People write songs about love and sunsets, but not too many people write catchy lyrics about the brain. Yes, we're talking about that gray, twisty dome inside your head that's in charge of everything — from breathing to doing long division in math class.
So it may not be the prettiest body part, but Roger Day decided that the brain needed its own musical tribute. He's a longtime musician who has been performing for grown-ups and young people for more than 20 years. You might have heard his music on Sirius Radio and Radio Disney. We interviewed him to ask why he wanted to sing about the brain.
Let's start with a listen. Each song explains something about that wonderful machine in your head.
Listen to the Left Brain/Right Brain song
Did you figure it out? Your whole brain is important and works together in amazingly complex ways. But each side of the brain specializes in different kind of tasks. The left brain helps you buckle down and figure things out in a sensible way. And the right brain — your punk rock side — is all about being creative, freewheeling, and rocking the house.
If your brain and nervous system were an actual train, they'd be a high-speed train. Thoughts travel at a nanosecond. That's fast! Don't worry, we'll ask Roger about some of those lyrics. For instance, what the heck is the corpus callosum?
Listen to Brain Food
OK, there's no magic food that makes you smart. But some foods are believed to help your brain work at its best. Which ones do you like — blueberries, tomatoes, or salmon?
Why did you decide to devote so many songs to the brain?
I wanted to motivate and encourage kids to feel that they can do incredible, amazing things in this world. All the inventions you can imagine — from the pyramids to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich — all started out with a simple idea in someone's head.
Did you have to do research to write the lyrics?
Oh, yes! That was actually one of the really fun things about this whole project. I got to learn lots of facts about the brain.
I went to lots of websites, of course. But the biggest help was a friend from college, Dr. John-Paul Bouffard. He's a real-life neuropathologist. That's a doctor who looks at pictures of the brain. He gave me lots of ideas and helped me understand what different parts of the brain do. When I finished a song, I would send it to Dr. Bouffard so he could check the lyrics and make sure my facts were right.
Did you learn anything that surprised you?
Yes! I didn't know that chocolate was considered a brain food. Makes me wonder why I'm not smarter considering how much I've eaten over the years.
What is the corpus callosum mentioned in "Brain Train"?
The corpus callosum is the "brain bridge." It connects the left side of your brain to the right side of your brain and allows ideas to travel back and forth.
Were you worried these songs would seem like school to kids?
Yes, a little bit. The trick is to write songs that are musically fun but still educational. That's where working with great musicians is a huge help. The right musicians playing the right instruments will make a song really come to life. Then my job is to write lyrics (words) that have as much useful information and as many fun facts as possible. If all of us do our jobs right, we wind up with songs that are fun to listen to and help you learn, too.
What have kids' reactions been to the music?
Great! The "hit" so far has been the "The Left Brain/Right Brain Song." Kids love the musical contrast between the classical music of the left brain and the punk rock of the right.
They also seem to relate really well to "Brain Freeze." That one is maybe not as educational but it's certainly fun! Everyone can relate to drinking a slushy, icy drink and getting a case of "brain freeze."
What do you hope kids will take away from the music?
My greatest hope is these songs will inspire kids to realize that they already have all the tools they will ever need, right now, to make a difference and build a better world. There's no secret recipe, no magic formula. There's just this incredible, amazing, complicated thing called the brain.