Storyteller Place


Musica Chorea
"Musica": Latin meaning "music"
"Chorea": Latin meaning "dance"

Chorea is a very real and potentially serious symptom of various diseases, including Huntington's Disease, Sydenham's Disease (also known as "Saint Vitus' Dance"), and Parkinson's Disease. Dyskinesia similarly involves involuntary movement. Musica Chorea, however, is fictional. 

Chorea itself refers to symptoms of certain diseases that affect the brain's basal ganglia, which sort of acts like a terminal for the brain, processing incoming signals and telling the body how to respond. In cases of chorea, the basal ganglia's functionality is disrupted by an excess of commands in the neurotransmitter dopamine. The symptons are often dancelike, repetitive movements that start in one part of the body and move unpredictably to another. These diseases are no joke, and in no way does my book poke fun at them. However, the idea that the basal ganglia can malfunction due exclusively to musical patterns is the basic premise behind Musica Chorea. 

To read more about chorea, you can refer to the Merck website or any number of other resources such as the Examples of several diseases can be seen at The Merriam-Webster dictionary also includes chorea as symptomatic of Rheumatic Fever.

The idea of Musica Chorea is rooted in a fascination with the brain's ability to process musical signals and tell the body how to respond. Ask someone to sing a few bars from their favorite song: you can almost bet that as they sing, they will not be able to resist moving at least slightly as they recall the sound. Studies and cases regarding this topic have been around for hundreds of years.

More recently, some studies, specifically one conducted by Jacob Oppenheim and Marcelo Magnasco, concluded that the brains of musicians were particularly advanced at simultaneously processing a sound's pitch and duration. This challenged what is referred to as the "Gabor Limit" theory, which was previously central to the belief that the brain processes sound consistent with an algorithm called the Fourier Transform. Basically, the algorithm breaks down sound waves into individual frequencies: a capacity in which the human brain was believed to be limited. The Oppenheim and Magnasco work showed that musicians are exceptionally adept at breaking that limit, thereby poking holes in the Transform logic.

The Oppenheim and Magansco work in no way proves the existence of Musica Chorea. However, it does help to justify the real premise behind this fiction novel: that music often impacts our minds in ways that seems to transcend logic.

The neurologists in "Please Stop the Music" are all fictional; nevertheless, some of the phenomena they describe such as that associated with the "Shakers" are real. In fact, to this day you can visit
Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire, home of the wicker broom, the rocking chair, and other incredibly useful inventions still today, and tour the buildings that were once home to this unique group of people.

The Melody Gardot references are based on her story 
at her official website as well as from numerous interviews with her that you can find online. Hers is one of many examples of people who have used music to assist in overcoming mental or neurological impairment. For those naysayers like Kevin McCormick who dismiss the idea of using music as therapy, I would also suggest visiting the American Music Therapy Association website to see examples of other various cases in which this treatment was effective.

Finally, I will leave you with this incredible video of "
Better Man Than He" by Siva. The video is an MRI (magnetic resonance image) depicting what happens in the brain while he is singing. This type of neurological analysis is typical of the recent increasing interest in "brain mapping" research.

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