Plexus News Banner
Thursday Complexity Post
June 19, 2014

"It's Got a Backbeat You Can't Lose It"  


Some music carries you melodically into dreams and reveries, and some conveys sadness, joy or a sense of peace. Then there's music that bounces along with skips and hops and you just have to dance, snap your fingers or tap your feet. Certain kinds of rhythm induce an almost irresistible urge to move.




A few years ago, Maria Witek, a neuroscientist at Aarthus University in Denmark, who studies emotion and loves music, created an online survey to try and figure out what music impels people to start swaying and dancing. She pursued the subject and described her findings to Michaeleen Doucleff in an NPR interview.


Album cover Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," which was just chosen as the new advertising theme song for the New Jersey Lottery, and The Meters "Hand Clapping Song" are examples of what her research shows. So is Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music," especially the version he performs with Tina Turner. Try and sit still when you hear these!


Witek says when the rhythmic structure has gaps, or spaces in the underlying beat of the music, we are provided with "an opportunity to physically inhabit those gaps and fill those gaps with our own bodies." In a recent paper, she suggests that has to do with the way we hear music and the way the brain processes it by anticipating its structural patterns. In her survey, Witek asked respondents to listen to drumming pieces that ranged from simple rhythms with regular beats to very complex patterns with many gaps where beats might have been expected. She found people all over the world agreed on which patterns made them want to dance. They were the ones in between the very simple and the highly complex. People wanted to physically engage with the rhythm when there was enough regularity to perceive the beat and enough complexity to make it interesting without being totally unpredictable. They danced to the music that was layered with predictable beats and syncopated ones, she said. The layering can be provided by numerous musical combinations of claps, drums, other instruments, voice, and lyrics.


In a New York Times essay on rhythm, Nicholas Wade says Darwin thought that before our human ancestors developed speech, they discovered that musical notes and rhythm could charm potential mates. He says Darwin thought that music's origins in courtship explain why it can arouse strong passions. Wade notes that in his 1997 book How the Mind Works, Harvard scholar Steven Pinker called music "auditory cheesecake"-a happy accident we enjoy though it has no survival value. But Darwin theorized, according to Wade, that anything that enhanced courtship promoted survival by helping to perpetuate parental genes in a new generation. Read Wade's essay here. Thanks to Bruce Waltuck for the NPR story.


Events of interest 


Leading Organizations to Health is a 10-month program on change leadership that integrates leading edge theories (from complexity, relational coordination, positive psychology, adult development and other domains) with advanced facilitation skills and peer coaching, all in a highly experiential and reflective learning environment.  

The 1st International Conference on Systems and Complexity in Health, November 13-14, 2014 in Washington, DC will bring together for the first time leading thinkers and researchers to explore and exchange insights under the theme: The value of systems and complexity sciences for healthcare: An imperative for the 21st century. 


Remember PlexusCalls!



Friday, June 27, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

The Growing Crisis in Cancer Care
Guests:  Jimmy Lin, William Maples, Noah Zanville, and Trish Silber


What are the odds you'll get cancer in the next 20 years?

Are there  enough doctors, nurses and resources to meet the cancer challenge? 

What will cancer cost families, private institutions and the public?   


The World Health Organization's World Cancer Report estimates that new cancer cases will rise from 14 million a year to nearly 22 million a year within the next two decade. In the U.S., the American Society of Clinical Oncology predicts cancer will become the leading cause of death, surpassing heart disease, in a mere 16 years. The number of U.S. cases is expected to increase nearly 45 percent by 2030, from 1.6 million cases a year to 2.3 million a year. Aging populations is a big factor in the increase, and while there have been some treatment breakthroughs, costs are rising and the influx of new patients will challenge hospitals and physicians. Join the conversation to learn more and hear some ideas for solutions.



Friday, July 11, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Workplaces of the Future
Guests: Thomas Lockwood, Robert Peck, Sharon Benjamin               


CEOs want workplace design that fosters innovation, but what does that mean? Can open space for collaboration and closed spaces for concentration be successfully combined? More people want to work at home, but they want amenities of home when they go to work. And what happens to their space then they're away? Is the personal work station going the way of the typewriter? These guests know the issues and the trends.



Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, July 16, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

New Skills and Structures for New Ways of Working Together
Guests: Dov Pollack               


Healthcare is changing rapidly. The Affordable Care Act brings new patients and changes in reimbursement. Scientific research is bringing new treatments and therapies. Increase in complexity is creating the need for more collaboration and, sometimes, the need for new organizational structures. What is your organization doing to learn, change and thrive?



See more upcoming PlexusCalls on the Plexus Calendar.  

Audio from all PlexusCall series is available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


Follow us on Twitter          

 Like us on Facebook 


Plexus Institute

1025 Connecticut Ave, NW Ste 1000 

Washington, DC  20036

Phone: 888-466-4884

...fostering the health of individuals,

families, communities, organizations,

and our natural environment by helping people

use concepts emerging from the new

science of complexity


Join Plexus 

 Find us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter