jerry Garcia asked him to join the band as their bassist even though he had never played the instrument. (If only he had asked me!)
N.B. Miserlou is a very old folk song with a scale that sounds exotic to Western ears: the double harmonic scale
The song’s oriental melody has been so popular for so long that many people, from Morocco to Iraq, claim it to be a folk song from their own country. In fact, in the realm of Middle Eastern music, the song is a very simplistic one, since it is little more than going up and down the Hijaz Kar or double harmonic scale (E-F-G#-A-B-C-D#). It still remains a well known Greek, Klezmer, and Arab folk song.
About two years ago I wrote about a study that found that any amount of leisure-time running was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease which made me reconsider my usual advice to patients on exercise:
As part of a prospective longitudinal cohort study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, Lee, et al. looked at data from a group of 55,137 adults on whom they had information on running or jogging activity during the previous 3 months.
Those individuals who described themselves as having done any running in the last 3 months had a 30% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 45% lower cardiovascular mortality.
Amazingly, it didn’t matter how much you ran.
Those who ran <51 minutes per week did just as well as those who ran >176 minutes per week.
At the time I felt the study was not definitive, but food for thought. Evidently, it got me thinking so much that I began running regularly (despite my previous dislike of running).
Music and the Tempo of Running
During my runs I listen to music on my iPhone, either through Apple Music or songs that I have purchased.
Today, after deciding Leonard Cohen’s Live in Dublin (although awesome, and one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard) was not motivating enough, I hit the first song on my iPhone: A-punk by Vampire Weekend.
A-Punk is one of my favorite songs released in the last decade. It’s very upbeat.. perfect for a running accompaniment. The opening guitar riff is simple, fast and catchy. It’s simple enough that I can play it on guitar but, so fast that my fingers fatigue quickly. The bridge portion features a wonderfully fast and complicated bass line with punchy drums and an overlying synth flute melody. You can watch a video of it here:
As I ran I realized that the tempo of A-Punk was perfectly suited to my preferred running speed of 6.1 MPH. You’re probably wondering what the tempo of A-Punk is. It’s likely that the only time song tempo comes up in general conversation is when talking about CPR and the need to compress the sternum at 100 beats per minute, the alleged tempo of The Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive (it’s actually 104 BPM.)
A-Punk’s tempo turned out to be 175 BPM. If you are not inclined to count the actual beats in a minute to determine the tempo of a song, you can enter the song into this site to get the number or download a smart phone app for the purpose.
Oddly enough, the next song on my alphabetical listing of songs, Hoagy Carmichael’s version of Aba Daba Honeymoon, also had a tempo (174 BPM) perfectly suited to my running speed. (The song after that was my old band Whistling Cadaver attempting to play the medley at the end of Abbey Road at our 30 year high school reunion in 2002-not good for running to, but immensely entertaining).
Monetizing Music For Running
Having observed that the tempo of certain songs matched perfectly to my running tempo, I wondered if there were any advantages to selecting such songs. Would I run faster or longer or with less discomfort or less injuries?
The web site run2rhythm would certainly like me to believe that running to the right tempo song will improve my performance. This site claims that “the wrong musical playlists can be detrimental to your training as they will not provide any synchronization between the body, the music and the mind. The body is almost always out of sync with the music.”
Run2rhythm provides a chart of the BPM that corresponds to different running speeds and sells playlists starting at $3.99 corresponding to specific tempos. These are playlists by unknown artists created for run2rhythm and the samples were not inspiring to me.
Here’s an example:
Is Music a Legal Drug For Athletes?
It turns out that there is a body of scientific literature related to music and exercise, and the vast majority of it seems to come from one man, Dr Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University in London, an expert on the effects of music on exercise. In his 2010 book, Inside Sport Psychology, he claims that listening to music while running can boost performance by up to 15%.
In media articles on the topic he is often quoted as saying “Music is a legal drug for athletes.”
Music is now rarely viewed in a manner akin to the ‘vitamin model’ described by Sloboda (2008) wherein one can ascribe immutable effects to a specific musical selection for all listeners and at all times. The beneficial consequences of music use stem from an interaction between elements of the musical stimulus itself and factors relating to the traits and experiences of the listener, and aspects of the exercise environment and task. In particular, the role of music is dependent on when it is introduced in relation to the task and the intensity of the exercise undertaken. In closing, the evidence presented in this review demonstrates that music has a consistent and measurable effect on the psychological state and behaviour of exercise participants
Creating Your Own Tempo Playlist
The research on music and exercise suggests that songs with inspirational themes (apparently, “Gonna Fly Now,” the Rocky theme, is the most popular workout song of all time) are more effective performance enhancers. Also, self-selection of songs works better.
For me, running while listening allows me to focus on nuances of instrumentation, timing and lyrics that otherwise I would not pay attention to. It is essential, then, to have songs that are worthy of such close listening.
I wondered if anyone has compiled lists of songs of a certain BPM that were originals and good songs. Sure enough, the folks at jog.fm have exactly such a function. My search for songs with tempo of 175 BPM yielded A-Punk and hundreds of other songs, including some I like (thumbs down for Footloose and Wonderwall (which is really 1/2 of 175 BPM or 88 BPM), thumbs up for Dancing With Myself).
You will note that my preferred tempo of 175 BPM corresponds to a much faster running speed than my preferred 6.1 MPH. This may have to do with my short legs or my running style. It makes sense to count the number of steps you take per minute at your optimal speed rather than rely on charts or averages.
Achieving the Right Dose of Exercise
Whatever you listen to while running, walking, cycling or hopping, hopefully it will assist you to achieve the dose of exercise per week that results in improved cardiovascular outcomes.
This chart from recent European guidelines on lifestyle for prevention of disease describes different intensities of aerobic exercise:
If you engage in vigorous exercise such as running or jogging, cycling fast or singles tennis, you only need to achieve 75 minutes per week. Moderate exercise such as walking or elliptical work-outs requires 150 minutes/week.
As a result of switching to running, I’ve cut down my total exercise time per week by half leaving me more time to create music!
Readers – feel free to share your favorite workout songs and let me know what tempo works best for you.
Yikes! This is a silly video. I’m not sure I can run to the song anymore.