Sound Design for Electric Cars: 5 Powerful Pitches to Electrify Your Drive

Sound design for electric cars: powerful pitches to electrify your drive.

Sound Design for Electric Cars

What does your car sound like?

Electric and hybrid car sales are on the rise. More drivers are using cleaner technologies in their vehicles to help meet climate change goals and reduce pollution in cities. There are major differences between the old and the new cars. An important one that could be overlooked is how they sound.

Continuing from my previous post on sonic branding, I decided to explore the sound design of electric vehicles (EV). I have discovered that it’s not only about audio branding, which helps connect a brand to its users’ feelings. The noise of electric vehicles is important for safety. It affects both the drivers of these vehicles and the pedestrians they encounter.

There is a sonic familiarity with driving cars with internal combustion engines (ICE). The rumble of tires on the road, the whoosh of air beyond the windows, and the vibration of the engine. It is almost comforting, such is its intimacy and involvement in our everyday lives. I can still recall the sound and feel of my father’s Oldsmobile as it crushed ice and sand on the frozen streets of Canada.

Electric models have none of the roar and reverb of ICE cars. The earliest electric cars were found to be hazardous to pedestrians precisely because of their silence. As a result, car manufacturers have turned to sound designers to help them solve this problem.

VSP: Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians.

VSP was developed by Nissan. It is obligatory on all EV. There is a very comprehensive Wikipedia article about EV warning sounds.

Sound design: Case studies

Here is a selection of five case studies of electric car companies that have used sound in their vehicles.


Man Made Music was commissioned by Nissan to create the sonic branding for their range of electric automobiles. Here is a fascinating video about the creative process.

Nissan prototyped EV way back in 1947! They have been making different models ever since.

Nissan was a pioneer in creating electric cars for modern living. From our first EV in 1947 to the new Nissan Ariya, from ice cream vans to robot co-pilots, our electric-powered lineup has changed with the times and drivers’ needs.


Jean Michel Jarre created the sound design behind Renault’s electric vehicles. Here is a video that gives us a glimpse behind the scenes.

Renault is the European EV market leader. In 2021, their electric vehicles were the most popular in Europe, accounting for almost 15% of all electric vehicles sold. With this being the case, the way those vehicles sound is vitally important! (

There is a fascinating breakdown of their sound design process in this article, “Renault, in tune with the sound.”


According to some bloggers, Toyota is lagging in the EV game. The Prius was an early hybrid EV, with the first models hitting the Japanese market way back in 1997. They are, however, working on fuel-cell cars instead of battery-electric vehicles. All Toyota’s EV have sound design.


Tesla cars also have a catalogue of noises. They also have what looks like an ass-kicking sound system!


Lexus makes three types of luxury EV. They have been building EVs since 2015. Given their expertise in the luxury automotive industry, it comes as no surprise that their sound design follows suit, embodying the same level of refinement and excellence.

Lexus sound design was done by Man Made Music, as was Nissan’s. Lexus engineers created in-cabin sounds to convey the exhilaration of driving. Engineers matched sound frequencies to the vehicle’s speed and sound levels during dynamic actions such as acceleration. The underfloor battery reduces noise and the hood opening is sealed to prevent turbulent airflow noise.

The Lexus sonic logo, affectionately named The Open Door, brings together these two elements (Takumi Craft and Omotenashi) to express the highest level of luxury and hospitality through unique,organic instrumentation & breath

The Neuromusic of Sound Design for Electric Cars

Driving requires a great presence of mind and continual evaluation of everything going on around you. My driving instructor used to say “busy, busy eyes”. I think it could just as well be “busy, busy ears”!

Auditory Spatial Perception

The ears can locate sounds in three dimensions. Our ears provide information about the distance, direction, and movement of a sound source. This is called Auditory Spatial Perception. This takes place in the middle part of the encephalic trunk, or brain stem, the pons.

When we are driving, we are constantly listening to our surroundings. I am continuously aware of changes in the road surface, the wind direction and strength, and, of course, approaching vehicles. At the same time, ICE vehicles make characteristic sounds when accelerating, changing gears and braking. Creating a sound bank for EVs mimics familiar sounds for drivers and keeps them aware of the car’s operation.


As the Lexus case study points out, there is an emotion associated with driving: exhilaration. Car manufacturers aim to focus on positive emotions such as joy and excitement, although negative emotions like fear and anxiety may also be present. The excitement of a road trip, the feeling of freedom, the happiness of driving…all these emotions are combined in the sound of the car. EVs will have to work with drivers’ historical emotional baggage to be fully accepted.

Sound and the perception of “work”

One of my pet theories is:

We perceive work via the noise it makes. We unconsciously associate silence with a lack of productivity.

Rachel Rose

Industrial Noise

I developed this theory in the mid-1990s while working as a Quality Control Inspector at an industrial bakery. We produced 10,000 loaves an hour. When those loaves left the ovens, they were at about 450º. The loaves would travel around the upper levels of the factory on rolling metal conveyor racks to cool them before slicing and bagging. Every wheel and every chain clanked and clattered.

The noise in that place was deafening. I wore ear protection, but most of the older workers were completely deaf. There was a silo for the flour. To keep it from caking to the inner edge of the silo, a huge metal hammer would hit the silo once every 45 seconds. I was offered well-paid work after that stint, but I refused. The noise made me crazy.

