About Me
I'm a Canadian PhD student living in Scotland, where I study music, media, and culture at Stirling University.

My Work
Curriculum Vitae
PhD Abstract

Academic Articles:
The rough guide to critics

Conference Papers:
Down Beat vs. Rolling Stone (IASPM Rome 2005)

Web Articles:
Sounds Prohibited
Brain Machines

CD Reviews:
Proffessor Undressor

m.t.brennan at stir.ac.uk
Friends With Websites:
Dru (The Dominion)
Sylvia Nickerson
Inez Templeton
Inez: the blog
Clark Richards
Tara Wells
Max Liboiron
John Haney
Eva Bartlett

Musical Friends:
David Myles
Jamie (Near Earth Astronaut)
Jay (Proffessor Undressor)
Jim (Shotgun and Jaybird)
Jon (Rhume)
Kirk (Orchard Hill Road)
Mark, Mike (Barriomatic Trust)
Matt Johnston
Pat (Random Andy)
Troy (Pimp Tea)

By Category:
academiks (2)
aural creativity (10)
books (1)
flicks (8)
inspiration (3)
mad science (4)
media theory (4)
music biz (10)
other (6)
personal (12)
powers that be (7)
travel (3)
visual creativity (9)
words (1)

By Month:
April 2006 (2)
March 2006 (1)
January 2006 (3)
December 2005 (1)
November 2005 (1)
October 2005 (1)
September 2005 (1)
August 2005 (1)
July 2005 (1)
June 2005 (1)
May 2005 (1)
April 2005 (1)
March 2005 (3)
February 2005 (3)
January 2005 (1)
December 2004 (1)
November 2004 (2)
October 2004 (5)
September 2004 (3)
August 2004 (1)
July 2004 (3)
June 2004 (3)
May 2004 (6)
April 2004 (6)
March 2004 (8)
February 2004 (7)
January 2004 (11)
December 2003 (2)

March 2005

March 28, 2005

Road To Perdition


I live in a village called Bridge of Allan, and if you like renting movies and watching them, let me tell you: don't live in Bridge of Allan. The only place to rent is at the local convenience store, which stocks a meagre selection of the most godawful current releases you can imagine. Anyway, somehow I found Road to Perdition amongst the mix and scooped it up.

Road to Perdition stars Tom Hanks as a hitman for the Irish mafia in Depression-era America. He and his son undergo a tragedy which transforms them both. The movie is mostly about the relationship between fathers and sons, but there are many other issues bubbling underneath, like the theme of work.

Jude Law plays another hitman, who asks questions like "you ever seen a dead body? Terrible thing. But it sure makes you feel alive, don't it?" and "to be paid to do what you love--isn't that the dream?" Neither of these questions is earth-shattering, but for some reason they stood out for me as I watched the film. Nowadays most of us don't have to confront death very often; but if we did, we might try harder to make the most of life while we're alive.

Which leads us to the second question: shouldn't we try, as much as we can, to live working at something we love? Sure, I suppose, but the trouble is, how do we know what we love? It's the minority who can confidently say they were put on earth to do (insert singular life passion here). For everyone else, it can be a very frustrating search. Back in the Depression era, this wasn't as much of an issue, because you would probably be thankful for finding any kind of work. But for an affluent generation like mine, where you've been afforded every opportunity to choose a career that you find personally fulfilling, the pressure is on to eschew mediocrity and discover your niche.

All of this begs the question of whether or not it is, in fact, "the dream" to get paid doing what you love. In fact, if taken to its logical extreme, this goal ends up reducing your life's worth to your career choice. Which is a bit silly, because you might be a much happier person working a low-stress 9-5 gig that allows you to lead a much happier existence; getting paid to do what you love could actually become harmful, as you increasingly guage the value of your life based on how many hours you put into your "dream job," whether that be an assassin-for-hire or, dare I say it, a music scholar. Is this a healthy way to live?

Anyway, Road to Perdition is about lots of other things besides work, but these days I've got work on the brain. Speaking of which, I'd better get back to it.

Posted by matt at 02:20 PM

March 25, 2005

Happy Easter


Happy Easter everyone. A friend of mine recently suggested that I try posting a recommended musical listening every so often for the handful of people that visit this website. And the more I got to thinking about it, the more I liked the idea. So starting next week, Iíll begin my attempt to write about music that has made a significant impact on my life. Until then, keep rocking and rolling.

Posted by matt at 05:08 PM

March 07, 2005

Music tastes delicious


A wonderfully surprising article from From New Scientist, 2 March 2005:

Life, according to the British band The Verve, is a bittersweet symphony. But for one musician in Switzerland who can "taste" sounds the symphony is also disgusting, and tastes of mown grass and low-fat cream.

The musician, known as ES, is a synaesthete, a person who involuntarily experiences a crossing over of the senses for certain types of stimuli. But not only does ES see certain colours when she hears specific notes - which is quite common among synaesthetes - but she also associates specific tastes with different pairs of notes, or intervals.

The fact that a minor second tastes sour to her and an interval of a fifth tastes of pure water gives ES a definite advantage in her profession, say Lutz Jšncke and colleagues at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In tests where different tastes such as salty, sweet, cream and even low fat cream, were placed on the musician's tongue she was able to identify the correct interval faster than five musician non-synaesthetes.

Intense relationship

It is difficult to tell whether synaesthesia was the driving force for ES becoming a musician because she started when she was just five. Either way, she believes that because of it she has a more intense relationship with music.

But while this helps her in the complex cognitive task of accurately identifying tone-intervals, which is useful for transcribing music, there is a drawback - it affects her taste in music. Both her visual and gustatory synaestetic experiences are more vivid when the notes and intervals are more pronounced.

Most modern forms of music have so few clear and distinct tones and intervals that the colours and tastes they evoke are somewhat muted. So ES tends to prefer simple harmonies such as renaissance music. Bach, for example is particularly creamy, she says.

Journal reference: Nature (vol 434, p 38)

Posted by matt at 02:24 PM