Music

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Raaberdämmerung

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 7:29pm in

Tags 

Academia, Music

Composer and writer Howard Goodall explains how the Deputy Prime Minister's patronising comments about Angela Rayner undermine the Government's own stated principles about the role of music in education and empowerment

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Last week the government unveiled its ‘refreshed’ National Plan for Music Education, after a fairly long period of consultation and deliberation, led by a committee of sector experts chaired by the Conservative peer Baroness Fleet, Veronica Wadley.

Unfortunately, any potential fanfare of its announcement was drowned out by another story relating to music that dominated headlines all week, a story that even made it to (Deputy) Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

It began with a repulsively patronising article in the Telegraph (of which Baroness Fleet was previously Deputy Editor, as it happens) penned by Christopher Hope, mocking Angela Rayner MP for attending The Marriage of Figaro at Glyndebourne, with - horror of horrors- a glass of what might have been champagne in her hand.

In the kind of feeble ‘gotcha’ that tabloids were fond of using to lampoon Labour politicians in the 1960s and 70s, Hope suggests that someone born in Stockport, who left her (comprehensive) school at 16 when she became a single mum, would somehow be betraying her working-class roots - or her solidarity with striking railway workers - by the simple act of turning up at an opera house known for its high artistic standards and delightful gardens.

What the article revealed was the kind of snobbery that has become once again tediously commonplace thanks to the Bullingdonisation of Britain, since 2010. Working-class people going to the opera? Whatever next, a person on Universal Credit mistakenly wandering into the Tate? A mop-haired percussionist from Liverpool inadvertently admitted to the Royal Academy of Music?

Yet not one, but two ministers in the Daily Telegraph’s favourite government prefaced the new National Plan for Music Education with worthy ringing phrases such as "..(music) must not be the preserve of the privileged few..’". "In our refreshed plan, which sets out our vision to 2030, we place a renewed emphasis on opportunities for all..."

I agree with these sentiments. Music is for everybody. The subject matter of the most popular operas have one thing in common: with heightened emotion and passionate music, they portray the struggles, tragedies and triumphs of ordinary people.

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro made an aristocratic audience including the Emperor in Vienna sit through an adaptation of Beaumarchais’ (at that time) banned play which deliberately satirised an out-of-touch ruling elite of bullies, cheats and sexual predators being trounced by the greater wit and guile of the people who worked for them. It could have been written yesterday.

The Telegraph article prompted a backlash. The British people aren’t as bigoted or as blinkered in their assumptions as some Tories think they are. Millions of Britons like the arts. Tickets for gigs or operas or musicals may be a few bob but they’re not so very different in price, sometimes cheaper, than tickets to Premier League matches. People from less-well-off homes do value and participate in music, dance, and theatre, in large numbers.

You’d have thought the Deputy Prime Minister, sun-lounge-fancier Dominic Raab MP, would have the antenna to pick up that the criticism of his opposite number in Parliament going to the opera had not really hit the Culture Wars jackpot Telegraph writer Christopher Hope, the man whose idea the Brexit 50p was, let’s remind ourselves, had hoped it might.

You’d think Raab would have carefully avoided the subject at PMQs. In fact, Raab, distracted by the headlights of the oncoming vehicle, ran head first into it and had another go at Ms Rayner about Figarogate, as if she’d now be reduced to silence by his masterful, Count Almaviva-like putdown. (He is, after all, something of an expert in reducing things - his constituency majority of 28,000 votes in the 2015 General Election cleverly reduced to 2,743 in 2019, for example.)

Perhaps there was a chorus of Telegraph readers out there, cheering on his broken-record repeat of the quip that ‘socialists’ aren’t allowed to sip champagne, visit a beautiful stately home, or listen to Mozart. Perhaps. Social media, on the other hand, was immediately filled with working-class people apologising for their interest in the arts, begging the deputy prime minister’s pardon for straying away from their allotted station in life.

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Speaking as someone who writes musical theatre I could not be happier that a deputy leader of one of our major political parties takes an interest in the arts. Music is one of the things we do really well in Britain, as is often said, including by government ministers when not circumscribing what music certain people are supposed to enjoy.

The thing, though, fellow Brits, is this: the musical ecology is an organic whole. Musicians are musicians, we respect each other’s work in whatever field of music we ply our trade. We don’t, by and large, waste our time with a tribal class war amongst different genres and sub-sections of the art.

So let’s drop the antiquated idea that there’s ‘the peoples’ pop music and ‘the posh folks’ classical music: there’s endeavour, skill, whimsy, love, redemption, excitement, sadness and joy in all music. Musicians of all styles come from all kinds of backgrounds and we make music for all people, whatever the path they’ve taken to get there.

It’s 2022, for heaven’s sake. Mozart, who died in 1791, has got a better handle on all this than Dominic Raab, born in 1974, the year Helen Reddy got to no.1 in the USA with a song about a shy young woman’s journey to freedom and empowerment, Angie Baby.

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New Keynesian inflation model is unfit for purpose

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 6:09pm in

It’s Wednesday – a day for a few short comments and then relaxing to music. Today I consider some statements from the Bank of International Settlements, which suggest that the mainstream inflation approach, based on the New Keynesian Phillips curve is subjected to “serious practical shortcomings”. In other words, it is unfit for purpose, which means you should not be surprised that central banks are hiking rates to stifle a transient supply-side inflation burst. Quackery leads to quackery. I also consider some recent evidence that supply disruptions are easing. And, then, we learn that that the British Labour Party no longer things workers should strike. And if that has driven you mad, then we restore calm with some great music from Jiro Inagaki.

New Keynesian inflation approach is subject to ‘serious flaws’

The Bank of International Settlements released its – Annual Economic Report 2022 – on June 26, 2022.

I have been wading through the 138-page document and will write something more about it when I have had a chance to fully understand all the detail.

But a central banker friend of mine sent me an excerpt from it today (which is Box B The Phillips Curve and inflation under the hood – section on Pages 50-51) – which contains some very interesting statements.

Statements that a typical mainstream economists in this field would not write but words that I would write and have written often.

My PhD dissertation was about these matters.

I won’t go into detail here (later) but the BIS admit that the usual New Keynesian representation of the Phillips curve (and hence their inflation model) “misses some important elements”.

Which are?

1. “a single measure of economic slack” (typically aggregate unemployment or some aggregate output gap measure) “cannot capture sectoral developments and differences in the the sensitivity of prices to sectoral slack.”

2. “wage- and price-setting mechanisms and their interactions … are at the very heart of the inflation process but are necessarily glossed over in the Phillips curve representation.”

The capacity of workers “to recoup losses in purchasing power”, or firms “to compensate for squeezes in profit margins” is typically absent in the mainstream Phillips curve.

So the power play between workers and capital is hidden.

3. “a weakening in workers’ bargaining power), will result in a “flattening” of the Phillips curve, a well documented stylised fact.”

4. The “New Keynesian Phillips curves” approach, “suffers from serious practical shortcomings”.

Most importantly:

So, even starting from the microfounded version of the Phillips curve, a researcher typically ends up estimating a reduced-form relationship between inflation and a measure of slack that looks a lot like the prototypical version described above. Moreover, the standard version only features a bundled consumer good, and hence does not allow a role for relative price changes. And even in versions with multiple sectors, relative price changes only reflect different adjustment speeds in prices, so that longer-run trends play no role.