Office Noise

Later, when I was working in tech. I noticed that digital devices that were too silent were often assumed to be non-functioning. The buzzing sound of a cooling fan is interesting. Although it can be annoying in a crowded office where everyone is using computers, it also indicates that work is being done. If you have ever visited a server farm, you will have been stunned by the racket. Not only the servers but the Air Conditioning!

Take, also, the sound of typing. Hark back and remember what old keyboards sounded like. Travel even farther back in time, to the sound of typewriters and carriage returns. Those mechanical noises were an essential and fundamental part of office culture. That has all changed now. I am writing this post on a MacBook Pro. It is a stupendously quiet machine. The only sound I hear is my fingers typing, and I could probably adjust my typing style to make it quieter.

The “work ethic” and noise

The Industrial Revolution made machines a part of our lives. My family is from Yorkshire where steam engines installed in cotton and woolen mills generated huge prosperity. Before the steam loom was invented, weaving was done by hand in cottages. The pieces were then sold to the mills one by one. To house the huge coal-fired steam looms, great glowering red-brick mills were built, and weavers began to work in centralized factories. Can you imagine the noise??

Goodbye industrial noise!

Too quiet cars confound our perception of work. We need our EVs to make noise. But, we need noises that serve a purpose – like protecting pedestrians and confirming that a trunk is closed. What we don’t need is more machine noise! It is a blessedly creative stroke of luck that this noise can be created, calibrated, and filtered. What a joy that industrial noise is finally being eliminated!

Fuzzy Logic – The Future of Music is Traffic

I always like to finish my posts with something whimsical. Marta Santambroglio travelled to India to make an urban soundscape for EV. The result is quite lovely!

As cars become self-driving, passengers stuck in traffic could make music. “In terms of health and well-being, making music is documented to trigger more areas of our brain than any other known stimulus, because it requires coordination but also excites our reward centres,” Santambroglio says. “Such an approach would be revolutionary for traffic, a typical source of stress.”

She partnered with Delhi musicians to create library of local music samples from Indian instruments like the tabla and the shehani, a type of flute. She envisions adding these samples to each vehicle on the road, creating the possibility for on-street jamming.


Continuing my studies in Neuromusic constantly ignites my curiosity to explore every corner and crevice of the vast realm of music and sound. What do you think about sound design for EV? Do you have an EV, and if so, do you like how it sounds?

Music Tourism: Trip to the tune of a cool 11 billion annually

Music tourism: trip to the tune of 11 billion annually.

What is Music Tourism?

Music tourism involves travelling to a place to experience a live music event. A person, or group, may go solely for the event, or the music event may fit alongside other activities.

The importance of quantifying the value of music tourism cannot be overstated. Many people perceive music as an expense. If one stops and thinks about the cost of promoting cultural events, it sure can seem like a lot of money to spend. But, when one then calculates the ROI, what appeared to be an expense suddenly shows itself to be an investment.

The Value of Music Tourism

Future Market Insights predicts the music tourism market to grow to 14 billion USD annually by 2033. The value of the sector is currently estimated to be 11 billion USD.

Music tourism moves people – and money.

Live music is a “scarce” event. Supply and demand is the basis of capitalist economic theory. When there is scarcity, prices increase.. In real life, this means that people are willing to spend time and money on “once in a lifetime trips” to see and hear their favourite musicians play live.

The recent Taylor Swift “Eras” tour is a case in point. Swift made so much money from her tour that she could pay a 100,000 USD bonus to each of her truckers.

If you live in one of the 20 locales Swift, 33, performed at in the last five months, your city has likely seen a boost in revenue from the hundreds of thousands of attendees who traveled from near and far.

Another case in point is Madonna’s “Celebration” tour, her latest jaunt around the globe, which Billboard estimates may generate upwards of 100 million USD. Pop stars of this caliber draw people from a huge radius. These fans fork out not only for tickets, but for food, accommodation, transportation, and souvenirs.

Classical music is also an enormous attraction. In countries like Italy or Germany, aficionados will spend significant sums for a seat. La Scala in Milan is known for its atmosphere and the exceptional quality of its performances. It is a must-visit destination for classical music tourists. But, to enjoy an opera at La Scala, fans must spend €165-210 for a single ticket.

Who’s Who in Music Tourism?

There are increasing numbers of projects dedicated to promoting destinations to music fans. Here is a small selection.

Music and Tourism: On The Road Again

Published in 2005 by Chris Gibson (Australia), this scholarly book is considered to be the first one about music and tourism. Describing music tourism as a “niche”, which it is, the authors look at the phenomenon from various viewpoints. Historical and contemporary analyses, financial and cultural, plus the politics of copying and identity. This looks like one that I ought to get my hands on.

Sound Diplomacy

This consultancy works with the economics of culture, music, leisure, hospitality, policy, planning, and placemaking.

Shain Shapiro is the main person here. He has just published his second book, “This Must Be The Place.”

Music Cities Events

Music Cities Events is a platform that aims to educate on the value of music. They organize events all around the globe. These conferences showcase music tourism, music policy and, of course, music cities.

TIIM – Turismo Amplificado

The Valencian government has created an initiative to promote music tourism. I will be in attendance at the Jornadas TIIM on 13 & 14 December 2023, in Valencia. Will you be there? Let’s connect!

