Tag Archives: Music

Feel the beat: deaf fans fight for access to live music

Growing up among the reggae soundsystems and pirate radio stations of 1980s Hackney, Troi Lee was surrounded by music, “speakers on the street corners blaring”. After getting a Walkman for his 14th birthday, he would wander through his neighbourhood playing songs by Public Enemy on repeat: “It was pure joy,” he says. This passion led Lee to follow in the footsteps of his cousin John and become a DJ. It’s a common enough path – except that Lee was born severely deaf.

Deaf Rave founder Troi Lee.
Deaf Rave founder Troi Lee. Photograph: Vaya Media

With his hearing aids on the telecoil setting, he could hear certain frequencies of his Walkman – the bass vibrations from the percussion and glimpses of lyrics – through a magnetic wireless signal. When DJing, Lee, now 44, uses digital software to visualise the instrumental elements that he mixes together. “We need to reverse the myth that deaf people can’t enjoy music,” Lee says. “I don’t let my deafness affect me. I want to show the world that deaf people can play music just as well as our hearing peers.”

The idea that deafness impedes the appreciation of music is gradually being debunked. In 2013, sign language interpreter Amber Galloway Gallego went viral in the US for her animated performance for rapper Kendrick Lamar at the Lollapalooza festival. Rather than merely signing the words, she embodies musical textures with her face and movements, showcasing a unique technique that she describes as “showing the density of sounds visually”. To represent bass, she places her arms in front of the lower part of her body and inflates her face, replicating the sign for “fat”, while higher frequencies are placed at head height and above. After her performance, US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took notice, inviting her and fellow interpreters Holly Maniatty and JoAnn Benfield on his show for a “sign language rap battle” in 2014.

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Amber Galloway Gallego signing for Kendrick Lamar at Lollapalooza festival, 2013 – video

Despite some progress, a report by accessibility charity Attitude Is Everything recently stated that in the UK over 80% of deaf and disabled music fans have experienced problems when booking tickets to live music events. The UK’s live music census in February also found that only 30% of surveyed venues have dedicated disabled-access areas and only 7% of surveyed promoters have a policy to provide PA (personal assistant for deaf and disabled customers) tickets as standard. Yet it’s estimated that more than 3.3m deaf and disabled fans attend live music events every year, with a 70% rise in disabled-access ticket sales reported in 2016.

With one in six people suffering from hearing loss in the UK and around one in 1,000 children born profoundly deaf, the lack of accessibility to live music for deaf people is a significant challenge, and deaf fans believe too little is being done to serve their needs. “I don’t go to live shows very often as they’re not that accessible,” says writer Rebecca Withey, who is profoundly deaf. “There is absolutely not enough provision for us, and ironically when some venues do host accessible shows, they don’t promote them well enough for us to find out about them.”

For some fans, difficulties around access can put an end to nights out altogether. “Being ignored by the music industry has made me disengage from live music,” says deaf journalist and film-maker Charlie Swinbourne. Fans say specialist provisions are crucial: interpreting should be as readily available in the UK as it appears to be in the US, says student Liam O’Dell, while Lee believes that “all promoters should allocate a certain number of tickets for deaf and disabled people”.

Clubbers at Troi Lee’s Deaf Rave night.


Clubbers at Troi Lee’s Deaf Rave night. Photograph: Vaya Media

Small steps are being made towards inclusivity: festivals such as Glastonbury and Festival Republic events Reading, Leeds and Latitude all provide BSL interpreting on request. Still, the provision can face obstacles. “When access is permitted it is often done so reluctantly – it is not widely advertised, left unregulated and is often of an inadequate standard,” says Marie Pascall, director of Performance Interpreting, which provides the service for Festival Republic. She describes one instance where “an act refused to have the interpreter on stage, and then refused for the interpreter to sign any of their performance”.

Troi Lee has taken matters into his own hands. In 2003 he founded Deaf Rave, a quarterly event in London designed specifically for deaf clubbers. The inspiration came from his experiences at illegal warehouse parties in the early 1990s, where the speakers amplified the vibrations he had once enjoyed through his Walkman. “It’s something I can’t quite describe,” he says, “the lasers blazing up the place and the biggest soundsystems I have ever seen or felt, shaking the entire warehouse.” From that moment in 1991, he set out to convince the deaf community that clubbing was as much a part of their culture as the hearing world’s. Through heightened bass levels and the use of new technology such as SubPac – a wearable speaker that intensifies vibrations – Lee can make his events immersive.

The organisation celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, but Lee says there is still much to be done. Deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from depression as hearing people. Withey says: “There’s still a huge stigma attached to being a deaf music fan.” Says Lee: “We are one of the most marginalised groups in society, owing to our isolation, unemployment, lack of BSL in mainstream schools and the daily frustrations of communication barriers. We organised Deaf Rave because we have empathy for our community.”

France’s music scene under threat from new restrictions on noise

For years, France fought to move beyond its sleepy image abroad as the quiet heart of fine dining and museums by heavily promoting its growing club scene, festivals and underground music culture.

But now French DJs, club owners and festival bosses are warning the nation’s ability to party is under threat from tough new restrictions on decibels and basslines.

Pioneering DJ Laurent Garnier and Jean-Michel Jarre, the godfather of French electronic pop, are among a group of music figures who have published an appeal in the daily Libération warning that new rules on lowering noise risk silencing performers and killing nightlife.

A public health decree published by the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron in August was designed to help reduce hearing problems linked to loud music at clubs, concerts or festivals. It lowers the maximum sustained sound level by three decibels, to 102, and puts limitations on the volume of the deep basslines found in house, techno or drum’n’bass.

In their open letter, club professionals warned the decree risked curtailing the unique experience that is the French music scene after dark. The rules would “quieten down fun, muzzle music and stop artistic work living in its physical dimension”, the signatories pleaded.

“Public health worries us as much as the next citizen,” they added. “But we fear that artistic freedom is being sacrificed.” They complained that noise restrictions on amplified music were “an attack on the moral rights of performers over their work”.

They argued that powerful basslines that make people want to dance delivered a sensation “just as keenly felt as a beautiful voice is by other music fans”.

The rules are expected to come into force across France next year and will affect festivals and venues with a capacity of more than 300 people. Clubs and venues will be obliged to put up signs warning of risks to hearing from loud music as well as providing free hearing protection such as earplugs. They will also have to create quiet areas where the public can rest their ears from the music or else provide gaps in the music where the decibel level stays at 80 or lower.

Paris, which a decade ago was nicknamed the “city of sleep” for its relatively small club scene, has since seen a surge in venues in the city centre and the northern outskirts and promoters were keen not to hinder their growing success – particularly of small venues.

But music figures said it would be particularly difficult for smaller clubs across France to conform to the new rules.

A spokeswoman for the CSCAD union for music venue-holders and festival organisers told the Guardian: “This is a threat to our whole cultural aesthetic. It threatens works played and performed by artists at festivals and concerts everywhere, all types of music. You can’t ask a drummer to drum ‘softly’ even if they are playing with an orchestra.”

She acknowledged that it would be very difficult to overturn the decree but said dialogue was needed.

“We know there are health issues linked to hearing. That is worrying for the industry and we see younger audiences standing very close to speakers,” she said. “But it’s extremely important that we all sit down and talk through these measures that are almost impossible to apply. Even the fact that the decree mentions the word ‘discotheque’ – that term doesn’t exist anymore. This is going to affect all gigs and night-time music. We want to sit down and think about these problems together.”

French hearing associations estimate that between 6 million to 8 million people – 12-13% of the population – have hearing problems. Specialists say listening to loud music on headphones is the cause of increasing health problems, particularly among young people, while some experts recommend wearing earplugs at concerts or in loud clubs.

Psychopaths prefer rap over classical music, study shows

Researchers studying people’s musical preferences have found that psychopaths prefer listening to rap music and, contrary to the movie trope epitomised by Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, they are no fonder of classical music than anyone else.

In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself rated highly too.

The New York University team behind the work stress that the results are preliminary and unpublished, but the scientists are sufficiently intrigued to launch a major study in which thousands of people across the psychopathy spectrum will be quizzed on their musical tastes.

Tests on a second group of volunteers suggest the songs could help to predict the disorder. Whatever their other personality traits might be, fans of The Knack’s My Sharona and Sia’s Titanium were among the least psychopathic, the study found.

The researchers have a serious goal in mind: if psychopaths have distinct and robust preferences for songs, their playlists could be used to identify them.

“The media portrays psychopaths as axe murderers and serial killers, but the reality is they are not obvious; they are not like The Joker in Batman. They might be working right next to you, and they blend in. They are like psychological dark matter,” said Pascal Wallisch who led the research.

About 1% of the general population meets the description of a psychopath, but the figure is far higher in prisons, where about one in five has the disorder. One estimate, from Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, suggests that psychopaths cost the US government alone $ 460bn (£340bn) a year.

“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm,” said Wallisch. “We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”

Scientists have already found gene variants that are more common in psychopaths, but they are hardly predictive of the disorder. They appear to alter people’s tendencies for empathy and aggression, but they do not determine people’s actions. Brain scans highlight distinct signs too, as the neuroscientist James Fallon discovered when he spotted the patterns of a psychopath in his own brain’s anatomy, but again, these do not set a person’s behaviour. Even if they did, the police cannot search for dangerous individuals by hauling people into brain scanners.

Wallisch recruited volunteers for a study on musical tastes, but realised that many of the participants had separately sat a battery of psychological tests, including one called the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, which ranks people’s psychopathic traits. By combining the volunteers’ answers from the music study with their results from the psychopath test, Wallisch identified songs that seemed to be most popular among psychopaths, and others favoured by non-psychopaths.

While No Diggity and Lose Yourself were strikingly popular with psychopaths, other songs had greater predictive power. Wallisch declined to name them out of concern that doing so might compromise any future screening test.

The larger study will now investigate whether the link between musical tastes and psychopathy is real, and if it is, whether groups of songs can predict potential psychopaths. That could lead to some controversial applications, Wallisch said. If the team can identify a group of 30 songs, for example, that together prove good at predicting psychopaths, then playlists from online music providers could be used to identify them.

“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Wallisch said. “The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.” Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. “This work is very preliminary,” Wallisch added. “This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”

Kevin Dutton, a psychologist at Oxford, and the author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, has been gathering data on musical tastes and other preferences for a psychopath study with Channel 4. More than three million people have responded so far, and while online surveys have serious weaknesses, the results so far suggest psychopaths favour rap music over classical and jazz. They also seem more likely to read the Financial Times than other newspapers.