So, all the claims for theoretical purity of the ‘microfounded’ model, gives way to a complete ad hoc statistical model that tells us nothing about the theoretical veracity.

This means that ultimately there is no possible authority that New Keynesians can claim.

Their theory is untestable in a statistical sense so they fudge it and then make stuff up.

In short, there is no New Keynesian macroeconomics.

I wrote about that in this blog post – Mainstream macroeconomic fads – just a waste of time (September 18, 2009).

My 2008 book with Joan Muysken – Full Employment abandoned – considered all this from a technical perspective.

And I have an upcoming research paper coming out soon on the topic – I will make it available when I can.

What it means is that the mainstream inflation model which drives monetary policy is erroneous – not fit for purpose.

Which is no wonder the central bankers have gone off the rails with the current burst of inflation.

Supply chain disruption easing a little

I keep seeing signs that cost pressures are in decline.

For example, on March 7, 2022, nickel was trading at $US48,256 per metric Ton. Today it is selling at $US23,876 per Ton.

There are many other commodities coming off quickly.

The latest diffusion indexes from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank are also interesting.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve published a monthly survey of business, the latest being – June 2022 Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey.

The complete dataset for their indexes is available – HERE.

The diffusion index is calculated by taking the percent reporting increases and subtracting the percentage reporting decreases.

The first graph shows the ‘Current Unfilled Orders’ diffusion index which shifted from 17.9 in May 2022 to -7.0 in June 2022, one of the largest monthly shifts in the history of the series, which began in May 1968.

The forward expectation (6 months from now) is shifting from -24.5 to -32.0.

So US manufacturing firms are experiencing (overall) less delays in satisfying orders, which is a sign that supply chains are easing.

The next graph shows the ‘Current Delivery Times’ which reports the change in delivery time compared to the previous month for reporting manufacturing firms.

This index fell from 17.5 in May 2022 to 9.9 in June.

The forward expectation (6 months from now) is shifting from -29.1 to -36.3.

So on both the immediate situation and the expected future (6 months from now), US manufacturing firms are thinking delivery times will fall as they are able to meet demand from current production more easily.

The survey results were generally poor – indicating a drop in demand pressure as a result of the fiscal and monetary squeeze in the US.

But these particular indicators are about the supply chain.

My expectation is that as the supply disruption eases, the price pressures will dissipate rather quickly.

The only issue is whether the economies can avoid recession – despite the best efforts of misguided policy makers to create that sort of crisis.

British Labour Party leadership forgetting where it came from

The British Labour Party – was founded in 1900 by a coalition of the socialist parties and the trade unions.

Prior to that, there were a number of organisations representing working class interests in the political process.

These groups were unified in 1900 under the banner of the modern British Labour Party to allow the trade union movement to achieve political representation in the national government.

They were social democratic in leaning favouring nationalisation, welfare state support, and redistribution of national income to achieve equity.

As the neoliberal era dawned (Callaghan, 1976), the British Labour Party started to abandon its roots.

That accelerated under Blair – and the current leadership is a product of that era.

Now they don’t even support strike action by the trade unions.

In a recent train wreck of an interview, the Shadow foreign secretary – David Lammy – made news this week by claiming that workers should not strike for better pay and conditions.

One would think that the Labour Party should just shut up and let the Tories implode. But that wouldn’t do either because the Labour Party is singularly unfit to lead a modern Britain given its inability to purge the Blairites from its ranks.

After the leader (Starmer) told MPs they were not to join trade union pickets supporting striking workers, Lammy drove the ice-cream cone further into the Party’s face by claiming that a “serious party of government does not join picket lines” despite being photographed in 2018 on a picket line.

In one interview, he was asked whether he supported the BA check-in staff who were forced to take a 10 per cent pay cut during the pandemic and were now seeking to have that pay restored.

Lammy first showed he didn’t understand the situation: “Many of us might want a rise of ten per cent – in truth, most people understand it’s unlikely that you’re gonna get that, it’s a negotiation, and it absolutely would not be right, it would not be responsible opposition, if I suggested yes to every strike, you should get your …”

Then he said in response to whether he supported the industrial action:

No, I don’t, no I don’t it is a no, is a categorical no.

The workers were just trying to get the previous pay cut restored rather than a 10 per cent increase. Lammy didn’t even get that (Source).

Unelectable.

Music – Jiro Inagaki and His Soul Media

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

One of the unheralded geniuses in Jazz music is tenor player – Jiro Inagaki – who was a pathfinder in Jazz fusion in the 1960s and 1970s.

I first heard him while I was haunting Keith Glass’s Import Shop in Bourke Street, Melbourne in the early 1970s.

This 1973 album – In the Groove – is now a collector’s piece in its original vinyl release (commanding a very high sale price).

But you can get the digital version for $A14.99 if you weren’t lucky enough to have bought the original when it came out.

This has always been one of my favourite albums.

The track is – That’s How I Feel – and features some great bass playing as well as the star attraction.

The song was written by – Wilton Felder – and recorded by his band – The Crusaders – in 1973, the same year Jiro Inagaki released his album.

The Soul Media interpretation is a much better version.

The band on this track is:

1. Jiro Inagaki – Alto and Tenor.

2. Tsunehide Matsuki – Guitar.

3. Akira Okazawa – Bass.

4. Hajime Ishimatsu – Drums.

5. Takeshi Kamachi – Keyboards.

6. Takashi Imai – Trombone.

There is lots more information about Jiro Inagaki and his band on his – blog (in Japanese).

Jiro Inagaki is one of the great players that very few people outside jazz know about.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Eat the Documentary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 2:42am in

Tags 

Film, Music


At the beginning of The Velvet Underground, the first documentary film by Todd Haynes, a title card appears: “A documentary film by Todd Haynes.” I laughed out loud when I saw it, though not out of derision. I had been waiting for Todd Haynes to make a documentary for a while. Or, more accurately, I […]

Who would be so stupid to advocate deliberately putting 2.3 million workers out of work? Guess who?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 6:27pm in

Tags 

Inflation, Music

It’s Wednesday and I am pushed for time today. My local community is in the last stages of trying to stop a massive overdevelopment in our midst, which will damage the social cohesion and environmental amenity in our neighbourhood, while delivering massive profits to a greedy property developer. I have to appear before a tribunal today to document the impacts of the development on these things. Property developers are the scourge. So are mainstream economists like Larry Summers who is proposing that unemployment be deliberately increased by more than 2.3 million and held at that level or higher for years in order to reduce the current (transitory) inflation. Who would be so stupid? And after getting really mad about that and Keir Starmer’s abandonment of working class representation, we can soothe our souls with some Roy Elridge.

Who would be so stupid to advocate increasing unemployment by more than 2.3 million for years just to bring the CPI down a bit?

In May 2022, the US unemployment rate was 3.6 per cent, which meant that 5,950 thousand workers remained without work but wanted and were available to work.

The broader measure of labour underutilisation – U6 – stood at 7.1 per cent, but rises and falls with the official unemployment rate.

If the US unemployment rate rose to 5 per cent, say, then some 8,218.8 thousand workers would be without work.

I just did a simple regression analysis which suggests that the U6 rate would rise to just over 10 per cent.

