Mothers and their babies are often said to share a deep, intimate connection…but even so, this new discovery is weird. Simply by looking and smiling at each other, moms and babies synchronize their heartbeats to within milliseconds of each other.
Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that visible affection from their mothers had tangible physiological effects on three month old infants. Previous studies in animals have shown that social interactions between “attachment partners” can actually affect the animal infants’ body, but this is the first time such an effect has been observed in humans. Writing in Infant Behavior and Development, the researchers explain what they discovered:
“ Mothers and their 3-month old infants were observed during face-to-face interactions while cardiac output was collected from mother and child. Micro-analysis of the partners’ behavior marked episodes of gaze, affect, and vocal synchrony. Time-series analysis showed that mother and infant coordinate heart rhythms within lags of less than 1 s.
Bootstrapping analysis indicated that the concordance between maternal and infant biological rhythms increased significantly during episodes of affect and vocal synchrony compared to non-synchronous moments. Humans, like other mammals, can impact the physiological processes of the attachment partner through the coordination of visuo-affective social signals.”
However, humans can actually synchronize in ways other animals cannot — while other animals are dependent upon physical contact for this synchronization effect to occur, a mother need only look at her baby affectionately for the heartbeats to synchronize. It hasn’t yet been tested whether infants can form similar levels of attachment with other people, such as their fathers.
After more than a decade, a flock of nine singing swans was spotted in the Hula Valley on Monday. The swans came from northern Europe, and are considered one of the largest species of flying birds.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said this was a rare sight, since these birds usually nest during winter in Europe and around the Caspian Sea. Israel is the southern-most point they reach. The last time these swans were spotted here was 2001.
The swans are named so for their loud call, which is used for courting and to strengthen the ties between the adults and the young. Nadav Yisraeli from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said “these are really extraordinary calls, like a trumpet victory tune. This is a very auspicious event, it is always fun to see such a rare bird.”
“So far they’re very happy here,” Yisraeli added. “At nights they go into fish ponds, where the water protects them from predators. In the morning they move to the wheat fields, where they find their food. Shmil, the local farmer, is very happy they’re here and is keeping an eye on them in the hope they stay as long as possible.”
File this one with the Department of Impossibilities.
There is no way to describe what happened at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv Saturday night to anyone who made the serious mistake of not attending. Those who were present to see the Sun Ra Arkestra know that it was not merely a good show, or an excellent one, or simply fantastic. It was huge, a performance that raised spirits: a musical, cultural, physical emotional, sensual and social experience.
I prefer not to say spiritual, although it had a clear spiritual foundation which could not have been more tempestuous.
It shouldn’t be taken for granted that this would happen. Since Sun Ra was such a dominant, total leader before his passing in 1993, logic dictates that in his absence, his jazz orchestra would be a pale shadow of the one he led in his lifetime, that he influenced in real time with his legendary extraterrestrial image.
The expectation of the orchestra that played Tel Aviv last week was that it would express only the main points of Sun Ra’s legend; instead it dove deep into his texts and even down into the footnotes. I was not lucky enough to have seen the jazzman from Saturn in action, but I’ll bet that what we saw Saturday did not fall much below the level of the original orchestra during the last years of his cosmic life.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to say what turned the show into such a rare success, and it would almost be in bad taste to try to anchor such a profound emotional experience in a rational explanation. It is possible, however, to point out three qualities that did the job.
The first is the wonderful collective roar of the wind instruments. No one can come close to what the Sun Ra Arkestra does. There were eight such players: five saxophonists and three trumpeters. The sound they produced (in every combination during the show, and especially when the two baritone saxes played together ) simply drove the audience crazy.
A documentary about Sun Ra called “Joyful Noise” was released a few years ago, and its title is the perfect definition of what the Arkestra’s wind instruments produced Saturday, and of the essence of the entire show: a heartening collective roar.
But it isn’t only noise, and not only collective playing. Each player on his own was also fabulous, each displaying a unique personality, from orchestra leader Marshall Allen who at 87 still steps lively, to those rare baritone sax players, and the Israeli representative in the orchestra, Avshalom Ben Shlomo of the Black Hebrew community in Dimona.
Ben Shlomo, who in his youth played with Sun Ra and later immigrated to Israel, was able to rejoin for one day the musical and spiritual world that shaped him 45 years ago. He played extremely well and looked shell shocked with happiness next to his old friends inside the whirlwind of joyful noise.
The second quality that made the performance unforgettable was the Arkestra’s movement between strict precision and total freedom. One of Sun Ra’s basic principles was that his music had to be exact down to the smallest nuance, and at the same time to be played in complete freedom. This is what happened Saturday, if less rigidly. I’m not sure whether precision is the right word, but the musicians knew very well what they were doing and understood their roles at every moment. At the same time, they had enormous and inspiring freedom.
The third rare quality of the show was its historical depth. It offered a quick course in the history of Black music, in almost all its possible manifestations. There was a sea of swing (one piece sounded like a salute to Sun Ra’s salutes to Duke Ellington ) and there was an ocean of blues, and of course a lot of free jazz in the tradition of the 1960s but with an affinity for the collective improvisations of earlier jazz. There were the strong emotions of church gospel, and popular songs that are more for entertainment (but always with an eccentric angle ), and an abstract piece mixing electric sound from the early 1980s. There was stormy punk from the same decade and a sort of doo-wop which returned the Arkestra to its salad days in the 1950s Midwest. There was even a rap-type bit which raised the idea that Sun Ra, the eternal futurist, foresaw hip hop before it was invented.
The Arkestra played all these Black music styles, early and contemporary, and in essence forged them into one unstoppable sound. Sun Ra’s spirit moved over the stage not only in recordings of his talking bits (in which he was heard lecturing on the superiority of myth to reality ), but also in every gesture, movement and musical sentence produced by his students.
When writing about Sun Ra, it is okay to refrain from mentioning the word “death” and to note instead that he “departed planet Earth.” Sometimes this seems like the writer’s attempt to sound cool. But after the show on Saturday, it really is hard to say he died.
The hundreds of people who left the club grateful for the experience the Arkestra gave them heard a different truth for two and a quarter hours: Sun Ra lives!