Sep 15, 2017

Magic Numbers and Persuasive Sound

In pinball, sound creates a shared experience, and the game is extended beyond the machine. You are treated to a deeply satisfying racket when you break the highest score or hit a jackpot, and a loud haranguing rings through the arcade for all other players to hear. 

The musical background and sound effects of a game often subtly affect our emotions as we watch, and of course as we play. While we engage with our screen, board or "field," we can undergo a musically stimulated range of responses: exultation (we earned new weapons or points), fear (something's about to eat us), or epic fury (we died a "Nooo! I was on the highest level!!!" death). 

Some video games play music timed to the same beat as the average human heart rate, to make a person feel "one with the game."  Even more thrilling, according to Dr. Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute - if you've played a game before, you might even feel "euphoria" and "craving" before an expected event happens.  In early 2013, Dr. Zatorre used neuroimaging to track the release of the pleasure-related neurotransmitter dopamine in participants' brains. A popular song was played for them. Several seconds before the highly anticipated chorus came on, dopamine was released, and they felt the thrill. 

You might not have even heard the words "...It's the Eye of the Tiger..." yet, but the feeling's already started.

If you are of a certain era, your introduction to pinball was a montage of a psychedelic imagery brought to you by Sesame Street, and accompanied by the oft-sampled, funk beat and harmony of the Pointer Sisters': "1, 2, 3, 4, 5..." 

Oh, yes, you should watch it.
It was awesome. 
It brought up some questions about what numbers might really mean if they could feel like that to watch, if they could sound like that.

Music provokes these emotional responses in part because it affects many areas of the brain. As a result, Neurologic music therapy is increasingly used as a tool to work on various brain regions to help people regain motor skills, speech, and increase psychological health.

Music is a powerhouse prescription. It can change our perspective, influence how we experience a situation, help us heal, help us learn. Manipulation, in a beautiful form. 

Although the often posited theory that it can even help us learn math more readily is still under debate, here in the Lab we are big proponents of creative learning mechanisms, like Sesame Street rolling mathematical symbols through a giant Rube Goldberg that pumps out a soulful groove sung by (Pointer) 
sisters ...who hail from Oakland!

So where can you play on two machines with some of the most popular, emotionally charged pinball game music in the world? Why, we're glad you asked: Chabot happens to have the world-renowned Addams Family and Lord of the Rings in our Center right now, plus many more.
 Hurry on up -  
because it's the final week of the Art and Science of Pinball at Chabot! 


Bonus Area...because we couldn't help but put this in at the end, for History and Literature's sake ( explain the title of the post):

During our research on the power of music, the internet repeatedly tried to tell us that "music can soothe the savage beast." 

It cannot. 

It can, however, tame the savage breast, as the original line goes in William Congreve's poem Mourning Bride (1967):

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.

What better combination exists than magick numbers and persuasive sound? 

None, really.

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