So a shift from the current labour market position to a state where the unemployment rate was 5 per cent would put an additional 2,268 thousand workers onto the jobless pile and around 16.4 million workers would be considered to be broadly underutilised (underemployment, marginal attachment, unemployed).

Conclusion:

1. Highly destructive of human potential.

2. Massive daily loss of national income.

So who would be stupid enough to suggest that the US government adopt a strategy whereby this scenario would play out as a solution to transitory supply side shocks and the cartel behaviour of oil producers?

Well, mainstream economists would suggest that.

Stupid.

And in the past day, none other than Larry Summers, who was reported in the Bloomberg article (June 21, 2022) – Larry Summers Says US Needs 5% Jobless Rate for Five Years to Ease Inflation

Here is some analysis of his past judgement:

1. The dying embers of New Keynesian reasoning (August 31, 2021).

2. Being shamed and disgraced is not enough (December 18, 2009).

Summers said that:

We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation — in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployment or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment … The US may need as severe monetary tightening as Paul Volcker pushed through in the late 1970s early 1980s.

First, in this blog post – US Federal Reserve Bank economists going Marxist on us (May 30, 2022) – I analysed new research from economists at the US Federal Reserve Bank, who categorically rejected the ‘Volcker ended inflation’ narrative.

They showed that it was a significant diminution in the bargaining capacity of workers that allowed the inflation to subside after a period of distributional conflict between labour and capital.

They concluded that the monetary policy gyrations engineered by Paul Volcker did not work in the way that Summers is suggesting.

I gave a talk at the Levy Summer Seminar last week where I recalled a quote from Milton Friedman who was talking about how a deflationary monetary policy episode would eventually expunge inflationary pressures where workers and bosses were fighting over who would take the real income loss from an imported raw material supply shock.

He said that the period of elevated unemployment (over what he claimed was the natural rate) would have to be of the order of 15 or so years – nearly a generation of workers denied work.

Summers is pitching in the same league really.

The first graph shows the evolution of the CPI inflation in the US from 1949 to May 2022 – with the core measure currently on 6 per cent while the All Items measure is 8.5 per cent.

There is little prospect of the either measure rising to the levels experienced in the 1970s because there simply isn’t the on-going propagation from a wages war with capital.

It is not clear yet when the pandemic effects will dissipate, and when Putin will stop his War, and when OPEC will end its current profit gouging round.

But when those things end, inflation will drop almost immediately to low levels.

Yes, a rapid and extended recession with more than 5 per cent unemployed (and the extra underemployment) would eventually reduce demand for petrol, which would eventually force OPEC to reduce oil prices.

But at what cost?

Massive.

The second graph shows the relationship between the US unemployment rate and the inflation rate, split into historical time periods.

The 1970s loop and the slow improvement shown bu the 1980-1990s loop is what Summers is thinking should be forced.

But the flatness of the relationship since 2000 with a current spike excepted tells us a lot about the internal labour market dynamics in the US, particularly in relation to wage pressure and the shift in unemployment that would be required to scorch the earth so badly that inflation fell.

Because the inflation is heavily driven by supply-side factors, a demand-side policy action would be incredible costly in lost income etc.

Yes, there are excess demand issues.

But they are not the typical ‘inflation gap’ type excesses, where the supply side is fully utilised and nominal demand continues to grow faster than capacity.

All the factories in China, and ships not delivering and workers sick with Covid means there is considerable supply side slack.

In that case, even a normal level of spending will create ‘excess demand’ pressures.

But the answer is not to cut spending as much as it is to expand supply so that the existing capacity is more fully utilised.

And that won’t happen until Covid disappears and the Ukraine situation is resolved.

The next graph highlights the 1970s with the period since 2000 – for better clarity of the differences between the two episodes.

The two decades are not comparable.

The current rise in slope of the Phillips Curve here is temporary.

The existing fundamentals are better described by the flatter sections.

They are very different to the 1970s, when trade unions were stronger and workers could more successfully defend their real wage.

It would be crazy to deliberately engineer a major rise in unemployment and the attendant misery because policy makers were not patient enough to see this transitory period off.

Max Planck’s wisdom was summarised by the quote – paradigms shift one funeral at a time.

Never intending to wish harm on anyone, but ….

British Labour Party – Leader scared to support legitimate industrial action

The increasingly unpopular Keir Starmer has apparently told his front bench MPS not to provide visible support to the rail workers who are seeking better pay and conditions at present.

Apparently, Starmer things that by avoiding any association with the workers on picket lines, his team are showing ‘leadership’.

The UK Guardian story – Keir Starmer tells Labour frontbench they should not join rail strike pickets (June 20, 2022) – thinks the travelling public should be prioritised over workers’ interests.

If that idea had have been dominant over the long struggle by workers for better pay and conditions since the start of the industrial revolution, then all workers would not be still living in poverty.

The last general election saw the Labour Party lose connection with its traditional support base.

Presumably, they are banking on the Tories being so bad, that that base will return.

I wouldn’t bet on that at all.

Labour has to be in harmony with the trade unions and the struggles of workers.

Not everyone are highly-paid lawyers!

This article – Keir Starmer’s stance on rail strikes raises questions over strategy (June 21, 2022) – suggests that Starmer is more interested in continuing his purge of Leftist elements in the Labour Party than he is in representing the working class interests.

He should look over the Channel and see how Left unity has benefited the progressive political forces in France.

Music – Roy Elridge

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

This is a classic from American trumpet player – Roy Elridge – who built a new style after the dominance of – Louis Armstrong – which was later to define the virtuosity of – Dizzy Gillespie.

Roy Elridge played with sax player – Coleman Hawkins – and they both elevated the so-called – Tritone substitution – to a new level in jazz.

For musicians, that might mean substituting a Db7 chord for a G7 chord to enhance the improvisation.

For non-musicians, it just means that it sounds good – producing more contrast in the harmonic content.

Franz Schubert used this substitution to great effect in his classical pieces.

Here he is playing – Echoes of Harlem – the classic 1936 composition written by – Duke Ellington.

Roy Elridge recorded this in 1951 (see below) in Stockholm, but it was not released until 1955 on the – Roy’s Got Rhythm.

It is a very complex piece with multiple parts, shifting keys and moving from minor to major, overlaid by a beautiful trumpet melody.

Which just means – yes – it sounds good.

Roy Elridge recorded this composition with:

1. Charlie Norman – piano.

2. Carl-Henrik Norin – tenor.

3. Leppe Sundevall – bass trumpet.

4. Anders Burman – drums.

5. Thore Jederby – double bass.

Almost perfect.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Perceptions and Appetitions: New Music About Philosophy (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 11:09pm in

Tags 

Arts, Music, philosophy

“To refute a theory, but it’s my life that’s on the line…”

The following is a guest post* by Kris McDaniel, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, about the release of a new album, Perceptions and Appetitions, by The 21st Century Monads. It’s a bonus Friday addition to the series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.


[Renee Jorgensen, detail of cover of “Perceptions and Appetitions” from The 21st Century Monads]

Perceptions and Appetitions: New Music About Philosophy
by Kris McDaniel

After an almost eight year long hiatus since our previous album, the 21st Century Monads return with 17 original songs spanning 55 minutes of music.

