Losing Our Senses

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by TK_Randall, Oct 19, 2007.

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  1. TK_Randall

    TK_Randall New Member Thread Starter

    City of Angels
    This is an excerpt from a newsletter a friend sent to me, today.
    I thought it was interesting, in that, there have been discussions here regarding
    kids and their ipods and what has happened with the loudness wars and what-not.
    I have to laugh a bit when it comes to terms like "new brain" and "turbo brain"
    because the brain is too complex to can, but hopefully you get the gist of the
    article and how it relates to sound.

    The excerpt:

    "Losing Our Senses"

    ...An excerpt from Completing the Circle
    ...by Thomas Poplawski
    ...(available in The Company of Angels)


    The Rational Psychology Association (Gesellschaft Rationelle Psychologie

    or GRP) in Munich, Germany, has been conducting research for several decades on
    the processing of stimuli in the brain and the emotions. Some four thousand
    subjects are involved in the study. About twenty years ago researchers began to
    note a striking phenomenon: the receptivity of the senses of smell and taste was
    deteriorating significantly. According to psychologist Henner Ertel:
    Other GRP studies indicate that the ability to distinguish sounds is also
    declining. Sixteen years ago the average German could distinguish 300,000 sounds,
    while today that number is only 180,000. For many children the level is only
    100,000. This is enough for rap or pop music, but not for classical music, which
    includes many more subtle sounds. This decline in auditory sensitivity may be a
    major reason for the declining interest in classical music.
    The sense of smell is also deteriorating and may account for changing olfactory
    preferences. In rural Germany, marriage proposals were often made beneath fragrant
    blossoming chestnut trees. Today most young people consider the fragrance

    Accompanying this decrease in sensitivity to sensory stimuli is a lessening of
    the pleasure derived from daily, mundane experiences. In 197 1, GRP researchers
    began to study the enjoyment that people experienced with certain foods. They
    prepared a package of basic foodstuffs-bread, fish, grapefruit, coffee, and so on and
    asked subjects to rate the enjoyment value of each item. Repeated at five-year
    intervals, this ongoing study has shown that the enjoyment ratings have moved
    steadily downward. Researchers note that with women the drop was not as great
    as with men and that those under the age of forty showed more of a decrease than

    those over forty. The only products that now give more pleasure than before are
    beer and mineral waters. The general trend, though, is that the threshold of
    sensation and pleasure has risen. Nothing seems to taste as good as it used to.

    The researchers at GRP now feel that over the past twenty-five years the brain of the
    average individual has undergone significant changes in its organization. The decrease in
    sensitivity to sensory stimuli implies that stimuli are being processed
    in a different way than before. Researchers hypothesize that there are fewer cross linkag-
    es or networks in the brain; therefore primarily optical stimuli go directly to
    the optical center without activating other sensory or emotional centers. Thus
    human beings can take in very powerful stimuli that are discordant, senseless, or
    contradictory without being bothered. The trend researcher Gert Gerken has
    labeled this phenomenon "the new indifference." Drug rehabilitation researcher,
    Felicitas Vogt, emphasizing the higher threshold needed to gain satisfaction, has
    coined the term "turbo-brain." The researchers at GRP use the more conservative
    term "the new brain."

    One may of course respond to this phenomenon with the query: So what?
    The brain now has reset the level at which it reacts. This probably has happened
    in history at other times when great changes were taking place. Is not this just the
    brain's way of adapting to the realities of a new world, to our modern way of life?
    Our world today is full of powerful and exciting stimuli, and to deal with these we
    have lost sensitivity to impressions at the subtle end of the spectrum. Is this
    necessarily bad?

    Obviously, we have changed. The speed and intensity of our time have dulled
    the sensitivity of every person. Children and young people have been particularly
    affected. Loud music, violent movies, fast computer games, shrill colors, powerful
    drugs are reducing our sensitivity to stimuli, so that louder music, faster and more
    engrossing computer games, shriller colors, more powerful drugs-legal and
    illegal-are necessary to grab and hold our attention, to interest, and to stimulate
    US. Without this hyper-stimulation we are in danger of not feeling anything at all.
    The world we live in is a complex and subtle one. It cannot be grasped fully
    by words, numbers, or reason. We can begin to truly comprehend it only through
    capacities of the soul that involve calm, sensitivity, and refinement. Traditionally
    these capacities were schooled through observation of and contact with the subtle
    beauties of the natural world and through the practice of the arts. Once the most
    treasured of human capacities, these are now being subverted and destroyed. The
    new brain begins to lose connection with this entire realm. Incapable of responding
    to subtle stimuli, it must be thrilled. Gentleness, calm, sensitivity-these are
    attributes that do not apply to the new brain.

    Boredom and depression increase. Because the "little things in life" no longer
    delight, and because delicate and soft perceptions and feelings are less possible
    (leaving only sentimentality), the perceived world becomes ever more empty, ever
    less able to stimulate interest. The world must always be more radically and more

    artificially enhanced in order to provide enjoyment. Ertel estimates that the new
    brain will completely establish itself in the West by the first half of the next century.
    This new brain has dangerous implications for the near and distant future.
    What can we do to stop and perhaps reverse this disturbing trend? What can
    we do to protect and regain our own and our child's sensitivity to the world?
    Today many techniques to develop "mindfulness," as well as many meditation
    practices based in the various religious traditions, are available. These can be a
    great help to adults in "keeping their senses." While the new brain will make it
    even more difficult to sit and practice such exercises, the variety of techniques,
    teachers, and aids (tapes, drumming, and so on) makes it possible for virtually
    everyone to find something that is appropriate and helpful.


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