Regardless of its accuracy, Dutton suspects movie directors like the idea of classical music-loving psychopaths because of the “irresistibly alluring” juxtaposition. “The coming together of the dark, visceral, primeval psychopathic mind and the higher aesthetic of classical composition is inherently incongruous, and there is a whole body of literature on the creative potential of incongruity,” he said. “It is the hypnotically captivating and age-old appeal of the ‘beauty and the beast’, only under the same cortical roof.”

Playlist of the Lambs: psychopaths prefer rap over classical music, study shows

Researchers studying people’s musical preferences have found that psychopaths prefer listening to rap music and, contrary to the movie trope epitomised by Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, they are no fonder of classical music than anyone else.

In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself rated highly too.

The New York University team behind the work stress that the results are preliminary and unpublished, but the scientists are sufficiently intrigued to launch a major study in which thousands of people across the psychopathy spectrum will be quizzed on their musical tastes.

Tests on a second group of volunteers suggest the songs could help to predict the disorder. Whatever their other personality traits might be, fans of The Knack’s My Sharona and Sia’s Titanium were among the least psychopathic, the study found.

The researchers have a serious goal in mind: if psychopaths have distinct and robust preferences for songs, their playlists could be used to identify them.

“The media portrays psychopaths as axe murderers and serial killers, but the reality is they are not obvious; they are not like The Joker in Batman. They might be working right next to you, and they blend in. They are like psychological dark matter,” said Pascal Wallisch who led the research.

About 1% of the general population meets the description of a psychopath, but the figure is far higher in prisons, where about one in five has the disorder. One estimate, from Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, suggests that psychopaths cost the US government alone $ 460bn (£340bn) a year.

“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm,” said Wallisch. “We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”

Scientists have already found gene variants that are more common in psychopaths, but they are hardly predictive of the disorder. They appear to alter people’s tendencies for empathy and aggression, but they do not determine people’s actions. Brain scans highlight distinct signs too, as the neuroscientist James Fallon discovered when he spotted the patterns of a psychopath in his own brain’s anatomy, but again, these do not set a person’s behaviour. Even if they did, the police cannot search for dangerous individuals by hauling people into brain scanners.

Wallisch recruited volunteers for a study on musical tastes, but realised that many of the participants had separately sat a battery of psychological tests, including one called the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, which ranks people’s psychopathic traits. By combining the volunteers’ answers from the music study with their results from the psychopath test, Wallisch identified songs that seemed to be most popular among psychopaths, and others favoured by non-psychopaths.

While No Diggity and Lose Yourself were strikingly popular with psychopaths, other songs had greater predictive power. Wallisch declined to name them out of concern that doing so might compromise any future screening test.

The larger study will now investigate whether the link between musical tastes and psychopathy is real, and if it is, whether groups of songs can predict potential psychopaths. That could lead to some controversial applications, Wallisch said. If the team can identify a group of 30 songs, for example, that together prove good at predicting psychopaths, then playlists from online music providers could be used to identify them.

“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Wallisch said. “The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.” Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. “This work is very preliminary,” Wallisch added. “This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”

Kevin Dutton, a psychologist at Oxford, and the author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, has been gathering data on musical tastes and other preferences for a psychopath study with Channel 4. More than three million people have responded so far, and while online surveys have serious weaknesses, the results so far suggest psychopaths favour rap music over classical and jazz. They also seem more likely to read the Financial Times than other newspapers.

Regardless of its accuracy, Dutton suspects movie directors like the idea of classical music-loving psychopaths because of the “irresistibly alluring” juxtaposition. “The coming together of the dark, visceral, primeval psychopathic mind and the higher aesthetic of classical composition is inherently incongruous, and there is a whole body of literature on the creative potential of incongruity,” he said. “It is the hypnotically captivating and age-old appeal of the ‘beauty and the beast’, only under the same cortical roof.”

Playlist of the Lambs: psychopaths prefer rap over classical music, study shows

Researchers studying people’s musical preferences have found that psychopaths prefer listening to rap music and, contrary to the movie trope epitomised by Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, they are no fonder of classical music than anyone else.

In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself rated highly too.

The New York University team behind the work stress that the results are preliminary and unpublished, but the scientists are sufficiently intrigued to launch a major study in which thousands of people across the psychopathy spectrum will be quizzed on their musical tastes.

Tests on a second group of volunteers suggest the songs could help to predict the disorder. Whatever their other personality traits might be, fans of The Knack’s My Sharona and Sia’s Titanium were among the least psychopathic, the study found.

The researchers have a serious goal in mind: if psychopaths have distinct and robust preferences for songs, their playlists could be used to identify them.

“The media portrays psychopaths as axe murderers and serial killers, but the reality is they are not obvious; they are not like The Joker in Batman. They might be working right next to you, and they blend in. They are like psychological dark matter,” said Pascal Wallisch who led the research.

About 1% of the general population meets the description of a psychopath, but the figure is far higher in prisons, where about one in five has the disorder. One estimate, from Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, suggests that psychopaths cost the US government alone $ 460bn (£340bn) a year.

“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm,” said Wallisch. “We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”

Scientists have already found gene variants that are more common in psychopaths, but they are hardly predictive of the disorder. They appear to alter people’s tendencies for empathy and aggression, but they do not determine people’s actions. Brain scans highlight distinct signs too, as the neuroscientist James Fallon discovered when he spotted the patterns of a psychopath in his own brain’s anatomy, but again, these do not set a person’s behaviour. Even if they did, the police cannot search for dangerous individuals by hauling people into brain scanners.