The 21st Century Monads consist of Ben Bradley (Syracuse), Carrie Jenkins (U. Vancouver), Kris McDaniel (Notre Dame), and Hille Paakkunainen (Syracuse). We all teach philosophy and the songs are all about philosophy or aspects of the philosophical profession.  This will be our sixth album—our first album was released in 2009! Recording for Perceptions and Appetitions began in May 2020.

The first single for the new album was already released on Wednesday. It’s called The Cabinet, and you can watch the music video for it here:

Our webpage lists all the information about the songs (lyrics, who played what instrument, etc); this information can also be found in the YouTube video descriptions.

Also, we are on Facebook and Twitter—if you are on these things, please follow us there.

If you like what we are doing and you want to hear more, here’s how to “purchase” the entire album:

  • First, make a donation to the charity of your choice. There is no minimum amount you need to donate. Even a dollar can make a difference, and we will happily send you the album.
  • Second, email us the receipt (with any credit card or bank information blanked out) so we can keep track of how much we’ve raised. Email us at: 21stcenturymonads@gmail.com

Once these two steps are completed, we’ll send you an email with a secret link to donate the album. It’s that easy.

There are hundreds of charities to choose from, but here are two charities of personal importance to me that I donate to and recommend considering:

First, Neighbor to Neighbor South Bend. This is a local (South Bend, Indiana) charity that focuses on aiding refugees that have recently relocated to the South Bend area. The direct link to their donation page is here.

Second,  We Rise Above The Streets Recovery Outreach Inc. This is a Syracuse, NY based charity focused on helping the homeless population of Syracuse, NY. It’s a very low-infrastructure boots-on-the-ground kind of charity. You can help out with their “Sandwich Saturdays”, a weekly event where community members come together to make and then distribute food and other necessities for those in need by purchasing food directly for them via this link here.

This album has been at least two years in the making, and I think it is our best stuff to date.  I hope you enjoy it.

And now, without further ado, here’s the next single from Perceptions and Appetitions, called A Halting Problem:

Lyrics and Liner Notes 

“The Cabinet”

Going in, going in, going in
Will I survive?
What is life, what is life, what is life?
This cruel, cruel test that PvI designed
To refute a theory, but it’s my life that’s on the line

He closes the door, do I look outside one last time?
Will my body start to fade away or my mind?
How can a thought be indeterminately mine?
When the door opens, it will be vague whether it’s I

What do we fear … in The Cabinet
It’s so unclear … in The Cabinet
What will befall … in The Cabinet
But aren’t we all … in The Cabinet

We’re not fully here … in The Cabinet
Do we lose what’s dear … in The Cabinet
You won’t be spared … in The Cabinet
So are you scared … of The Cabinet? 

Music copyright 2022@The 21st Century Monads
Lyrics: Kris McDaniel, Carrie Jenkins
Kris McDaniel: vocals, edrums, keyboards, electric guitar, melodica, bass melodica
Ben Bradley: bass guitar, electric guitar
Hille Paakkunainen: vocals
Will Bradley: trumpet 

“A Halting Problem”

I got a halting problem baby
Must this go on forever baby? 

It’s the not knowing that’s killing me
Will this program ever let me be?
I feel like such a fool
Is this undecidable?

I’ve got a halting problem, baby

They say there’s just no algorithm, baby
Will I ever rest again, oh baby?

Ooooooh I’m a machine
And that’s what’s killing me
Will this program ever let me be
A turing machine
Is this undecidable?

I’ve got a halting problem, baby

Well you know I’m just a machine
So you’d hope one day I’d learn
Well you know I’m just I’m just a machine
But still it burns 

I’ve got a halting problem, baby

Music copyright 2022@The 21st Century Monads
Lyrics: Carrie Jenkins, Kris McDaniel
Kris McDaniel: vocals, edrums, electric guitar, 8-string ukulele, keyboards
Carrie Jenkins: vocals
Ben Bradley: bass guitar, cello, electric guitar, acoustic guitar  

Blues and Roots

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 10:59pm in

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borders, Mexico, Music

On the many faces of Charles Mingus.

RBA aims to cut policy stimulation by adding to it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 5:54pm in

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Music

It’s Wednesday, and we have some analysis and news and then my music segment for the week. Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) stunned the nation by pushing up interest rates by 0.5 points, claiming it was the responsible thing to do given that inflation was higher than expected. They then outlined all the factors driving inflation – none of which are going to be responsive to interest rate rises. Further, when one dissects the way in which interest rate rises work through distributional effects and effects on business costs, it is not clear that increasing rates will not just add to the stimulation rather than reduce it as the RBA claims. Next, we Fact Check the Fact Checkers and after all of that we have some Tupelo Blues, to restore some sense of decorum.

RBA decision

On June 7, 2022, the RBA Board lifted their cash rate target by 50 basis points to 0.85 points.

It also lifted the support rate on Exchange Settlement Accounts (bank reserve accounts) from 50 to 75 basis points – a reward to the banks.

In the – Statement by Philip Lowe, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision – we learned that the RBA considers:

Inflation … is higher than earlier expected. Global factors, including COVID-related disruptions to supply chains and the war in Ukraine, account for much of this increase in inflation. But domestic factors are playing a role too, with capacity constraints in some sectors and the tight labour market contributing to the upward pressure on prices. The floods earlier this year have also affected some prices.

Okay.

Supply factors.

Covid.

War.

Floods.

How will interest rate rises attenuate these driving forces?

They won’t!

Note, the RBA insinuates that the ‘tight labour market’ is contributing to the rising prices.

How?

That would have to come via wage pressures principally.

There are no wage pressures – see my recent blog post – Australian wages growth remains flat despite RBA claims that a breakout is about to occur (May 18, 2022).

The RBA claims that:

The Bank’s business liaison program continues to point to a lift in wages growth from the low rates of recent years as firms compete for staff in a tight labour market.

I doubt the veracity of the program’s responses.

I have a long record of working for unions in wage tribunals and I have rarely ever seen submissions from business supporting wage increases and always see them complaining about wage pressures and the need to keep workers down.

They lie!

The RBA Statement also said that:

Inflation is expected to increase further, but then decline back towards the 2–3 per cent range next year. Higher prices for electricity and gas and recent increases in petrol prices mean that, in the near term, inflation is likely to be higher than was expected a month ago. As the global supply-side problems are resolved and commodity prices stabilise, even if at a high level, inflation is expected to moderate.

So they are already predicting the problem will go away as the temporary factors dissipate.

Why then risk adding a further problem of rising unemployment, rising mortgage defaults, and other bankruptcies?

The interest rate rises have no clear outcomes anyway because of their distributional effects.

First, they increase in the income of those on interest-rate sensitive assets (the so-called fixed-income cohort).

It is hard to characterise this class as being strugglers but there may be some within that group who have experienced hardship as a result of the low interest rates.

For them, the interest rate rises are stimulative – and may well increase their spending – the opposite to what the RBA claims it is doing (suppressing demand).

Second, they reward the ‘markets’ who have ‘priced in’ the rate rises. As I have said previously, ‘priced in’ means they have placed bets on the rising rates. So the RBA just gives these unproductive gamblers massive profits by ratifying their bets.

Nothing productive comes from that. Just higher luxury spending by the wealthy elites.

Third, the rate rises hit those with mortgages reducing their purchasing power and exacerbating the lost real income that the inflation generates.

They will reduce their spending on goods and services and transfer the shift into bank profits.

Given the record household debt, some will lose their homes, especially those who were lured into the housing market while it was booming by RBA promises that rates would not rise until 2024.

Some of those mortgage holders committed to payments well in excess of what would normally be considered sustainable given their incomes. They will suffer and many will go broke.

Fourth, interest rate rises increase the costs for all businesses who have borrowed money to fund their working capital and investment plans. Given how successful, corporations have been in using their market power to pass on all costs to consumers, the interest rate rises are in fact inflationary.

So we are left with some inflationary impacts and some deflationary impacts.

We are also left with a highly regressive outcome – rewards to asset holders, costs to the least well-off.

The RBA doesn’t have a clue as to the net outcome. No central banker has ever worked out these distributional factors.

But, at any rate, even if the distributional factors net out to be detrimental to total spending, such an outcome will not do too much to address the driving forces propelling the current inflationary episode.

It just amounts to the RBA reverting to mainstream form.

Pathetic.

But I think the ‘markets’, who are claiming we will be at 2.5 or 3 per cent by sometime later this year or early next, are pushing their special pleading for the RBA to reward their gambling too far.

Even the RBA Statement said that they were going to monitor if the interest rate rises to date damage household consumption expenditure too much – “the Board will be paying close attention to these various influences on consumption as it assesses the appropriate setting of monetary policy” – and that was a signal they may not be pushing rates up much further.

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

Yes, I have added a new layer to the Fact Checking service that the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) instituted to keep politicians honest.

My addition is the ‘Fact Checking the Fact Checkers’ service where I expose the failure to fact check properly.

Here is an example of a ABC Fact Check (‘gotcha’) which needs checking – Fact Check: Katy Gallagher says the government has inherited the worst set of budget books in history. Is that correct?.

Katy Gallagher is the new Finance Minister in the new Australian Labor Government and seems to think it is a good idea to repeat several times in each interview that the Australian government has a $1 trillion public debt balance outstanding while forgetting to mention a lot of that is being held by the Government itself, courtesy of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s bond buying program.

Government loaning itself $As and going through an elaborate charade to pay itself interest (right pocket to left pocket), then pay itself to retire the debt on maturity (right pocket to left), then pay itself dividends (left pocket to right) and think we are all fooled.

Well, we are mostly fooled, which is a testament to the scale of public mis-education that prevails in this nation.

But back to the task.

The ABC Fact Check declared that the new Finance Minister was not telling the truth when she claimed the new Labor government had inherited the worse fiscal books in history.

They concluded after analysis:

On two key economic indicators, debt and deficit, previous incoming governments have inherited worse “budget books”. The only fair way to make historical comparisons is to take into account the size of the economy and measure the indicators as a proportion of GDP.

On this basis, gross debt levels were historically much higher for previous incoming administrations than the figure faced by the new Labor government.

Similarly, the deficit as a percentage of GDP is not the worst on record.

The ABC Fact Check also quoted a person from the Australia Institute, which claims to be a progressive voice in the Australian political debate, as insinuating that if the public debt to GDP ratio is high then that is ‘bad’.

They narrated a labyrinth of queries relating to whether we should be comparing ‘gross debt’ or ‘net debt’ over time to assess the new Minister’s claims and whether there was comparable data back to 1901 anyway.

They also claimed they were “unable to locate any official data on budget balances covering the period from federation to 1970-71”, well I have data back to the early 1950s that is comparable, but that is not the point anyway.

The point is this – the assertion that a high fiscal deficit is worse than a low deficit, say 2 per cent of GDP is better than 4, or that a surplus of 1 per cent is better than a deficit of 2 per cent of GDP is fundamentally flawed and reflects a misunderstanding of what fiscal policy is for.

We cannot say anything about the goodness or badness of a fiscal position just by comparing financial ratios or numbers.

A 10 per cent of GDP fiscal deficit might be a responsible and superior fiscal position at some point in time, while if the government was running a 1 per cent surplus at that time, we might consider that to be totally irresponsible.

We need a functional context before we can make any assesssments.

There are not good or bad fiscal positions per se.

The context is provided by what the other sectors – private domestic and external – are doing and how well the government is meeting functional objectives such as full employment, high quality public services, etc.

The purpose of fiscal policy is not to record particular deficits or surpluses, but to use the capacity of the currency-issuing government to advance desirable socio-economic objectives.

If the government is achieving those objectives, then whatever the fiscal balance turns out to be will be the ‘appropriate’ balance.

I have said before that we might call a deficit ‘bad’ if it was the result of the government initially not providing sufficient net spending relative to the spending of the non-government sector, and the resulting unemployment and recession, caused a fall in tax revenue and a rise in welfare payments.

In that case a rising deficit would be ‘bad’ but not because the deficit to GDP ratio had risen, but, rather, because the government was not advancing well-being.

In an alternative scenario, if the deficit started rising and employment was growing and services were being improved, then the fiscal position would be signalling an improvement.

But we can only attach those qualitative labels or assessment by applying an understanding of the context.

Similarly, looking at levels of outstanding public debt and concluding higher is worse reflects a failure to comprehend what public debt is and how it arises.

Public debt is just a manifestation of past fiscal deficits that have not been taxed away yet.

As such it reflects portfolio decisions taken by wealth holders in the non-government sector to move some of the net financial assets created by those deficits into risk-free government bonds.

We might worry that a particular segment of the non-government sector holds the largest stake – such as the speculators in financial markets – which would signal that the debt was really just masquerading as corporate welfare.

But that is a separate discussion.

So the ABC Fact Check is wrong.

Higher fiscal deficits and higher public debt ratios are neither worse or better as they stand.

And that should have been the conclusion presented to the public not perpetuating the fictions of mainstream economics.

Levy Summer School – Change of Plans

I previously mentioned that I would be presenting four sessions at the upcoming Levy Summer School in the US.

The school runs between June 10-18, 2022 and the full program is – HERE.

I can update that information following some changes today.

Covid infection numbers are on the rise again in the US and I have taken advice concerning the risk of travel there, particularly given all the connections (airports, stations, etc) that I would need to make when travelling from Australia to the workshops.

I decided today, reluctantly, not to take the risk and have informed the organisers that I am cancelling my travel plans later this week.

We are now working out remote delivery via Zoom for at least some of the advertised sessions that I was to participate in. I will update readers on when those plans are finalised.

I hope to do the two stand-alone sessions I was committed to do but I understand the panel sessions will probably not work with me on Zoom and the others live.

My sessions in the program are (the times are New York State times):

Monday, June 13 14:45-16:00 – MMT and ZIRP: What Happens If Treasury Stops Issuing Debt?

Monday, June 13 16:15-18:00 – Breakout Discussion: MMT and Policy Design

Thursday, June 16 10:30-12:00 – The Buffer Stock Approach

Friday, June 17 15:15-16:15 – Thirlwall’s Law (this is about the balance-of-payments-constrained growth theory).

I am hoping the Thursday and Friday sessions will remain (with me via Zoom) but the two Monday panels I doubt will see my involvement.

As to the program, the highlighted sessions will be offered to the public via Zoom using the following link

https://bard.zoom.us/j/83597014068?pwd=SmNNUHJZYXhhamJ3RmlnWlJxMnAzQT09

and Pass-code 083828

More news when I hear back from the organisers.

Unlike others, I still believe there is a dangerous pandemic out there and I am very cautious in what I do.

First Dog on the Moon agrees – Remember Covid!? I AM PRETENDING EVERYTHING IS NORMAL EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT ISN’T

Music – Tupelo Blues

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

It is from the 1995 album – Chill Out – from John Lee Hooker.

There is reference in the song to the – Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 – although from maps I have seen of the flood spread, Tupelo was spared.

The climate records show that the worst daily rain came on March 21, 1955 when 238.76 mm fell (9.4 inches)

This version is smoother than the original which lacks dynamics in my view.

The original is on his 1959 album – The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker – recorded while he was working in car assembly plants in Detroit.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Light Topics, Real Philosophy: Some Lessons from Writing about the Philosophy of Cover Songs (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/06/2022 - 5:00pm in

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Music, philosophy

“Aristotle or Kant simply could not have thought about music this way.”

The following is a guest post* by P.D. Magnus, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Albany, State University of New York. It is the third in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.


Light Topics, Real Philosophy:
Some Lessons from Writing about the Philosophy of Cover Songs
by P.D. Magnus

When I announced the release of my book on Twitter, lots of people expressed interest and congratulations. One person commented, “I thought this was a parody … apparently not.” I’m honestly surprised there wasn’t more of that.

The book, A Philosophy of Cover Songs, applies the resources of philosophy to thinking about cover songs. It is, as Justin delicately put it in his invitation to write a guest post, “what some might consider a ‘light’ topic.”

One nice thing about cover versions, as a target for philosophical reflection, is that the concept is only about 75 years old. We consume music mostly through recordings. More than that, we associate songs with particular performers and recordings. Later versions count as covers, and we think of them differently than we think of originals. Aristotle or Kant simply could not have thought about music this way. The ontology of music was different for them, because recording was literally not a thing yet.

Although my own way into this topic is idiosyncratic, I think it offers a couple of lessons for other philosophers thinking about light topics. I didn’t start out to write a book about cover songs. I had written a bit about the ontology of musical works. (“Historical individuals like Anas platyrhynchos and ‘Classical Gas'” was published in 2012.) A bit later, I coauthored a paper on cover songs. (“Judging Covers” appeared in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism in Fall 2013.) I thought more about covers, and in the course of another collaborative paper realized that it I could write something longer. I did not have a bookful of things to say about covers when I first thought about them.

Lesson #1: Philosophical insight about a topic, even a light one, takes time.

I also didn’t do it alone. Although it’s a single-author book, many of the ideas were developed as part of a collaboration. The 2013 paper was written with Christy Mag Uidhir and Cristyn Magnus. When responding to that paper, Andrew Kania refers to us as “the Mags.” (He says, “to save some space!”) A more recent paper was with them plus Ron McClamrock. Although it is changing for the better, there is still sometimes an unreasonable stigma against co-authored work in philosophy.

Lesson #2: Not only does philosophical insight take time, it is best developed cooperatively.

When people learn that I write about cover songs, there are two questions they tend to ask: How do you define “cover”? What are some of your favorite covers?

Regarding definitions: It can be a fun parlor game to consider a boundary case and ask whether it is or is not a cover. Any would-be definition faces legions of counterexamples. One then sets off on rounds of what Imre Lakatos called monster-barring, revising and refining the definition to resolve wave after wave of counterexample. This strategy can always generate philosophical discourse, but it only yields real insight when there is a core category robust enough to survive the process. Lakatos defends monster-barring in mathematics, where the goal is to arrive at a theorem that is actually true. In other cases, precise definitions matter for scientific or legal reasons.

With covers, however, nothing much ultimately depends on whether a particular version is or is not a cover. To take one example that I discuss in the book: Patsy Cline sang the first released recording of “Crazy” after having heard Willie Nelson’s demo record. Her version is usually not considered a cover, although a case could be made for it. Nelson, who wrote the song, later included it on an album of his own. Is Nelson’s version a cover? People I’ve asked are split on the question. Although I can explain the ambivalence, I think it would be a mistake to insist that the category of covers is precise enough—or should be made precise enough—to settle the question.

Covers are a known phenomenon in popular music, so we do not need a definition in order to think more about them. There are valuable distinctions to be made between different kinds of covers, but we don’t need a definition of “cover” in order to make those distinctions. A key distinction is between mimic covers (ones meant to sound just like the original) and rendition covers (ones meant to sound different). A mimic cover is in a way essentially unoriginal. It will not sound exactly like the original, of course, but every divergence is a defect. A rendition cover may be original or unoriginal, depending on the details. It may preserve central features of the original or change them. Where it changes them, the difference can be in the sound, the meaning, or both. When someone says that they hate cover versions, they probably mean mimic covers. And when someone says they love cover versions, they probably mean rendition covers.

Lesson #3: Employ rigor and make distinctions where they are valuable, and not just because you can.

Regarding favorite covers: I’ve listened to a lot of covers in thinking about these issues and in writing this book. Appreciating rendition covers is complicated, because they can be good in different ways. In terms of overall impact and importance, I’d have to say Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Rather than just echo internet lists of The Best Covers Ever, though, I will mention three that stick in my head.

These are catchy, wonderful tracks. I went back and listened to them again when writing this post, and I was happy to hear them again.

R.E.M. recorded “First we take Manhattan” for a Leonard Cohen tribute album. Although it’s a nice bit of songwriting, Cohen’s own version is forgettable. The cover combines Cohen’s lyrics with R.E.M.’s signature sound in a way that is haunting and brilliant.

The Polyphonic Spree performed “Heart of Gold” (originally by Neil Young) for the Onion’s AV Club Undercover. The orchestration replaces Young’s harmonica with a brass section. It’s impressive enough that there’s now a spectral absence of horns in every other version I hear.

They Might Be Giants performed “Tubthumping” (originally by Chumba Wumba) for the AV Club. The cover brings in the whole Onion office staff to sing the chorus. The result is pure chaotic joy.

Lesson #4: A bonus of writing on the topic is that listening to music counts as research time.

A Philosophy of Cover Songs is out now from Open Book Publishers. The book is open access, so you can read it on-line or download a PDF for free.

Discussion welcome—and feel free to share your favorite covers in the comments.

“You Are Watching the Power of Music Changing Brain Chemistry”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

Tags 

Health, aging, Health, Music

This story originally appeared in Rotary magazine, the official publication of Rotary International, a service organization with 1.4 million members around the world. For more information, visit Rotary.org.

Carol Rosenstein was watching her husband, Irwin, slip away inch by inch. At one time he had been a brilliant lawyer, a lover of Broadway musicals, a world traveler. But after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2006, he developed dementia, and slowly everything changed. His gait flattened to a shuffle. The sparkle in his eyes turned into a blank stare. His mood soured. Worsening matters, the medications he took caused hallucinations and extreme agitation. As communication grew more challenging, Carol felt the distance between them growing.

Irwin and Carol Rosenstein

Then, in 2014, something happened. Irwin, who had been a gifted pianist since childhood, sat down at the piano and began to play.  As his fingers floated through American classics like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “Try to Remember,” Carol saw his posture straighten. The sparkle returned to his eyes. The husband she once knew came back, bit by bit, if only briefly. “I could see this human being resurrect and start to reconnect with his environment,” she says, “just like I had given him a dose of medication.” 