Estaré en la Jornadas TIIM en Valencia el próximo 13 y 14 de diciembre. ¡Me encantaría conectar contigo!

Music “pilgrimages” to specific cities.

Places like New Orleans, Nashville, Seville, or Berlin are magnets for music lovers. Trips to these emblematic places are akin to pilgrimages; such is the passion that music arouses.

Each city has its allure for music enthusiasts, whether it resonates with the smooth sounds of jazz, the vibrant energy of rock and roll, the passionate rhythms of flamenco, or the pulsating beats of techno.


Famous street parties are found worldwide and most are raucous celebrations of music, dance, and color. Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, has its famous samba parades. The Notting Hill Gate Carnival in London features soca and reggae music. The Cádiz “Carnavales”, in Southern Spain, features flamenco singing and dancing.

Music Festivals

These exemplify a form of music tourism. Music festivals abound in the summer months in both the northern and the southern hemispheres. Festivals can last from one day to over a week. Longer festivals require, logically, a bigger investment of both time and money. Whether festival goers are camping on-site or staying off-site, they will need to pay for travel, accommodation, food, and tickets. In Spain, the average person spends 300€ per festival, according to TIIM.

Music festivals are music tourism exemplified.

Holiday Entertainment

We have all been there: on holiday, in an unfamiliar place, and hungry or thirsty. How do we choose where to sit down? Google Maps or TripAdvisor can help, but even with these aids, we will use our specific criteria to choose. The music filtering (or blaring, depending on your taste) will determine to a large degree whether you sit down or walk on by.

Some people may save all year for their holiday, and they want to savor every moment of their much-deserved break. Investing in some form of musical entertainment is crucial for bar and restaurant owners as it greatly enhances the overall guest experience.

By the way, if you ever visit Benidorm, I DJ at the Caiman Beach Bar and the D-Vora Sky Bar. So make sure to come and say hello.


As I study Neuromusic more, I become increasingly fascinated by the connection between music and our daily lives. Music tourism matters – it moves people and it moves money.

After my visit to TIIM, I will give you an update. Watch this space. Meanwhile, keep on moving, don’t stop, no.

Sonic Branding – powerful 360º trademark soundscape

Sonic branding - powerful 360º trademark soundscape.

What is it?

An all-round sound strategy

As my studies in Neuromusic continue, I find myself curious about an ever-widening array of music and sound-based disciplines. One that caught my eye is sonic branding.

This is a powerful, 360º strategy for a business! You could almost call it “surround sound!” 😉. By integrating unique and unforgettable auditory elements into their visual branding, companies have the power to significantly amplify their impact and create a lasting imprint on their audience’s minds.

Music awakens emotions in a deep and powerful way. Audio branding helps connect a brand to its users’ feelings. Think about it: A home decoration business will clearly have a different sound strategy than a techno nightclub. The former may wish to transmit security, safety, and comfort, whilst the latter would send out edgy, ecstatic vibes.

More than just a jingle

The use of sound in branding goes far beyond jingles. It includes UI/UX elements like in-app sounds when you press a button, accomplish a task, or open a new element.

I studied UX last year. I found it fascinating, and it has strongly informed my design work ever since. Good UX makes a brand stand out; excellent UX makes a brand succeed. Incorporating audio into UX is next-level marketing. A sound “sound strategy” could have a resounding impact on a business. (ba-da-boom)

Sonic Branding Hashtags

If you are interested in this field, here are some of the hashtags in use:

#music #musicbusiness #sonicbranding #sonicstrategy #soundbranding #soundstrategy

Sonic Branding Agencies

Stephen Arnold Music (Texas, USA)

SAM began working with branding and sound in 1993. They have worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Specifically focusing on the link between sound and emotions, they use “the science of sound” to build brand recognition.

Good sonic branding stimulates an emotional response, but great sonic branding does more–it becomes rooted in the belief system.

Stephen Arnold Music

Audiant Labs (London, UK)

Working in the field of sonic branding since 1980, meet Audiant Labs. Its CEO and founder, Ruth Simmons, is called “The Godmother of Sync“. Her “soundlounge” project is a world leader in sync and sonic branding.

While sync is not exactly the same as sonic branding, there is some overlap between the two. Sound and music used in commercial settings (like TV shows, video games, or live events) become identified with the brand.

Think of the theme song from Friends. You probably don’t know the artists who recorded it, The Rembrandts. But if you lived through the 1990s, you’ll instantly think of the TV show when you hear the song. This is a sound strategy that paid off, both in terms of brand recognition, but also for the artists who wrote and played the song.

DLMDD (London, UK)

DLMDD won the Kyoto Global Design Award (2022) for their audio branding work with Singapore Airlines. The flowers of the SA Batik Motif were the starting point. Dominic Murcott created an instrument using the frequencies of the flowers’ colours. The symphony was created by Rohan de Livera. It is really quite amazing and inspiring to learn about this project!

There is a fascinating description of DLMDD’s creative process on the KGD website. And here is the “making of” of the sonic brand.

The Symphony of Flowers and the Batik Instrument

Sonhouse (Belgium)

Sonhouse is Here is Cédric Engels from Sonhouse giving a TED talk about Sonic Ecology.