Wallisch recruited volunteers for a study on musical tastes, but realised that many of the participants had separately sat a battery of psychological tests, including one called the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, which ranks people’s psychopathic traits. By combining the volunteers’ answers from the music study with their results from the psychopath test, Wallisch identified songs that seemed to be most popular among psychopaths, and others favoured by non-psychopaths.

While No Diggity and Lose Yourself were strikingly popular with psychopaths, other songs had greater predictive power. Wallisch declined to name them out of concern that doing so might compromise any future screening test.

The larger study will now investigate whether the link between musical tastes and psychopathy is real, and if it is, whether groups of songs can predict potential psychopaths. That could lead to some controversial applications, Wallisch said. If the team can identify a group of 30 songs, for example, that together prove good at predicting psychopaths, then playlists from online music providers could be used to identify them.

“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Wallisch said. “The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.” Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. “This work is very preliminary,” Wallisch added. “This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”

Kevin Dutton, a psychologist at Oxford, and the author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, has been gathering data on musical tastes and other preferences for a psychopath study with Channel 4. More than three million people have responded so far, and while online surveys have serious weaknesses, the results so far suggest psychopaths favour rap music over classical and jazz. They also seem more likely to read the Financial Times than other newspapers.

Regardless of its accuracy, Dutton suspects movie directors like the idea of classical music-loving psychopaths because of the “irresistibly alluring” juxtaposition. “The coming together of the dark, visceral, primeval psychopathic mind and the higher aesthetic of classical composition is inherently incongruous, and there is a whole body of literature on the creative potential of incongruity,” he said. “It is the hypnotically captivating and age-old appeal of the ‘beauty and the beast’, only under the same cortical roof.”

Music and poetry aren’t luxuries: they literally saved my life | Sam Walker

I’ve suffered from severe anxiety and depression since the age of 20. I tried again and again with many approaches to fight back against mental illness: therapy and exercise; cognitive behavioural therapy; medication; trying to be more open with the people closest to me. All of these things helped in different ways but they didn’t completely fix me.

Towards the end of my 20s I couldn’t cope. On numerous occasions I fantasised about taking my own life. I was in a lot of pain but it was a pain that nobody else could see, so it didn’t feel justifiable to me. It didn’t feel like it should have been there.

In my darkest time, I made a decision that I had one last thing to try – and that was to stop hiding. I couldn’t keep up this double life, portraying happiness to everybody. It started with a poem. I found that putting my thoughts and feelings into poetry somehow made them easier to say.

When I’d written poetry previously, I didn’t feel that I could share it as it was still too exposing for me, but this time, as a last attempt, I did something terrifying that later turned out to be absolutely necessary for me. I filmed myself performing the poem and posted it online.

The response I got turned out to be life-changing. It transformed how I saw everything that was happening to me because for the first time I was showing that I wasn’t afraid to talk about it. That was the biggest step I’d taken.

Poetry then turned into music when I realised that these words could be lyrics. That became my next weapon in the battle against depression. When I write a song like Smile All the Time, I’m able to be far more honest than I would be if I was in a general conversation. When I perform as Samantics, I release so much energy that it becomes very cathartic. I’ve experienced huge benefits from both writing and performing.

Since that first video went live, I’ve been contacted by so many people thanking me for saying what they feel yet couldn’t bring themselves to say. That gives me a purpose and makes me feel happy to be me, which is rare. I’ve been told that I’ve helped explain something that somebody didn’t fully understand before. Music has a way of reaching people without being intrusive – I feel that’s especially important when supporting young people through mental illness.

Medication and therapy can be helpful for some but for many young people who are struggling to express themselves and end up bottling their emotions, music and poetry offer hope, something to hold on to, plus a new focus with new methods of release. It’s something that they can keep coming back to as a positive anchor, something that doesn’t trigger worry around potential side effects or cost, and that can be a source of connection and community with other people.

That’s why I believe healthcare professionals, clinicians and commissioners need to listen to young people’s voices when shaping services and open up to the health and wellbeing benefits that the arts can bring. For me, music and poetry haven’t been some kind of nicety or luxury add-on, they literally saved my life. If our health services could embrace the opportunities presented by creative activities like writing, music-making and performing, they could save other people’s lives too.

Samantics contributed to the all-party parliamentary group on arts, health and wellbeing’s inquiry report, Creative Health, released tomorrow. It recommendsthat arts on prescription in the NHS into their commissioning plans and to redesign care pathways where appropriate. Also, that Healthwatch, the Patients Association and other representative organisations, along with arts and cultural providers, work with patients and service users to advocate the health and wellbeing benefits of arts engagement to health and social care professionals and the wider public.

Music and poetry aren’t luxuries: they literally saved my life | Sam Walker

I’ve suffered from severe anxiety and depression since the age of 20. I tried again and again with many approaches to fight back against mental illness: therapy and exercise; cognitive behavioural therapy; medication; trying to be more open with the people closest to me. All of these things helped in different ways but they didn’t completely fix me.

Towards the end of my 20s I couldn’t cope. On numerous occasions I fantasised about taking my own life. I was in a lot of pain but it was a pain that nobody else could see, so it didn’t feel justifiable to me. It didn’t feel like it should have been there.