Mystified, she called his neurologist and asked what was happening. “He said, ‘Carol, you are watching the power of music, changing brain chemistry.’” 

That statement would go on to change not only their lives but the lives of countless others.

Music, it turns out, is medicine for the mind.

While it’s tempting to search for a woo-woo reason why music resonates with us so deeply, it’s not necessary. For people like Concetta Tomaino, the effects can be explained by science and logic — even if there’s still a lot to learn. “I think I went past that magical, mysterious piece a long time ago,” she laughs. Tomaino is one of the pioneers in this area; she has been researching how music affects all aspects of neurologic function for more than 40 years. To her, the impact of music on the mind and body demonstrates how much of our makeup as human beings is based on rhythm, resonance, and perception, all of which connect us in a fundamental way to who we are. “Everything in the world is a vibration of some kind,” she says. “Music is an extension of who we are, and that’s why it helps us reach people who seem to be disconnected because of illness or a traumatic brain injury.”

oliver sacksOliver Sacks in 2009. Credit: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Tomaino spent decades as a music therapist, pursuing evidence-based research around music and the brain before volumes of such literature existed. In 1980, she began working at Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Center) in the Bronx, New York, where she first met the consulting neurologist Oliver Sacks. By then Sacks had already written Awakenings, an autobiographical book (and later a movie) about a group of encephalitis lethargica patients frozen in trancelike states, whom he “awakened” using a new drug, along with music.

Like Tomaino, Sacks was extremely interested in understanding more about the potential impact of music on patients. In 1995, the two co-founded the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, where Tomaino remains the executive director, to better understand the ways that music helps people with neurological problems to move better and remember more.

Sacks, a legend who wrote many books on his patients’ neurological experiences, including Musicophilia, which delves into the effects of music, passed away in 2015. His words on the topic remain as evocative and poetic today as when he spoke them in 1991 before the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging: “Though the nervous system is sometimes compared to a computer, I think it is much more like an orchestra or a symphony. I think we are musical through and through, from the lowest levels of rhythm in our nerve cells to the highest levels. There is a vast range of neurological disorders in which this inner music is impaired, and all of these can be transformed by the healing power of music.”

“Though the nervous system is sometimes compared to a computer, I think it is much more like an orchestra or a symphony.”

Music has a way of worming into the brain, whether it’s jingles you can’t forget or songs that really resonate. They’re tied to strong, emotional moments and experiences in your own autobiography. And they’re not just stored in one area of the brain. Rather, Tomaino says they’re ingrained in the more fundamental mechanisms of brain processing. In other words, the music that we love actually becomes a part of who we are. 

Because of that, when we hear those old, meaningful tunes even a half-century later, they stimulate multiple areas and networks of the brain — including areas that are relatively unharmed by a disease like dementia — and those long-ago memories resurface. That’s why a person with memory impairment may not recall their daughter’s name but may remember all the lyrics to her favorite lullaby. “It’s pulling from emotions, it’s pulling from feelings, it’s pulling from interpersonal associations, it’s pulling from a date or time or period of one’s life — historical things,” Tomaino says. Music serves as a clue, coaxing the brain to fill in the blanks. 

After her call with the neurologist, Carol Rosenstein began to wonder: If music could help her husband return to himself, even briefly, what could it do for others? She grabbed her Rolodex, told Irwin’s story to her friends in L.A., and invited other “like-minded” people to a night of making music together at a studio space in a private school.

About 30 people showed up. While most of them made small talk, Irwin and three other men, all of whom had neurological conditions, made a beeline for different instruments. A man with Parkinson’s sat at the drums. Another, with Alzheimer’s, settled in at the piano. A third, who no longer spoke, pulled a harmonica out of the breast pocket of his jacket. Irwin gravitated toward the saxophone, an instrument he had played in his college marching band. They didn’t converse, and they didn’t need to. As they started to play, music became their shared language.

“These four strangers became like soulmates in a sandbox,” Carol recalls. “Instead of buckets, shovels, and spades, they had musical instruments, and this was their second childhood. They found each other, they used the music, they bonded.”

Credit: Music Mends Minds

Since its humble beginnings in 2014, Music Mends Minds has expanded with more than 20 bands around the globe.

Carol was so eager to keep the quartet’s energy going that she formed a band, called The 5th Dementia, and launched a nonprofit called Music Mends Minds. The band’s “core four” grew to more than two dozen members and met regularly at Brentwood Presbyterian Church. Local and then national media got wind of it, and, in 2015, a story about The 5th Dementia aired on PBS NewsHour. 

Since its humble beginnings in 2014, Music Mends Minds has expanded with more than 20 bands around the globe. (Most of the bands are now meeting virtually because of the pandemic, and are led by a music therapist.) In 2018, CNN named Carol one of its CNN Heroes. 

A band student participates in The 5th Dementia flagship band’s intergenerational platform. Credit: Music Mends Minds

Carol Rosenstein saw more and more scenes that reinforced the power of music: people who couldn’t remember their own names crooning Frank Sinatra; men and women who barely talked, playing instruments; older adults pushing aside their walkers to dance. She also learned more about the science behind it, thanks to such academics as Michael Thaut, a professor of music and neuroscience at the University of Toronto who is now on the advisory board of Music Mends Minds. Thaut has been researching how music affects the brains of people with Alzheimer’s in hopes of pinpointing ways to improve their lives. He says that scientists aren’t sure what causes Alzheimer’s, which is the most common type of dementia, and that while medications may treat some symptoms, there is no cure.

When a person has Alzheimer’s, the proteins in their brain don’t function normally, and that leads to the death of brain cells. A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may forget words or repeat questions. In the end stages, they may experience delusions and forget how to do even the most basic tasks, like eating or walking. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. By 2060, that number is expected to nearly triple. 

In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2021, Thaut and other researchers set out to see what happens in the brain when a person with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease listens to their favorite playlist for an hour every day for three weeks. At the beginning and end of the study, the 14 participants had brain scans and took neuropsychological tests that involved memory exercises.

“When you drive these networks on a regular basis, you exercise those networks, and then the connectivity within these networks becomes stronger again.”

To Thaut’s surprise, at the end of the trial the participants showed a small but statistically significant improvement in memory — something that is extremely unusual in people with Alzheimer’s or any type of dementia. Close examination of the brain scans revealed visible changes. Most notably, Thaut saw that measurable new connections had formed between different regions of the brain — highways, if you will, that actually changed brain plasticity and also improved function in relaying information. Thaut says the research shows that while music is in no way a cure for Alzheimer’s, it can provide a “cognitive boost.” 

But not all music has the same impact. In another study published in 2020, Thaut and his colleagues compared brain activation when study participants listened to two different types of music: music that dated back at least 25 years, and music that was new to them. What they found was that the different types of music activated different parts of the brain. With new music, brain activity appears limited to mostly auditory processing, but not deep processing. Familiar music, however, stimulated more regions more significantly in a way that is deeply encoded in the brain. Those regions are associated with emotion, cognition, and autobiographical memory, and are minimally affected by early-stage Alzheimer’s. “This is one of the reasons, possibly, that some musical memories are preserved, because they’re encoded in such widely distributed regions,” Thaut says. “So the chance that some of the regions associated with music-based memories are preserved is just higher.”