If the sounds you produce are not better than silence, it’s noise, sound pollution.

Cédric Engels

UnMute Creative Sound Agency (Denmark)

This Copenhagen production studio offers one of the clearest sonic branding examples I’ve found so far. On their Instagram page, they share the sound palette they created for the charging network,

The new sonic identity embodies both innovation and sustainability and is mixing electronic elements with acoustic instruments and sounds from nature.

unMute Creative Sound Agency


The field of sound design and its connection to emotions captivates me. Having been a therapist (body worker and yoga teacher) for over twenty years, I know the emotional-vibrational anatomy well. As a self-taught musician, I connected with music via feelings and perception rather than learned theory. As a student of Neuromusic, I am knitting this all together.

If you find the field of sonic branding as bewitching as I do, please get in touch with me via my socials. I would love to connect.

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Audio editing from your browser: Wavacity #1 super app

Audio Editing in the browser: Wavacity

Audio editing for cleaner sound

Audio editing has never been easier! Wavacity Audio Editor is a browser-based version of the open source tool Audacity.

As you know, I use Ableton Live as my DAW. But long before I invested in my recoding studio, I used a very early version of Audacity.

Free, open source, cross-platform audio software

Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, macOS, GNU/Linux and other operating systems.
Audacity is free, open source software.

The site only provides information about the app. Therefore, you need some knowledge of audio editing to fully utilize it.

Audio Editing 101

it takes a little time to master, but it’s worth it. With so many tools available these days, a good pair of headphones and this app should be enough to get you started.


Let’s say you recorded a video for your socials, and you wanted to clean up the sound.

First, you would have to export the audio to AIFF, WAV, or even MP3.

Then, navigate to Click file -> open and import your audio file.

You will see a “waveform” in the main window. Or maybe, two. That’s because the sound is in stereo, so each “side” of the stereo sound has its wave form.

You can trigger your file to play by clicking the green play button, or by using the space bar on your keyboard.

Now, listening carefully, use tools in the “Effect” menu. You might use a filter, or a compressor, or a reverb. As long as you save your work, you can just play around until it sounds good to you.

Complete the process by downloading your masterpiece. Sync it up to your video. Voila!

Audio Editing in the browser:  Wavacity

Stress and music: 60 BPM is best for rest.

Stress and music: 60 BPM is best for rest.

Stress and Music: Introduction

Many people, maybe even you, suffer from an excess of nervous tension. You may be wondering what to do. Listening to your favourite song is enjoyable, but music you enjoy can also help manage those intrusive, anxious thoughts. If you have ever asked yourself “how does music help with stress“?, then read on. I will do my best to explain.

Types of Stress

Let’s start by understanding what stress is. We usually think of stress as something negative. “Distress“. However, stress can also be positive. “Eustress“. The right amount of pressure can motivate us to complete tasks and achieve goals. This lovely video by Anne-Laure Le Cunff will help you to understand the difference between distress and eustress. The takeaway: not all stress is bad. But, an excess of stress can have negative consequences.

In this post, I will focus on distress, or negative stress. My next post will look at the relationship between music and positive stress. So that you won’t miss a thing, why not bookmark my blog page?

How does music help with stress?

Music has long been known to have a positive impact on our emotions and overall well-being. It has the power to uplift our spirits, evoke memories, and even help us relax. Music can be a powerful tool to help us cope with the pressures of everyday life.

I am studying Neuromusic, so it is important for me to understand the scientific basis for music’s ability to help manage stress.

60 BPM is said to be the best for rest.

Heart rate and blood pressure

According to websites, a research paper from Stanford University suggests that a frequency of 60 BPM is ideal for relaxation and stress relief. I have not been able to find the source of that oft-repeated claim. I found a research paper from India that tried to answer the question “how does music help with stress” by comparing the effects of low and high BPM music on heart rate and blood pressure. The relationship between stress and music could be influenced by the connection between heart rate and blood pressure in the carotid artery.

There was a decrease in the mean of both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures of the subjects on listening to slow music, which was found to be statistically significant. This may be due to modulation of the cardiac autonomic nervous system by stimulation in the form of auditory input

Other ways that music may help with stress

Release of Dopamine

Music reduces stress by triggering the release of chemicals in our brain that promote relaxation, like Dopamine.

Reduction in perception of pain

Physiological stress is associated with the release of various neurotransmitters. People with chronic stress suffer from negative emotions like worry, rancor, ire, or fear. Frequently, stressed out folks feel little or no joy and derive little pleasure from life.

A recent study found that listening to music can help to reduce how strongly we feel pain.

Promotes Calmness

Slow-tempo instrumental music, such as classical, ambient, or nature sounds, effectively promotes calmness and reduces anxiety.

Healthy distraction

Music also serves as a distraction from our stressors. Focusing on the melody, rhythm, and lyrics helps us forget about stress and find comfort in the music. Moreover, music can activate the body’s relaxation response, which helps counteract the physiological effects of stress. Also, attending live music events is inherently social, and we know that nurturing healthy social relationships is vital to our health.

Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

It can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, as well as reduce muscle tension and promote deeper breathing.

Channel Emotions

Playing an instrument, singing, or dancing can also help reduce stress. Engaging in these activities can help channel our emotions and provide a creative outlet for self-expression.

Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release, and decreased anxiety and agitation.1 Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.

