Pink Floyd's The Wall and Music & Science

Jim and Greg celebrate the 35th anniversary of Pink Floyd's The Wall with a Classic Album Dissection.

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Ira Flatow

Science Friday host Ira Flatow joins Jim and Greg this week to talk about the meeting of science and music.

First, Jim and Greg ask Ira for his thoughts on a story from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Scientists there took pairs of identical and fraternal twins and tested their musical ability against the time spent practicing. Surprisingly, they found that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. In other words, your ability to play music is based more on your genetic makeup than your hard work spent rehearsing.

Next, our hosts discussed whether or not teenagers should replace A&R staff at the record labels. According to Dr. Gregory Berns at Emory University, teenagers put into an fMRI machine were able to predict whether an unknown song would be a hit, based on the recorded neural responses to the songs being played.

Music scholars will appreciate the next study, which was published in Scientific American. Specific musical intervals such as the tritone and the perfect fifth influence the organizing behavior of people exposed to those different intervals. People listening to the perfect fifth intervals were able to categorize items in a list better than people who listened to tritone intervals. This may correlate to the idea that a distracted mind is actually one that is better able to concentrate.


Ira brings up a Science Friday interview with Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck Surgery. He found that Jazz musicians who played music while in a fMRI machine had language centers light up in the brain. This suggests jazz musicians may have an unspoken language they communicate through their music.

Ira also mentions a Current Biology study that found that there are some people who just don't like music. They have a condition called "Specific Musical Anhedonia." Hopefully Sound Opinions hasn't transferred this condition to any of you listening.

classic album dissectionThe WallThe Wall available on iTunes

Pink Floyd The Wall

With the first new music from Pink Floyd in nearly 20 years coming this month, Jim and Greg take a look back at band's 1979 classic album The Wall. It's celebrating its 35th anniversary. The brainchild of Roger Waters, the epic double album touches on a range of tortured topics like fame, divorce, mothers and paranoia. During their dissection, Jim and Greg dive head first into Water's personal lyrics and compare the The Wall to other albums in the band's catalog. Then, our hosts choose their favorite tracks; Greg goes with "Mother" and Jim selects "Run Like Hell."

Featured Songs

  1. Thomas Dolby, She Blinded Me With Science, Blinded by Science, Capitol Records, 1982
  2. Lee Terry Meisinger, Lady of Spain, unreleased, N/A, 2013
  3. Winston Raval, But Not For Me, unreleased, N/A, 2014
  4. Danny Elfman, The Simpsons Main Title Theme, The Simpsons: Testify, Shout Factory, 2007
  5. OutKast, Ms. Jackson, Stankonia, La Face Records, 2000
  6. Bee Gees, Stayin' Alive, Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track, Reprise, 1977
  7. Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  8. Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall Part 1, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  9. Roger Waters, 4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution), The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Columbia, 1984
  10. Pink Floyd, Goodbye Blue Sky, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  11. Pink Floyd, The Thin Ice, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  12. Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  13. Pink Floyd, One of My Turns, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  14. Pink Floyd, Bring the Boys Back Home, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  15. Pink Floyd, In The Flesh?, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  16. Pink Floyd, Hey You, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  17. Pink Floyd, Mother, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  18. Pink Floyd, Run Like Hell, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  19. Pink Floyd, Waiting for the Worms, The Wall, Columbia, 1979
  20. The Vaughan Brothers, Telephone Song, Family Style, Epic, 1990
  21. Mike Viola, Get You Back, Electro De Perfecto, RED GENERAL CATALOG, 2011
  22. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Night Moves, Night Moves (Single), Capitol, 1976
  23. Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus, Violator, Mute, 1990
  24. The Smashing Pumpkins, Glass and the Ghost Children, Machina/The Machine, Virgin, 2000

Footnotes Science Friday Practice Doesn't Make Perfect The Kids Know the Hits Music Changes the Way You Think Jazz and the Brain Specific Musical Anhedonia Pink Floyd Greg reviews The Wall live