In my darkest time, I made a decision that I had one last thing to try – and that was to stop hiding. I couldn’t keep up this double life, portraying happiness to everybody. It started with a poem. I found that putting my thoughts and feelings into poetry somehow made them easier to say.

When I’d written poetry previously, I didn’t feel that I could share it as it was still too exposing for me, but this time, as a last attempt, I did something terrifying that later turned out to be absolutely necessary for me. I filmed myself performing the poem and posted it online.

The response I got turned out to be life-changing. It transformed how I saw everything that was happening to me because for the first time I was showing that I wasn’t afraid to talk about it. That was the biggest step I’d taken.

Poetry then turned into music when I realised that these words could be lyrics. That became my next weapon in the battle against depression. When I write a song like Smile All the Time, I’m able to be far more honest than I would be if I was in a general conversation. When I perform as Samantics, I release so much energy that it becomes very cathartic. I’ve experienced huge benefits from both writing and performing.

Since that first video went live, I’ve been contacted by so many people thanking me for saying what they feel yet couldn’t bring themselves to say. That gives me a purpose and makes me feel happy to be me, which is rare. I’ve been told that I’ve helped explain something that somebody didn’t fully understand before. Music has a way of reaching people without being intrusive – I feel that’s especially important when supporting young people through mental illness.

Medication and therapy can be helpful for some but for many young people who are struggling to express themselves and end up bottling their emotions, music and poetry offer hope, something to hold on to, plus a new focus with new methods of release. It’s something that they can keep coming back to as a positive anchor, something that doesn’t trigger worry around potential side effects or cost, and that can be a source of connection and community with other people.

That’s why I believe healthcare professionals, clinicians and commissioners need to listen to young people’s voices when shaping services and open up to the health and wellbeing benefits that the arts can bring. For me, music and poetry haven’t been some kind of nicety or luxury add-on, they literally saved my life. If our health services could embrace the opportunities presented by creative activities like writing, music-making and performing, they could save other people’s lives too.

Samantics contributed to the all-party parliamentary group on arts, health and wellbeing’s inquiry report, Creative Health, released tomorrow. It recommendsthat arts on prescription in the NHS into their commissioning plans and to redesign care pathways where appropriate. Also, that Healthwatch, the Patients Association and other representative organisations, along with arts and cultural providers, work with patients and service users to advocate the health and wellbeing benefits of arts engagement to health and social care professionals and the wider public.

Nazneen Rahman: ‘Science and music are mediums in which I create’

I’ve had an exciting and unusual few weeks. My group published a scientific paper revealing a new genetic cause of a childhood kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumour. This discovery has been of immediate benefit to families, providing an explanation for why their child got cancer, and information about cancer risks for other family members. During the same period, I also released my second album of original songs, called Answers No Questions. On one day, I found myself singing live on Radio London in the morning and talking genetics to the World Service in the evening.

Over the past few weeks, I have found it increasingly difficult to know quite how to answer the ubiquitous question – what do you do?

For most of my adult life, I have replied: “I’m a scientist and a doctor.” It is an accurate description. I am professor of human genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and head of cancer genetics at the Royal Marsden Hospital. For 20 years, my work has focused on identifying gene mutations that predispose us to getting cancer and then using that information to help patients and their families.

But I am also a singer-songwriter. This is a smaller activity than my science, but far more than hobby. I release music that people pay good money to experience.

As my music has become better known, more and more people have asked me about my unusual career combination. Dubiously, admiringly, wistfully, jealously, but most often simply because they are intrigued by the motivations and the practicalities.

This has forced me to consider how, if at all, these parts of my life are related. At first, I was adamant they were distinct facets of my character. I railed against modern society’s pervasive need to simplify and pigeon-hole the human spirit. Most people have multiple passions and drivers. I am fascinated by these subterranean pursuits. One of the joys of sharing my previously secret musical existence (it’s not been all joy – but that’s another column) is that many scientists now share their secret passions with me – pot throwing, flugel playing, novelty cakemaking, fire eating – scientists are as wondrously idiosyncratic in their appetites as the rest of society.

Nazneen Rahman on stage


Nazneen Rahman on stage

I also rail against the cliche that people are drawn to science and music because they both have a mathematical basis. It may be true for some, but it has no relevance to my passion for music. I was singing complex harmonies to pop songs long before I learned the theory of music. I am an intuitive, emotional, spontaneous songwriter with little idea of the key, notes or time I am composing in – until I have to write it down. There is little science in my music, but I have come to believe there may be music in my science. There is a kinship in how I do science and how I make music that flouts the division of science and the arts that our education system promotes.

My branch of science is genetics. Genetics is underpinned by a simple four-letter DNA code (designated by A, C, G, T). This code dictates how our bodies work. And how they can fail. This beautiful code is framed, shaped, constrained and enhanced by a multitudinous orchestra of associates that determine when, how, where, how long and how strong different parts of the code are played in each of our 30tn cells. DNA is also extraordinary in being able to copy itself with unbelievable accuracy while retaining the ability to mutate and evolve. The sophisticated controls and balances are breathtaking in their elegance. Our recent childhood cancer gene discovery revealed some insights into these control mechanisms and how cancer can occur if they go wrong. Studying genetics provides an endless variety of patterns to unravel, problems to solve, questions to answer. Gratifyingly, it also provides endless opportunities to bring benefits to humanity. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of genetic questions that excite me.