Summing Up

Overall, incorporating music into our daily routine can play a significant role in managing stress. Music has the power to calm our minds and provide relief from life’s pressures. You can enjoy it in many ways, like making playlists, going to live concerts, or just taking a moment to listen to calming music.

The Most Relaxing Song?

Weightless by Marconi Union is meant to be the world’s most relaxing song. Have a listen and decide for yourself.

“British ambient band Marconi Union has drummed up the world’s most relaxing song: Weightless is 8 mins 10 sec. of aural bliss” – Time Magazine, Best Inventions of the Year.

Brain Massage with 8-D music

Get your headphones ready and listen to this clip. For me, it’s one of the most luxurious feelings ever, to have that sound moving around my head and stimulating my brain. Let me know if it does anything for you.


Massage your brain! This 8D music gets me everytime.. I love it! Find your headphones, sit and just listen! This is Somatic Healing at its finest 🥰… bilateral stimulation. #8d #bilateralstimulation #brainmassage #somatichealing #lovemehealing #adhd

♬ sonido original – KAYAKUS
Stress and music - 60 BPM is best for rest
Stress and music – 60 BPM is best for rest

Compare Ethnomusicology and Folklore – 3 critical distinctions.

 Compare ethnomusicology and folklore.

Ethnomusicology and Folklore

How do they differ?

Ethnomusicology and folklore share a lineage, but they are not the same thing.

A folklorist learns and plays a tune. The ethnomusicologist takes note of the melody, compiles details about its background, past, and surroundings, and subsequently includes it in a curated assortment of comparable or distinct tunes to be examined more extensively.

3 Difference between ethnomusicology and folklore

The three critical distinctions are:

  1. Ethnomusicology uses recording equipment to preserve, catalog and later analyze songs. It is an anthropological approach to music.
  2. Ethnomusicology studies non-Western music, or music originally composed without transcription. Folklore can include music from all cultures and countries, including Western folk songs.
  3. Folklore comprises music, dance, poetry, and other art forms. Ethnomusicology focuses only on music.


What is ethnomusicology?

In an earlier post, I shared the Merriam-Webster definition:

1. The study of music that is outside the European art tradition 2: The study of music in a sociocultural context

However, I now understand that it is specifically the academic study of music in an anthropological context. Béla Bartók is seen as the founder of the discipline, although the term did not exist when he was alive.

Starting in 1905, Bartók and his friend Zoltán Kodály collected more than 10,000 folk songs. They also analyzed the songs’ form and structure. Check out the title of Zodály’s 1907 thesis paper: “Strophic Construction in Hungarian Folksong. Here is a further quote from Bartók that proves his study of ethno-music was academic in nature, not merely compilation:

“Thus, it became proven that the old scales that are no longer used in our art music have not lost their vitality. Their renewed application made possible a new kind of harmonic combination. The employment of the diatonic scale in this manner led to a liberation from the petrified major and minor systems with the end result that today every step of the chromatic 12-tone system can be freely utilized on its own.”

Recording devices marked the beginning of musicology, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The recording of music allows for its preservation and analysis, enhancing the study of music in an academic context.

Here is a charming photo of Bartók recording a singer on a wax cylinder gramophone.

The audio recorder enabled travelers to collect sounds in distant locations and bring them to specialists who analyzed and preserved them in museum-like settings using specialized equipment in ways that resembled the data and artifact collections of anthropologists.

What is folklore?

According to Merriam-Webster, folklore refers to traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.

Folklorists may collect, anthologize, perform, and record the material that they collect. But the nature of folklore is not academic. Collecting or compiling material can serve various purposes, such as preserving, appreciating, disseminating, or reiterating the material. But its nature is not to analyze and compare.

A folklorist like Vasily Trutovsky may use modern musical notation to transcribe the tune. A popular folk musician like Pete Seeger, whose father, Charles Seeger, was a founding member of the SEM used folk music to speak up for the masses.

Is one better than the other?

After grasping the three fundamental distinctions between ethnomusicology and folklore, an inevitable question arises: Is one superior to the other?

Compare ethnomusicology and folklore.

I am not expert enough to answer that. In my opinion, they are different enough to occupy separate spaces in the cultural context. While one may be more systematic and rigorous, the other is more organic and freewheeling. I think that this is like music itself. We admire symphony composers, but we also find joy in self-taught electronic musicians.

Ethnomusicology is an absolutely intriguing realm of study, one that captivates me. Nevertheless, it is crucial that in this journey of exploration, we keep sight of the sheer delight that accompanies the process of discovering, exchanging, and deciphering melodies.

If you like what you’ve just read, please consider sharing it. Thanks for your visit!

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Ethnomusicologists: of the 20th Century: Badass Béla Bartók & beyond.

Ethnomusicologists: of the 20th Century: Badass Béla Bartók & beyond.

Ethnomusicologists – what do they study, and why?

Ethnomusicologists study the anthropology of music. They study how music develops and evolves in non-Western cultures in order to better understand the culture of the people.

I talked about the general aspects of the discipline in my previous post on the anthropology of music, titled “Ethnomusicology: the mysterious evolution of language, music, and the human brain.”

The term “Ethnomusicology”

In 1950, Dutch musicologist Jaap Kunst coined the term “ethnomusicology,” combining two disciplines: musicology (the study of music) and ethnology (the comparative study of different cultures).