While the “why” of it all isn’t yet fully known, Thaut says that mood and memory are closely connected, and networks of memories can become connected to mood “nodes.” He describes it as a kind of classical conditioning: You hear a certain song that was important in your past and you automatically think of a certain time or event connected to the music. When you listen to that music more frequently, it’s like a cognitive workout for the brain. “When you drive these networks on a regular basis,” Thaut says, “you exercise those networks, and then the connectivity within these networks becomes stronger again.” 

He was like a corpse under his blankets. Then his arms would start to come out of the covers, his knees would start to lift, and before you knew it, he was dancing with me.

When those who live with and care for people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s seek out music and musical groups to help their loved ones, they often find the experience benefits them, too. And there’s research to support that. 

For decades, Mary Mittelman, an epidemiologist who works at New York University as a researcher in the department of psychiatry, has been developing and studying social and psychological methods to help people with cognitive impairment and their family members. In 2011, curious about the impact of music, she started her own chorus, called The Unforgettables, to investigate what rehearsing and performing in a concert could do for participants. The initial chorus consisted of 22 people — 11 had memory impairment and 11 were their family caregivers. Mittelman’s published findings documented improvements in quality of life and communication not just for those with memory impairment but also for caregivers, who reported improved social support and self-esteem thanks to the chorus.

Anecdotes shared by the choral conductors stand out in Mittelman’s report. They saw couples holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes, “as though they were first dating.” They would joke around. Song lyrics would bring back memories and spark conversations. Beyond those observations, Mittelman remembers watching transformations among participants: Some would arrive grunting, agitated. They would leave speaking in full sentences, calm.

Irwin Rosenstein passed away in January 2021, 15 years after his diagnosis and seven years after rediscovering music. In those final days, Carol recalls, he could no longer speak and could not leave his bed or a wheelchair. His smile was a memory. He would look at his wife with a gaze that she refers to as the “Parkinson’s stare.” 

Unless, that is, there was music. 

All the way until the end, Carol made rhythm a part of their lives. As Irwin lay in bed, she would pick up two little egg-shaped shakers and play music and dance in front of him. “He was like a corpse under his blankets. Then his arms would start to come out of the covers, his knees would start to lift, and before you knew it, he was dancing with me,” she says, smiling through her tears. “That’s how we said goodbye, because his brain was so connected to the rhythm of the music when everything else was gone.”

Music could bring Irwin back to the moment, back to himself. It also brought him back to Carol. “It is painful to watch your beloved slip away inch by inch,” she says. “And if it weren’t for the music, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. As a caregiver and first responder, I can tell you, I would have never survived the journey.”

The post “You Are Watching the Power of Music Changing Brain Chemistry” appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Presentation to Economic Society of Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 5:20pm in

It’s Wednesday and I just finished a ‘Conversation’ with the Economics Society of Australia, where I talked about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to current policy issues. Some of the questions were excellent and challenging to answer, which is the best way. You can view an edited version of the discussion below and then enjoy The Meters.

Economic Society Presentation – May 25, 2022

Here is an edited version of the discussion including the Q&A section. The whole session ran for 52 minutes including introductions etc.

The production quality – resolution, sound, etc – is not the best because it was taken of a Zoom recording on low resolution. The video was created by the organiser – the Economic Society of Australia.

I did what I could to enhance the quality of this edited version – at times you will not cuts which corresponded sometimes to degraded audio.

Thanks to Belinda and Diane for their work in organising this.

Inflation may be peaking in Europe

There was also some consternation about the annual Euro area negotiated wage growth for the first-quarter which rose to 2.8 per cent.

The usual Pavlov reaction from mainstream economists was that it signalled a need for the ECB to intervene quickly and scrap its asset purchasing program and start hiking rates.

They should have read the latest – Deutsche Bundesbank Monthly Report – for May 2022 (in German).

In the opening chapter – Die Wirtschaftslage in Deutschland im Frühjahr 2022 (the economic situation in Germany for Spring 2022) – we read:

1. “Der deutsche Arbeitsmarkt entwickelte sich im ersten Vierteljahr 2022 ausgesprochen günstig” (German labour market is evolving well in the first quarter 2022).

2. “Damit kehrten jedoch auch die Engpässe von Arbeitskräften aus Vor-krisenzeiten zurück” (But the pre-crisis labour shortages returned) – why? because of Omicron (workers getting sick) and the Russian invasion.

3. “Die Tarifverdienste stiegen im Winter 2022 deutlich stärker als im Herbst 2021. Sie erhöhten sich gegenüber dem Vorjahr um 4,4%, maßgeblich wegen hoher Sonderzahlungen und Corona-Prämien. Die um solche Sonderzahlungen bereinigten Grundvergütungen legten hingegen lediglich um 1,6 % zu. Die Effektivverdienste dürften im ersten Quartal vor allem aufgrund im Vorjahresvergleich spürbar niedrigerer Kurzarbeit noch kräftiger gestiegen sein als die Tarifverdienste”

This is the important part – summarising – Winter 2022 negotiated wages rose more sharply than Autumn 2021 – 4.4 per cent annual.

Why?

“mainly as a result of high one-off payments and coronavirus bonuses”

“By contrast, after adjustment for such one-off payments, basic remuneration was up by only 1.6%.”

So once we take out this one-off boost in Germany, the Euro wide area negotiated wages outcome is likely to be around 2 per cent for the year – which I don’t need to remind anyone is very low and not pushing the inflation rate.

Further, the latest – Flash Euro PMI – came out yesterday (May 24, 2022), which provides a very current indication of what is going on.

The headline read in part “Cost pressures ease for the second month”.

Among other quotes:

1. “Factory output continued to be constrained by widespread supply shortages, with the Ukraine war and China’s lockdowns having exacerbated existing pandemic-related supply chain pressures.”

2. “Slightly slower rates of inflation were seen for both goods and services, principally reflecting the slower growth of costs recorded during the month.”

3. “there are signs that inflationary pressures could be peaking, with input cost inflation down for a second successive month and supply constraints starting to be less widely reported”.

The takeaway?

Transitory.

Once all these supply disruptions dissipate, inflation will fall rapidly.

Tragic farce of all time

Republican politicians in the US sending the victims of gun violence – including massacres of children – their ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Just ban the f**k**g guns!

Without the guns there can be no mass shootings.

Levy Summer Seminar 2022

I will be presenting in several sessions at the – Levy Institute 2022 Summer Seminar – which runs from June 11-18, 2022.

If you are interested in attending (I am not sure whether spaces remain) you can find details at the site.

This will be my first international flight since February 2020 and I have a good stock of masks at hand.

It will be great to reconnect in person with some of my MMT mates in the US and to talk MMT with those who seek to learn more.

Music – The Meters

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

One of the best funk bands of the 1970s was – The Meters – and they remain one of my favourites on my regular play list.

This track – Ain’t no use – is on their fifth studio album – Rejuvenation – which was released in 1973 and is a classic of its type.

I remember the day I purchased this album sometime in 1975.

You here their lines in so many records since such was the influence of this band.

The guitarist – Leo Nocentelli – has it down for sure.

All that syncopation drives a person crazy with delight.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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