Tag Archive: music

A Question for the Deity

(Submitted by listener Michael Sohns)

Not really a story, but as I’m listening to your theme music, I couldn’t help but think that it sounded familiar. Here’s a link to an old sports program’s theme music that may sound familiar:

Could Mr. Dalton have done a George Harrison?

Below is the response from our good friend Brian Keith Dalton aka Mr. Deity. Also, visit Mr. Deity here.

Hey Wendy!

That’s freaky! Although not that unusual. I think every musician has had this happen to them. My stepson is going to UOP and studying music composition. Last semester, he wrote a piece in which one section was nearly identical to the theme from the movie “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.” I picked up on it and played it for him and he was freaked out.

But there are only twelve notes, and music has been around for a very long time. It’s not all that shocking to find something like this. B

P.S.: My Dad was a big boxing fan. I’d be interested in finding out how long that theme played on TV. There’s the possibility that I heard it when I was very young, and subliminally reproduced it. Not likely, but possible. It’s far more likely that I simply wrote something very similar without ever hearing the original.

Thank you, Michael, for the question. And thank you, B, for the answer!

(Submitted by friend of the blog, George Hrab, of Geologic Podcast)

Leave it to our good friend George Hrab to send us a music-related coincidence, and one of the nicest ones you’ll ever see.

According to the source article, this Berlin street performer was minding his own business playing “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat when who should walk by? Jimmy Somerville, the group’s lead singer. I’ll let the video (sadly filmed sideways) explain the rest:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_DWWE3cjgg]

I can only imagine both people were just as thrilled by the moment, but for entirely different reasons.

Hit or Miss

(Submitted by reader Alex Murdoch)

I got home from work today and was getting ready to cook a stir fry for dinner for the family. There was lots of noise, so I decided to put on my MP3 player and catch up on some podcasts.

Turns out I was all caught up, so I switched over to music and put my player on shuffle. A few song later I was feeling pretty good and singing along at a good volume. The song I was belting out was “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Styx.

My wife comes in and taps me on the shoulder. I took my right earbud out and she says:”What are the odds of that?” She pointed to her tablet where she was listening to Slacker Radio: Classic Rock. You can probably guess what was playing…yup. Styx: Too Much Time on My Hands.

I’ve got just over 800 songs on my player. So…help me answer my wife: What are the odds of that?

Below are the extended notes provided by Ed Clint for use in Skepticality Episode 213.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary.

Ironically, almost everyone can remember a version of this sort of “million to one” experience. Such as when someone picks up their phone to call someone only to have it ring by way of said someone or hearing your name called out in a waiting room to find out a second person with yours or a very similar name is also waiting. I once found a comment left on the Reddit social news website left by my brother. It was just one comment out of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands posted that day to hundreds of discussions, most of which I never look at, and of the ones that I do, I could only see a fraction of the individual comments. The operant psychological mechanism is a form of confirmation bias, the attributing of meaning to events that merely coincide. After all, how many times does anyone note failures of coincidence in their life? How do we even guess at the number of failed coincidences? How could we check? What are the odds?

One music player had 800 songs and the other was playing from a “classic rock” mix. We can’t be sure how many tracks were in rotation in the mix, or which were favored because that depends on the listener’s previous choices. For the sake of argument, let’s conservatively estimate the Styx track was one of 1200 that might be in regular rotation. This would meant that at any one time both people were listening to music (assuming the Slacker Radio listener had selected “Classic Rock”), the odds are 1 in just under a million. If the Slacker Radio listener only likes “Classic Rock” occasionally, let’s say just 1/5 of the time she listens to music, the odds become closer to one in 5 million.

That sounds pretty unlikely, until you consider that none of the details have been specified in advance. In statistics, probability is the chance of a given outcome divided by the number of possible outcomes. So we can say the chance of a flipped coin landing on heads is .5 because there are two possible outcomes and heads is one of them. In our musical example: how can we decide what the meaning of “given outcome” or “possible outcomes” is? It’s cheating to decide after the fact, because the odds of any two songs playing simultaneously are equal to the odds of the same song playing on both sources. Instead, it is our intuitive psychology that defines what is meant by “unlikely hit” which casts the roles for expected and given outcomes.

Humans are pattern-seeking critters because nature rewards the pattern seekers: weather, climate, animal migration, and the co-location of flowers and bees with fruits and honey are all that dots it pays Darwinian dividends to be able to connect. The pattern sense necessarily registers false positives, connecting irrelevant dots. Now we can define the terms more clearly: the “given outcome” is any event that a person might experience that triggers the pattern recognizer and the “possible outcomes” are the set of events a person might experience which might trigger the pattern recognizer, but happens not to.

On the day the same songs played, the two people might have ordered the same improbable lunch, been humming the same theme to a beloved 80’s TV show, or stumbled on the same obscure internet article. If these events coincided, they’d each trigger the “what are the odds?” pattern recognizer sense. How many other potential “one in 5 million”-ish events might have happened but didn’t? This is difficult to guess, but I suspect hundreds or more, multiplied by any two people that may interact. When multiplied by 365 days, the odds get decidedly saner.

For the sake of argument, let’s restrict our consideration to musical coincidence. One in five million is steep, but then we only heard from this person and not one of the other 115 million households in the US (assuming this person is American). If our rough estimate is correct, the odds are that 23 other pairs of people have the same experience on days they feel like playing some tunes.

Edward Clint co-created the Skeptic Ink Network with John Loftus and writes about Evolutionary Psychology, critical thinking and more at his blog Incredulous. He is presently an intern at the JREF and a bioanthropology graduate student at UCLA studying evolutionary psychology.

