6 Minute English
Life without music
Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015
How does music make you feel?
Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub.
Tune in to Rob and Neil to hear about earworms, wine tasting, and horror films as well as some musical vocabulary.
This week's question
If a person has musical anhedonia, does it mean they...
a) hate music?
b) can't enjoy music?
c) can't hear music?
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
a song or tune you repeatedly hear in your head
a condition where someone can't enjoy music
the chance that something might happen
stylish and sophisticated
control, often unfairly
speed at which a piece of music is played
mood or feeling in a place
expressing emotions in a beautiful way
crying in a loud way
sucker for something
unable to resist something
(here) nervous feeling
excited or nervous feeling when waiting for something to happen
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Rob...
...and I'm Neil. Hello.
Hello, Neil! What tune are you humming, there?
Was I humming? Oh, I woke up with it in my head. It's that song - you know (hums a song).
No idea, what you're talking about, Neil, but it's very annoying, so could you just stop it please.
But there's my problem. I can stop humming it out loud, but it keeps on repeating in my head (more humming). Did you know there's a name for that, Rob? When a song keeps repeating in your head?
There's a name? I don't know what it is – but I'm sure you're going to tell me.
You're right! It's an earworm.
Sounds nasty - is there a cure for that?
I don't think so! So let's move on. In this programme we're talking about music - and how it influences us.
But first, Neil, can you answer this question: If a person has musical anhedonia, does it mean they...
a) hate music?
b) can't enjoy music?
or c) can't hear music?
Well, um, 'anhedonia' sounds like an illness, so I'm going to go for c) can't hear music.
We'll find out if you're wrong or right later on. But now let's listen to Professor Charles Spence telling us how music affects what we choose to eat and drink.
Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University
Imagine you're going to the bar and thinking about a glass of wine. There's French music playing behind the counter - more than likely you'll go for a glass of French wine. German music behind the counter - your likelihood of choosing German wine goes way, way up. If they're playing classical music you might be tempted to spend that little bit more.
What's the likelihood of you spending more, Rob?
Quite likely, actually Neil - and likelihood means the chance of something happening. I love a good glass of wine.
Me too. But why do we spend more when there's classical music playing?
Good question. It makes us feel a bit classy - that's stylish and sophisticated.
I'm guessing hip-hop doesn’t have the same effect. Am I right?
You're always right, Rob. So, the professor is saying that bars and restaurants use music to manipulate their customers.
And that means to control or influence them. Argh! Earworms! They're messing with our minds!
I know, I know, and it doesn't stop there. Restaurants also use the tempo - or speed - of the music to change people's behaviour. A fast tempo gets customers in and out quickly at busy times. On the other hand, if there aren't many customers, the restaurant might want to keep people in the place for longer. So they put on music with a slow tempo to create a more relaxed atmosphere.
And atmosphere, in this context, means the mood or tone in a place or situation. Now music is also used to create atmosphere in films. So let's hear Debbie Wiseman talking about music in the movies.
Debbie Wiseman, Film/TV music composer
A director might come to me and say "look, can you help bring the romance to this scene with the music", and so I might write something beautifully romantic and lyrical working with what I've got and suddenly the scene will feel much more romantic, much more tender, much more sexy, whatever it needs to feel, and the music has the power to do that, to achieve that effect.
Sexy, tender, lyrical, romantic - that's emotional stuff! And lyrical actually means expressing strong emotions. So what's your favourite romantic moment in a film, Rob?
Oh, there are so many. I'm a sucker for romance. Once the violins start playing, I start blubbing - and yes, Neil - that means I have a good cry!
So sweet! Now, if you're a sucker for something, for example romance, it means you can't resist it. I'm more of a sucker for horror myself...
And music is crucial - or extremely important - in creating atmosphere in horror films.
That's very true. Music is often used to create tension and suspense – or feelings of anxiety and excitement.
Can you imagine Hitchcock's Psycho without that violin music? (Neil does an imitation of the violin sequence from Psycho)
OK, let's not have a shower scene here in the studio, Neil. You'll give me nightmares! Now, remember at the beginning of the show I asked you what musical anhedonia means. Is it someone who a) hates music b) can't enjoy music or c) can’t hear music?
I said can't hear music...
And that's the wrong answer. It’s actually b) can't enjoy music.
Not a great job for a DJ then. Anyway, Rob, before we go any further, how about those words again?