Kunst published a paper in 1955 titled “Ethno-musicology: A study of its nature, problems, method, and notable figures, with a Bibliography.” However, in 1951, Alan Merriam had already used the term “Ethnomusicological” in the title of his doctoral thesis.

Whoever came first, prior to 1950, ethnomusicology was known as “comparative musicology”. Comparative musicology originated from early musicology studies. Guido Adler, of Austria, presented an essay in 1885 which laid out a basis for musicology.

Where is ethnomusicology studied?

Ethnomusicology is by nature a field study. This means that the researcher(s) must travel to the place whose music they are studying, in order to see it performed in situ.

However, there are a number of distinguished centers of higher learning where the scholarly study of ethnomusicology takes place. For the sake of simplicity, I will just leave a few links here. A more exhaustive list of centers of ethnomusicology can be found on the SEM website.

Ethnomusicology Centers

Who are the most famous ethnomusicologists?

(This is far from an exhaustive list…)

Béla Bartók

Béla Bartók: The Father of Ethnomusicology

Béla Bartók is considered by many to be the father of ethnomusicology. Béla Bartók was born in Hungary, and grew up during the final years of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). He was not only a skilled classical pianist, but also a passionate explorer of his homeland, embarking on challenging journeys to gather and preserve the rich tapestry of Hungarian folk songs.

As far as I am concerned, traipsing around Bohemia, Transylvania, and the Carpathian Mountains collecting folk songs is pretty badass. Go Béla!

Béla Bartók birthed the field of ethnomusicology as an academic discipline through his tireless pursuits of folk music, his exposition of the sound of the rural people, and his incorporation of folk-style into his own personal compositions. His work revealed to the world that folk music exists, is important, and stands as an independent academic discipline.

David Taylor Nelson :”Béla Bartók, the Father of Ethnomusicology”

Jaap Kunst

Kunst has a typically interesting “ethnomusicologist” biography. He studied the violin as a youngster. After finishing Law School in the Netherlands, he grabbed his instrument and joined a string trio and set off for Java. As you do, when you’re a badass. He stayed there for about fifteen years. Upon his return to the Netherlands, he was recognized as an expert in his field. In 1950, he coined the term “ethnomusicology”.

Alan Merriam

Alan Merriam was an American ethnomusicologist. His 1964 book, “The Anthropology of Music”, is credited with uniting the academic study of anthropology with that of music.

Alan Merriam published his Doctoral Thesis (Anthropology) in 1951. Songs of the Afro-Bahian Cults: An Ethnomusicological Analysis. Here are some of the field recordings made by him and his wife Barbara Merriam. They traveled around central Belgian Congo (later Zaire, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo) with an early “portable” reel-to-reel magnetophone . If that is not badass, then I don’t know what is!

Barbara Merriam – the forgotten ethnomusicologist

Women are almost always often erased from history. Alan Merriam was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, on his travels in Africa. I have spent some time searching the Internet for any biographical information on Barbara, or even a photo. So far, I have not had any luck, but I am sure that she was one badass researcher. Watch this space.

Bruno Nettl

Bruno Nettl was a former President of the SEM. He studied Native American music, and established the musicology program at the University of Illinois. Nettl conducted fieldwork in both Iran (in 1966, and I bet that it was both groovy and badass) and southern India.

The Language WithoutMusic

Before I leave you, I shall share with you an interesting documentary, “The Language With No Word For Music”. I found it on Reddit.

Summing up

The more I read and research Ethnomusicology and ethnomusicologists, the more my ind boggles. It is truly an expansive and enormous field. I will keep on writing. If you like what you read, please let me know. A little encouragement goes a long way!

Ethnomusicology: the enigmatic 50,000-year evolution of language, music, & the beautiful human brain

Ethnomusicology: language, music, & 50,000 years of evolution

Ethnomusicology and Neuromusic

Ethnomusicology: language, music, & 50,000 years of evolution
Ethnomusicology: language, music, & 50,000 years of evolution

As you know by now, I am studying for a Masters in Neuromusic. This week’s class dealt with the topic of Anthropology of Music.

Music exists in all civilizations and cultures on Earth. We don’t know much about the evolution of music and how it may have influenced our evolution.

The questions that I will address in this post are:

  • What is Ethnomusicology?
  • Can we use the study of ethnomusicology to better understand the development of the human brain?
  • When did language and/or music evolve in human beings?
  • Did music or language develop first?
  • Language has a clear evolutionary purpose. Does music?
  • How does ethnomusicology relate to music?

It’s hard to cover this broad and complex field in a one-hour class or in a single post. I’m using class topics to delve into the subject more, but I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information and the different paths to explore. For the time being, this is the result. I am sure that there will be more. Read on – I hope that you’ll like it.

Music, Language, & the Human Brain

Music and language share much of the brain’s neural circuitry. Both engage many different areas of the brain and numerous neural circuits. The temporal lobe, near the ear, is strongly activated. The limbic system, which deals with emotion and arousal, is also engaged. Motor neurons are called upon to activate the movements of the mouth, hands, and lungs, amongst other things.

There is no agreement on which one developed first and if their development influenced each other. By studying the development of music in different world cultures, we may glean valuable information about how the human brain manages the vast store of information that it compiles over a lifetime. Both music and language are tools of communication. Language is more descriptive and functional, while music is more emotional and amorphous.

Given the obvious similarities between music and language, it is not surprising that there has been a running debate for more than two hundred years as to whether they evolved in tandem or independently – and, if the latter, which came first.

Oliver Sacks “Musicophilia”, page x

Ethnomusicology Definition

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines ethnomusicology as:

1. The study of music that is outside the European art tradition 2: The study of music in a sociocultural context

Can the study of Ethnomusicology help us to understand our evolution?

Probably, yes. Music and language are fundamental to all human societies, even if their origins are still not fully understood. Exploring the anthropology of music provides valuable insights into the fundamental aspects of our existence.

We humans wonder about the reasons for our existence, our purpose here on Earth. We wonder why life is so hard, and painful, and death so ever-present. We create all sorts of stories about creation, souls, and Gods, but the hard truth is that nobody really knows. Even faced with the nihilism of not knowing, we skirt around it using humor and art.

By knowing our history, we can know where we are going. Studying ethno-music may help us to chart the uncertain waters of the future.

When did language and/or music evolve in human beings?

The first archaeological evidence of music making using instruments dates from about 50,000 years ago. Before people started using femoral bones to make flutes, they most likely used stones, sticks, and seeds as percussion instruments.

Did music or language develop first?

The human voice is certainly the most primitive instrument of all: singing probably pre-dates spoken language. Evidence from the Upper Paleolithic Era suggests that both language and musical instruments evolved around 50,000 years ago.

…fully human speech anatomy first appears in the fossil record in the Upper Paleolithic (about 50,000 years ago) and is absent in both Neanderthals and earlier humans.

Philip Lieberman “the Evolution of Human Speech

The ‘syntax’ of music is simpler, less highly evolved than that of language, suggesting an earlier origin.

Larry S. Sherman and Dennis Plies “Every Brain Needs Music”, page 18,
quoting Ian McGilchrist “The Master and His Emissary”

Language has a clear evolutionary purpose. Does music?

Human beings possess a unique ability on this planet: the power to articulate ideas using words that symbolize objects, concepts, timelines, and emotions. I believe there is intelligent life in the Universe and that advanced societies might use telepathic communication. Still, even with telepathy, there would have to be some lexicon, some words, to communicate telepathically. (But, I digress.)

Language is a fundamental tool for functioning in communal societies. Humans are social animals, but our conviviality means that we must be able to communicate. Not only do we communicate for necessity, we also communicate for fun. Think of jokes, poems, songs and riddles.

Both language and music bind us together in groups, families, and societies. Both are absolutely necessary for our survival, but in different ways.

“In ancient languages, the sound of a word contained the energy and essence of the thing signified by that word.  The earliest forms of communication were probably grunts, groans, screams and laughter – sounds that transparently expressed how one felt in the moment.  Andcient languages evolved out of those sounds.  Gradually, words were formed to capture the essence of other things that helpd form the matrix of life:  the presence of trees, rocks, animals, and birds.  In this sense, all ancient languages were originally mantric because their words embodied the essence of what they signified.”

Russill Paul “The Yoga of Sound” page 68

Language development

Humans are unique because we can talk, sing, play instruments, and use tools to make instruments.

The human throat differs from that of other animals. The larynx sits lower in the throat. There is more space in the mouth cavity, so we can make different sounds.

Our large brain has powerful cognitive abilities that many other mammals simply do not possess. IMHO, that does not make us better than other animals. They possess highly refined sensory organs that make them amazing creatures. But, they don’t have language, or music. We do. By understanding how we acquired them, we understand ourselves a little more.

I will leave you with two interesting links.

The Larynx

First, a NPR report on how humans acquired the ability to speak. This 6-minute clip is called “From Grunting to Gabbing: Why Humans Can Talk“. It explains the structure of the larynx, also known as the “voice box”, and discusses how the human throat may have evolved. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

Medical Ethnomusicology

Next, an article about a modern-day Ethnomusicologist who is studying medical ethnomusicology: UF School of Music Ethnomusicologist studies rhythm and the aging brain.

The anthropology of music and how it related to language and the brain.
The anthropology of music and how it related to language and the brain.

Neuromusic: 3 captivating fields harmoniously combined into one.

What is Neuromusic?

Neuromusic is a multidisciplinary field. It studies the intersection between music, the mind (psychology), and the brain (neuroscience).

Who’s Who in Neuromusic

McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind

There are a number of labs worldwide currently studying Neuromusic. Among the most famous are the MIMM (McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind) (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). The MIMM is a neurosciences and music laboratory. They define their work as:

The McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind (MIMM) is an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including psychologists, neuroscientists, music theorists, musicians, dancers, media artists, mathematicians, kinesiologists, health scientists and engineers. Together, they study questions about the physical structure, evolution, neural processing, performance and perception of music, dance and media arts.

Daniel Levitin

Dr. Levitin, Professor Emeritus at McGill University (Montreal, Québec, Canada) is one of the most well-known investigators in the field. Levitin, the author of “This is Your Brain on Music,” is not only a pioneer in Neuromusic but also a talented writer. He can explain this complex science in a way that everyone can understand. I highly recommend this book!

“Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem.”

This is Your Brain on Music – Understanding a Human Obsession, pp85-86.

Larry S. Sherman

Larry S. Sherman, a well-known neuroscientist and musician, collaborated with Dennis Plies to produce a captivating book called “Every Brain Needs Music – The Neuroscience of Making and Listening to Music.” This very readable book, released in the Spring of 2023, is set to captivate readers with its profound exploration of the intricate relationship between our brains and the enchanting world of music.

Jordi A. Jauset

Jordi A. Jauset is a Catalan (Spain) investigator of Neuromusic. He is also my tutor. His book, “Música y Neurociencia” is pioneering in the Spanish-speaking world. Spain and Latin American countries have a rich musical heritage. Flamenco music, traditionally from Andalusia and Catalunya, gives the Spanish ear a different tuning and rhythm. He has designed, and teaches neuromusic module online. (see below)


Well, I am no one, yet. But I am studying Neuromúsica with Jordi Jauset and hope to make my mark someday! I am currently writing a thesis about Heart Rate Variability and Binaural Beats (BB). I will publish it once it is finished. For now, please bookmark my blog. You may want to read one of my earlier posts, “Music affects the brain in three fascinating ways“.

The Breathing Brain – Binaural Beats and Heart Rate Variability

Specific Aim

This study aims to find out which technique, either BB alone, Patterned Breathing alone, or BB+PB together, has the greatest impact on HRV.

Context Analysis

Breathing techniques can positively affect Heart Rate Variability.   BB are believed to increase focus and concentration.  If we combine BB with breathing techniques, is there a greater effect on Heart Rate Variability?

Binaural Beats

BB are a phantom tones that are produced in the human brain when we listen to slightly different tones in each ear. There is debate about how and how often binaural beats are produced in different individuals. However, my starting point for this thesis is that yes, BB are real.

Dr. Andrew Huberman published a podcast about 40-Hz BB back in May. I previously used lower frequency BB’s, usually in the Theta-wave range (4-8 Hz). However, for my study, I relied on his work and used 40-Hz BB’s.

Rhythmic Breathing

The breath is the bridge between the mind and the body. I wrote a blog post on Rose Tint Your Life, my professional page, about Rhythmic Breathing, lymphatic drainage, and cerebrospinal fluid.

Summing up

Music is hard to define, but it has the power to profoundly and instantly change our mood. I have been a therapist for many years. I want to understand the power of music to create focus-enhancing meditation tools that enhance motivation. Watch this space, and thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share using the buttons below.

Music affects the brain in these 3 fascinating ways.

How does music affect the brain?

We know that listening to our favourite (or least favorite!) music affects the brain. But, have you ever wondered how music affects the brain? It certainly has the power to evoke a wide range of emotions and can have a profound impact on our mood and well-being.

 It has been found that music activates more parts of the brain than any other known stimulus.

The relationship between music and the human brain is under intense scrutiny and is subject to many ongoing studies. Although there is still much to learn, so far we know that:

  • Stimulates several areas of the brain.
  • Activates the brain’s “reward centers”, including dopamine pathways.
  • Improves cognitive function and may help patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and depression.
how music affects the brain

Music affects the brain by…

Stimulating several areas.

Studies have shown that listening to music can stimulate several brain areas, including those responsible for processing emotions, memory, and movement.

When we listen to music, our brains come alive with activity. Numerous studies have shown that listening to music stimulates various regions of the brain. One such region is the auditory cortex, which processes and interprets sound. This area of the brain is responsible for recognizing different musical elements such as pitch, rhythm, and melody.

Furthermore, listening to music activates the limbic system, which is associated with emotions and memory. This can explain why certain songs can evoke strong emotional responses or trigger memories from the past. The limbic system comprises the amygdala, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the hippocampus, the basal ganglia, and the cingulate gyrus.

Enhancing the release of dopamine.

Some music can activate the reward centers in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

The nucleus accumbens is responsible for releasing dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with pleasure and is released when we experience something enjoyable, such as listening to our favorite song.

Helping with learning and thinking

Another area that is stimulated by music is the prefrontal cortex. This region is involved in higher cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and problem-solving. Music has been shown to improve focus and concentration, which may be attributed to the activation of the prefrontal cortex.

One 1991 study suggested that listening to classical music while studying or performing mental tasks can improve spatial task performance. However, despite causing a big splash, and coining the term “The Mozart Effect”, the results were not as reliable as they seemed at first.


I am studying for a Master’s in Neuromusic. Neuromusic is the intersectional study of neuroscience, psychology and music. I am currently focused on my thesis, whose working title is “Binaural Beats and the Breathing Brain”. This series of posts will serve to align my thoughts and support my studies. Eventually, these posts will form part of my written thesis.

I am a primarily self-taught songwriter, producer, and DJ. The formal study of how music affects the brain represents a very important step in my personal and professional evolution. So, if you are interested in learning alongside me, and maybe encouraging me, please bookmark this page and check in regularly.

Tune in and feel the flow

Overall, listening to music engages multiple areas of the brain, including the auditory cortex, prefrontal cortex, limbic system, and the reward system. Music has a significant effect on our brains, showing that it is a powerful tool for our emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being.

So next time you’re feeling down or in need of a mental boost, consider turning on some music and let your brain reap the benefits.