Keep your motor running…

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Dave R)

Recently I was going to have lunch with a friend. I drove to his house to pick him up because he doesn’t have a car.  I’d already sent my friend a 1~minute warning text message so he’d be ready. I pulled up in front of my friend’s house. My radio was on a pop station, Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” was playing. I texted my friend just two words “come out” as I frequently do when picking up friends to let them know I’m outside their house.

Just as I pressed ‘Send’ to my message “come out”, the radio blared, “Come out, come out, come out, Virgina don’t let me wait,” — I kind of did a double-take and then got a nice chuckle from it!

[EDITOR: Wendy had noted recently that we’ve had a few radio-related stories. This might be ripe for a special feature. Anyone else got some good ones?]

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Spencer Marks)

Just the other day, I stopped into a tool store to buy some things, and as I was checking out, I noticed the cashier was named “Brandy.” My mind immediately went to the song, “Brandi, you’re a fine girl” by Looking Glass, and was tempted to verbally say to this girl, “Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be…”

I chose not to, because I figured she had heard this 1,000 times in her life, so I just paid and left. I walked straight to my car, turned it on, and guess what was playing on the radio?!? If you guessed, “Brandi, you’re a fine girl,” YOU’D BE RIGHT!

[EDITOR: I guessed “Magical Mystery Tour,” but then again, I’ve never been very good at guessing games. – Jarrett]

Since I Do Have A Coincidence

(Submitted by reader Mark D)

All of us have very traumatic events in our life, that had we a choice, we would like to either omit or forget.  An unforgettable event in my life that falls into this category is when I suffered critical 3rd degree burns in my home the morning of March 6, 1959.

Rushed to Childrens’ Hospital in L.A. for emergency round-the-clock surgery, I awakened in the early evening of March 7, 1959 and saw that my parents had generously placed my portable radio next to my  hospital bed.  Turning it on to KFWB, L.A.’s leading Top 40 outlet of the day, I heard the local debut of “Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners (played from the beginning just as I turned the knob), which has gone on through the ages to become a vocal group classic, certified as a standard by ASCAP due to over 100 remakes in the past half century.

I didn’t have much of a 1959, spending 6 months of it either in the burn ward of Childrens’ Hospital or home convalescence. The Skyliners through all the years have remained my favorite all time vocal group, undergoing numerous personnel changes throughout, and recording for a plethora of different labels, persevering and gaining new and younger fans in the process.

When I saw on the Skyliners website that they had planned their Fiftieth Anniversary concert to be held at the beautiful Benedum Center For The Performing Arts in their home base of Pittsburgh, PA, I could hardly believe the date:  March 7, 2009.  The numerical coincidence of 50 years to the day when I first heard them under unfortunate circumstances was too much for me to resist.  I knew I had to be there.

On March 6, 1959, I awaited the arrival of my ambulance around 9:00 a.m., wondering if I had any life left.  On March 6, 2009, with exactly a half century of life behind me, I awaited the arrival of my airport shuttle in front of my home  at 9:00 a.m. with totally different emotions.  I truly had tears of joy in my eyes as the plane descended into Pittsburgh.  The following night, I waited in a long line outside the Benedum Theatre in Downtown Pittsburgh, talking with a group of people from Sylvio’s Tratorria in Canton, OH and telling them of what had happened to me a half century earlier and what a truly special occasion this was for me.  This group had ties to Henry Deluca, one of the concert’s promoters.  I was told later that Jimmy Beaumont and Donna Groom of The Skyliners were talking about my VSA (very strange anniversary) backstage during the gala show.  They went on at 9:00 p.m. EST for their headlining segment of the show.  It was 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast, where I first heard their signature tune “Since I Don’t Have You” 50 years earlier, to the hour!

Seventy-Six Trombone Coincidence

(Submitted by reader Mary B)

My husband and I were just waking up on a Saturday morning. My husband mumbled, “I am so tired, it would take seventy-six trombones to wake me up.” He rolled over, picked up the TV remote, and clicked on the television set at the foot of our bed. Booming out of the TV comes the words and music, “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade…”

Unbelievably, the television happened to be tuned to a station that was airing the the movie, The Music Man, and he had turned it on at the exact moment of the start of the main parade scene.

We both sat bolt upright, looked at each other and gasped. We had each thought that we had temporarily lost our minds. But no, it had really happened. I still can’t believe it, but it happened.

[EDITOR: What are the odds… that people would still be watching that movie after all these years? Actually, I bet pretty high since the licensing costs are probably dirt cheap since nobody knew how to write a good contract back then.]

Electric Light Coincidence

(Submitted by reader Donald Chesebro)

This afternoon, while watching several TiVoed episodes of Doctor Who from 2006 that I’d never before seen, I was switching from one episode to the next and randomly thought of the Electric Light Orchestra — specifically, wondering where they came up with that name.

The next episode of Doctor Who that I watched moments later featured a character who was a huge Jeff Lynne fan and the show featured several ELO songs.

[EDITOR: I imagine the Doctor wouldn’t find this coincidental at all. But the explanation would be all timey-wimey and far too technical. Cut to the end: you’re welcome for still being alive.]









There is a Theme Here

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)

We were driving home from my wife, Karen winning a best-song contest one evening, and her cell phone rang.  The caller ID said: Gary Stockdale.

I practically slammed the car to a stop.  “Take it!”,  I screamed.  I immediately recognized the name.

Gary Stockdale:  The guy who wrote the themes for Penn & Teller: Bullshit and “The Aristocrats” and DJ Grothe’s Podcast “For Good Reason“.

He got Karen’s name from a friend.  “Can she be in Las Vegas on July 9 to sing backup for one of Gary’s songs? ” Then he says,  “Oh, and by the way, I hope you are a free-thinker, the song is about Atheism”.

Karen was needed to perform for the James Randi Fund Raiser Dinner at TAM8, which we were already attending!

What are the odds?