Music is underpinned by a simple 12-letter note code (designated by C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B). These notes can be layered in almost infinite ways to produce music. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of music to write. My challenge has never been about finding the time to write songs, it has always been about finding the time to not lose songs. Snippets of music and lyrics are my constant companions. Most disappear into the clouds like lost balloons. But every now and again, I reach up, grab a string and tie one down, just before it is lost for ever.

Science and music make me feel like I’m swimming in infinity pools of possibility, but within structures that keep me from drowning. The potential and expectation to keep delivering new things can be daunting to scientists and artists. The DNA code in genetics and the note code in music are my lifelines. They let me be audacious and unfettered. They give me confidence to dive in, even when I can’t see the shore on the other side.

And the practicalities of delivering science and music are quite similar for me. Science is typically funded as three- to five-year projects. For example, I am currently leading a £4m collaborative programme, called the Transforming Genetic Medicine Initiative, which is building the knowledge base, tools and processes needed to deliver genetic medicine. To get science funding, you need to present, in great detail, a persuasive, innovative concept that seems worthwhile and feasible. But once you receive the funding there is considerable creative licence to alter the project, within the overall concept, because science is fast moving. You cannot predict everything you will do at the cutting-edge of knowledge, five years in advance.

My albums have also had three-year lifespans, though I didn’t plan it that way. I don’t plan them at all. My songs tend to be stories about the complexities of everyday life, inspired by words, subjects or images that briefly, randomly, ensnare me. I don’t know what the songs will be about before I write them. There is no overall concept for the albums, at least not consciously. And yet I see now that each album had a central theme that wasn’t apparent to me when I was writing them. Can’t Clip My Wings, which I released in 2014, includes songs about how we adapt to loss. Lost loves, lost lives, lost dreams. My new album, Answers No Questions, includes songs about choice – the complexities, burdens, excitement, pain and joys of making choices.

[embedded content]
Watch the video for Everything Must Change by Nazneen Rahman.

As I am writing this, I wonder if I am forcing these connections, if they are a post-hoc construct that allows me to give a more pleasing answer to why I am both scientist and songwriter. But I have truly come to believe that, in me, science and music are different manifestations of the same need. A central deep desire to create new things – elegant, beautiful, new things. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a scientific discovery, a clinic protocol that makes things easier for patients or a song that tells a human story from a fresh perspective. When it works it feels amazing. Even when it doesn’t work, the journey is always paved with nuggets of enlightenment that feed into future creations.

So what do I do?

I think, at my core, I am a creative, though it would be perplexing to many if I started to describe myself this way. Science and music are the mediums in which I happen to create, undoubtedly an unusual combination. But maybe only because we are relentlessly conditioned, from an early age, to believe we must choose whether we are in the science or the arts camp. People from the “arts camp” routinely tell me they were hopeless at science, sometimes apologetically, sometimes as a badge of honour, a mark of their creativity. Likewise, scientists worry that any proficiency in creativity might be interpreted as a deficiency in objectivity, the bedrock of science. It seems our society has lapsed into considering activity in the sciences and the arts a zero-sum game. It is not.

What would happen if we stopped constraining ourselves and our children in this way? If we embraced and fostered fluid boundaries between the sciences and the arts? If many more people were able to cross freely in and out of both worlds, successfully and unapologetically?

I believe science, art, individuals and society would reap countless benefits.

Answers No Questions is out now; nazneenrahman.com

Nazneen Rahman: ‘Science and music are mediums in which I create’

I’ve had an exciting and unusual few weeks. My group published a scientific paper revealing a new genetic cause of a childhood kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumour. This discovery has been of immediate benefit to families, providing an explanation for why their child got cancer, and information about cancer risks for other family members. During the same period, I also released my second album of original songs, called Answers No Questions. On one day, I found myself singing live on Radio London in the morning and talking genetics to the World Service in the evening.

Over the past few weeks, I have found it increasingly difficult to know quite how to answer the ubiquitous question – what do you do?

For most of my adult life, I have replied: “I’m a scientist and a doctor.” It is an accurate description. I am professor of human genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and head of cancer genetics at the Royal Marsden Hospital. For 20 years, my work has focused on identifying gene mutations that predispose us to getting cancer and then using that information to help patients and their families.

But I am also a singer-songwriter. This is a smaller activity than my science, but far more than hobby. I release music that people pay good money to experience.

As my music has become better known, more and more people have asked me about my unusual career combination. Dubiously, admiringly, wistfully, jealously, but most often simply because they are intrigued by the motivations and the practicalities.

This has forced me to consider how, if at all, these parts of my life are related. At first, I was adamant they were distinct facets of my character. I railed against modern society’s pervasive need to simplify and pigeon-hole the human spirit. Most people have multiple passions and drivers. I am fascinated by these subterranean pursuits. One of the joys of sharing my previously secret musical existence (it’s not been all joy – but that’s another column) is that many scientists now share their secret passions with me – pot throwing, flugel playing, novelty cakemaking, fire eating – scientists are as wondrously idiosyncratic in their appetites as the rest of society.

Nazneen Rahman on stage


Nazneen Rahman on stage

I also rail against the cliche that people are drawn to science and music because they both have a mathematical basis. It may be true for some, but it has no relevance to my passion for music. I was singing complex harmonies to pop songs long before I learned the theory of music. I am an intuitive, emotional, spontaneous songwriter with little idea of the key, notes or time I am composing in – until I have to write it down. There is little science in my music, but I have come to believe there may be music in my science. There is a kinship in how I do science and how I make music that flouts the division of science and the arts that our education system promotes.