OK, the words we heard today were:
sucker for something
Well, that brings us to the end of today's 6 Minute English. Try not to catch musical anhedonia and watch out for those earworms! We hope you enjoyed humming along to today's programme. Please join us again soon.
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How generous are you? Neil and Sophie discuss Mark Zuckerberg and what it takes to be a modern-day philanthropist.
Episode 160211 / 11 Feb 2016
Are the days of paying by cash for a latte or a newspaper nearly gone? Alice and Neil discuss Neil's fondness for loose change...
Episode 160204 / 04 Feb 2016
Tea comes in different forms – milky, sweet or spicy. Alice and Neil discuss how this Asian leaf conquered the world.
Episode 160128 / 28 Jan 2016
Train, car, bicycle ... Hundreds of millions of us make the same journey day in day out. Take a hike with Alice and Neil and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 160121 / 21 Jan 2016
Are food allergies on the increase and if so, why? Neil and Alice talk about the growing fear of food and teach new words.
Episode 160114 / 14 Jan 2016
Are artificial lights and late night TV ruining our sleep? Neil and Alice discuss the issue and teach you related vocabulary.
Episode 160107 / 07 Jan 2016
What does it take to be a good interviewer? Neil and Alice discuss TV chat show hosts and teach you some related vocabulary.
Episode 151231 / 31 Dec 2015
How much does appearance really matter? Neil and Alice discuss fitness and New Year's resolutions
Episode 151224 / 24 Dec 2015
Some families struggle to buy even food and can’t afford presents. Neil and Alice discuss how some charities are helping those in need.
Episode 151217 / 17 Dec 2015
Alice and Finn talk about the passion some people have for danger and the unseen threats we face every day
Episode 151210 / 10 Dec 2015
Alice and Neil discuss the psychological pressures of going to university. They also teach some related vocabulary.
Episode 151203 / 03 Dec 2015
Neil and Alice discuss the long-lasting appeal of this man with a bow and how he has changed over the centuries
Episode 151126 / 26 Nov 2015
Do you know how much your partner earns? Is he or she in debt? Would this make you love them less?
Episode 151119 / 19 Nov 2015
The BBC broadcasts a season of programmes discussing women's issues around the world
Episode 151112 / 12 Nov 2015
Are you good at telling jokes? What makes a good comedian?
Episode 151105 / 05 Nov 2015
Should we all pay for supermarket plastic bags? Neil and Alice take a look at the environmental impact of plastic and teach you some related words.
Episode 151029 / 29 Oct 2015
Should the difficult language of Shakespeare be 'translated' into plain English?
Episode 151022 / 22 Oct 2015
The bicycle is the most popular form of two-wheeled transport in the world, but could we all soon be using hoverboards? Listen to Neil and Finn's conversation and learn some new words.
Episode 151015 / 15 Oct 2015
If you are sitting at a desk or answering the phone, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot or machine do this job better? Neil and Finn discuss the future of our jobs.
Episode 151008 / 08 Oct 2015
Neil and Alice discuss what kind of book people like to be seen reading. Do you like to impress people with a classic book in your hands?
Episode 151001 / 01 Oct 2015
Does being born in the summer reduce your chance of going to university?
Episode 150924 / 24 Sep 2015
Take a trip with Rob and Alice to find out about the Earth’s core. They’ll discuss how hot it is – and whether there are any dinosaurs living there!
Episode 150917 / 17 Sep 2015
Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.
Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015
It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms
Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015
What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit
Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015
Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.
Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015
What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one
Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015
Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting
Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015
What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us
Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015
Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?
Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015
Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?
Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015
The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?
Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015
It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?
Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015
Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary
Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015
Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest
Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015
Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.
Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015
How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge
Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015
What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.
Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015
Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them
Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015
A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary
Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015
Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.
Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015
Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!
Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015
Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.
Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015
How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub
Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015
Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup
Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015
Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!
Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015
The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015
What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry
Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015
An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015
We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015
The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015
Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015
About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.
Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015
At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015
Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015
We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015
Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015
Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015
What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014
When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014
The London school where students speak 42 different languages
Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014
Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research
Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014
Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014
Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space
Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014
How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future
Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014
Why is eating meat bad news?
Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014
Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?
Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014
Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes
Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014
Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014
Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new
Episode 141009 / 09 Oct 2014
Why do we buy so much food and not eat it all? Learn more about food waste
Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014
Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.
Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014
Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.
Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014
Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!
From the Archive
Episode 210204 / 04 Feb 2021
Can a woollen hat make a difference when you are cold?