A damnable doctrine

I was listening to an old episode of Alan Cross’s Ongoing History Of New Music podcast, in which he talked about the cocktail party effect.The Wikipedia article talks about recognizing one voice in a crowded room, but Alan talked about being able to recognize a song playing on a stereo, even in a very crowded and noisy room (like a bar). My brother and I have always been really good at this, to the point where I can sometimes name songs that no one else hears. I could never understand why that was; do my brother and I just subconsciously listen for music in the background? Could be. Do we happen to know way more songs than most people and therefore recognize something? I doubt it; I know a lot of songs but I’ve been in bars with people who know as many or more and who didn’t hear what I heard. Are some people better at “source separation” than others? I have no idea. Maybe I’m like Bruce Willis in unbreakable and this is my superpower. ‘Cept not-so-super.

Does anyone else do this? Identify songs from hearing one or two measures here, a couple of notes there, scattered in the background of a noisy bar? Is it that no one can do it? Or that no one but us music obsessives tries?


Salon has an interesting interview with Edward O. Wilson about “why we’re hard-wired to form tribalistic religions, denies that ‘evolutionism’ is a faith, and says that heaven, if it existed, would be hell.”

“Possibly the greatest philosophical question of the 21st century is the resolution of religious faith with the growing realization of the very different nature of the material world. You could say that we evolved to accept one truth — the religious instinct — but then discovered another. And having discovered another, what are we to do? You might say it’s just best to go ahead and accept the two worldviews and let them live side by side. I see no other solution. I believe they can use their different worldviews to solve some of the great problems — for example, the environment. But generally speaking, the difficulty in saying they can live side by side is a sectarianism in the world today, and traditional religions can be exclusionary and used to justify violence and war. You just can’t deny that this is a major problem.”

It’s good readin’. It also reminds me why I’m eternally grateful to my parents for making me read and think, as opposed to memorize and recite.


[bragging uncle] My nephew, who’s 6, finished second in his age range in a chess tournament last week. [/bragging uncle]

0 responses to “A damnable doctrine

  1. i’m that guy in the room as well. My friends are always amazed how I can pick a song out of the air in a restaurant, bar, store, etc. I don’t usually notice myself doing it if i’m alone. I find it happening often with TV shows and commericals where I’m listening more to the music to figure it out rather than the images or content.

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