My branch of science is genetics. Genetics is underpinned by a simple four-letter DNA code (designated by A, C, G, T). This code dictates how our bodies work. And how they can fail. This beautiful code is framed, shaped, constrained and enhanced by a multitudinous orchestra of associates that determine when, how, where, how long and how strong different parts of the code are played in each of our 30tn cells. DNA is also extraordinary in being able to copy itself with unbelievable accuracy while retaining the ability to mutate and evolve. The sophisticated controls and balances are breathtaking in their elegance. Our recent childhood cancer gene discovery revealed some insights into these control mechanisms and how cancer can occur if they go wrong. Studying genetics provides an endless variety of patterns to unravel, problems to solve, questions to answer. Gratifyingly, it also provides endless opportunities to bring benefits to humanity. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of genetic questions that excite me.

Music is underpinned by a simple 12-letter note code (designated by C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B). These notes can be layered in almost infinite ways to produce music. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of music to write. My challenge has never been about finding the time to write songs, it has always been about finding the time to not lose songs. Snippets of music and lyrics are my constant companions. Most disappear into the clouds like lost balloons. But every now and again, I reach up, grab a string and tie one down, just before it is lost for ever.

Science and music make me feel like I’m swimming in infinity pools of possibility, but within structures that keep me from drowning. The potential and expectation to keep delivering new things can be daunting to scientists and artists. The DNA code in genetics and the note code in music are my lifelines. They let me be audacious and unfettered. They give me confidence to dive in, even when I can’t see the shore on the other side.

And the practicalities of delivering science and music are quite similar for me. Science is typically funded as three- to five-year projects. For example, I am currently leading a £4m collaborative programme, called the Transforming Genetic Medicine Initiative, which is building the knowledge base, tools and processes needed to deliver genetic medicine. To get science funding, you need to present, in great detail, a persuasive, innovative concept that seems worthwhile and feasible. But once you receive the funding there is considerable creative licence to alter the project, within the overall concept, because science is fast moving. You cannot predict everything you will do at the cutting-edge of knowledge, five years in advance.

My albums have also had three-year lifespans, though I didn’t plan it that way. I don’t plan them at all. My songs tend to be stories about the complexities of everyday life, inspired by words, subjects or images that briefly, randomly, ensnare me. I don’t know what the songs will be about before I write them. There is no overall concept for the albums, at least not consciously. And yet I see now that each album had a central theme that wasn’t apparent to me when I was writing them. Can’t Clip My Wings, which I released in 2014, includes songs about how we adapt to loss. Lost loves, lost lives, lost dreams. My new album, Answers No Questions, includes songs about choice – the complexities, burdens, excitement, pain and joys of making choices.

[embedded content]
Watch the video for Everything Must Change by Nazneen Rahman.

As I am writing this, I wonder if I am forcing these connections, if they are a post-hoc construct that allows me to give a more pleasing answer to why I am both scientist and songwriter. But I have truly come to believe that, in me, science and music are different manifestations of the same need. A central deep desire to create new things – elegant, beautiful, new things. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a scientific discovery, a clinic protocol that makes things easier for patients or a song that tells a human story from a fresh perspective. When it works it feels amazing. Even when it doesn’t work, the journey is always paved with nuggets of enlightenment that feed into future creations.

So what do I do?

I think, at my core, I am a creative, though it would be perplexing to many if I started to describe myself this way. Science and music are the mediums in which I happen to create, undoubtedly an unusual combination. But maybe only because we are relentlessly conditioned, from an early age, to believe we must choose whether we are in the science or the arts camp. People from the “arts camp” routinely tell me they were hopeless at science, sometimes apologetically, sometimes as a badge of honour, a mark of their creativity. Likewise, scientists worry that any proficiency in creativity might be interpreted as a deficiency in objectivity, the bedrock of science. It seems our society has lapsed into considering activity in the sciences and the arts a zero-sum game. It is not.

What would happen if we stopped constraining ourselves and our children in this way? If we embraced and fostered fluid boundaries between the sciences and the arts? If many more people were able to cross freely in and out of both worlds, successfully and unapologetically?

I believe science, art, individuals and society would reap countless benefits.

Answers No Questions is out now; nazneenrahman.com

Nazneen Rahman: ‘Science and music are mediums in which I create’

I’ve had an exciting and unusual few weeks. My group published a scientific paper revealing a new genetic cause of a childhood kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumour. This discovery has been of immediate benefit to families, providing an explanation for why their child got cancer, and information about cancer risks for other family members. During the same period, I also released my second album of original songs, called Answers No Questions. On one day, I found myself singing live on Radio London in the morning and talking genetics to the World Service in the evening.

Over the past few weeks, I have found it increasingly difficult to know quite how to answer the ubiquitous question – what do you do?

For most of my adult life, I have replied: “I’m a scientist and a doctor.” It is an accurate description. I am professor of human genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and head of cancer genetics at the Royal Marsden Hospital. For 20 years, my work has focused on identifying gene mutations that predispose us to getting cancer and then using that information to help patients and their families.

But I am also a singer-songwriter. This is a smaller activity than my science, but far more than hobby. I release music that people pay good money to experience.

As my music has become better known, more and more people have asked me about my unusual career combination. Dubiously, admiringly, wistfully, jealously, but most often simply because they are intrigued by the motivations and the practicalities.

This has forced me to consider how, if at all, these parts of my life are related. At first, I was adamant they were distinct facets of my character. I railed against modern society’s pervasive need to simplify and pigeon-hole the human spirit. Most people have multiple passions and drivers. I am fascinated by these subterranean pursuits. One of the joys of sharing my previously secret musical existence (it’s not been all joy – but that’s another column) is that many scientists now share their secret passions with me – pot throwing, flugel playing, novelty cakemaking, fire eating – scientists are as wondrously idiosyncratic in their appetites as the rest of society.

Nazneen Rahman on stage


Nazneen Rahman on stage

I also rail against the cliche that people are drawn to science and music because they both have a mathematical basis. It may be true for some, but it has no relevance to my passion for music. I was singing complex harmonies to pop songs long before I learned the theory of music. I am an intuitive, emotional, spontaneous songwriter with little idea of the key, notes or time I am composing in – until I have to write it down. There is little science in my music, but I have come to believe there may be music in my science. There is a kinship in how I do science and how I make music that flouts the division of science and the arts that our education system promotes.

My branch of science is genetics. Genetics is underpinned by a simple four-letter DNA code (designated by A, C, G, T). This code dictates how our bodies work. And how they can fail. This beautiful code is framed, shaped, constrained and enhanced by a multitudinous orchestra of associates that determine when, how, where, how long and how strong different parts of the code are played in each of our 30tn cells. DNA is also extraordinary in being able to copy itself with unbelievable accuracy while retaining the ability to mutate and evolve. The sophisticated controls and balances are breathtaking in their elegance. Our recent childhood cancer gene discovery revealed some insights into these control mechanisms and how cancer can occur if they go wrong. Studying genetics provides an endless variety of patterns to unravel, problems to solve, questions to answer. Gratifyingly, it also provides endless opportunities to bring benefits to humanity. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of genetic questions that excite me.

Music is underpinned by a simple 12-letter note code (designated by C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B). These notes can be layered in almost infinite ways to produce music. In a hundred lifetimes I would not run out of music to write. My challenge has never been about finding the time to write songs, it has always been about finding the time to not lose songs. Snippets of music and lyrics are my constant companions. Most disappear into the clouds like lost balloons. But every now and again, I reach up, grab a string and tie one down, just before it is lost for ever.

Science and music make me feel like I’m swimming in infinity pools of possibility, but within structures that keep me from drowning. The potential and expectation to keep delivering new things can be daunting to scientists and artists. The DNA code in genetics and the note code in music are my lifelines. They let me be audacious and unfettered. They give me confidence to dive in, even when I can’t see the shore on the other side.

And the practicalities of delivering science and music are quite similar for me. Science is typically funded as three- to five-year projects. For example, I am currently leading a £4m collaborative programme, called the Transforming Genetic Medicine Initiative, which is building the knowledge base, tools and processes needed to deliver genetic medicine. To get science funding, you need to present, in great detail, a persuasive, innovative concept that seems worthwhile and feasible. But once you receive the funding there is considerable creative licence to alter the project, within the overall concept, because science is fast moving. You cannot predict everything you will do at the cutting-edge of knowledge, five years in advance.

My albums have also had three-year lifespans, though I didn’t plan it that way. I don’t plan them at all. My songs tend to be stories about the complexities of everyday life, inspired by words, subjects or images that briefly, randomly, ensnare me. I don’t know what the songs will be about before I write them. There is no overall concept for the albums, at least not consciously. And yet I see now that each album had a central theme that wasn’t apparent to me when I was writing them. Can’t Clip My Wings, which I released in 2014, includes songs about how we adapt to loss. Lost loves, lost lives, lost dreams. My new album, Answers No Questions, includes songs about choice – the complexities, burdens, excitement, pain and joys of making choices.

[embedded content]
Watch the video for Everything Must Change by Nazneen Rahman.

As I am writing this, I wonder if I am forcing these connections, if they are a post-hoc construct that allows me to give a more pleasing answer to why I am both scientist and songwriter. But I have truly come to believe that, in me, science and music are different manifestations of the same need. A central deep desire to create new things – elegant, beautiful, new things. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a scientific discovery, a clinic protocol that makes things easier for patients or a song that tells a human story from a fresh perspective. When it works it feels amazing. Even when it doesn’t work, the journey is always paved with nuggets of enlightenment that feed into future creations.

So what do I do?

I think, at my core, I am a creative, though it would be perplexing to many if I started to describe myself this way. Science and music are the mediums in which I happen to create, undoubtedly an unusual combination. But maybe only because we are relentlessly conditioned, from an early age, to believe we must choose whether we are in the science or the arts camp. People from the “arts camp” routinely tell me they were hopeless at science, sometimes apologetically, sometimes as a badge of honour, a mark of their creativity. Likewise, scientists worry that any proficiency in creativity might be interpreted as a deficiency in objectivity, the bedrock of science. It seems our society has lapsed into considering activity in the sciences and the arts a zero-sum game. It is not.

What would happen if we stopped constraining ourselves and our children in this way? If we embraced and fostered fluid boundaries between the sciences and the arts? If many more people were able to cross freely in and out of both worlds, successfully and unapologetically?

I believe science, art, individuals and society would reap countless benefits.

Answers No Questions is out now; nazneenrahman.com