On Soft Fascination And Music


While reading Wallace J. Nichols’s book Blue Mind, I came across a passage explaining nature’s capacity to clear our minds. Stephen Kaplan uses the phrase “soft fascination” to describe the involuntary sensation of being effortlessly caught up in the sounds, sights, scents, and feels of nature. He then explains how this experience gives our minds room to roam:

“Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish” (Kaplan in Nichols: 213).

Moreover, according other studies cited by Nichols, urban environments don’t share nature’s cognitive-enhancing effects.


Music is a man-made environment, distinct from nature. Yet Kaplan’s phrase got me thinking: What would a music that “modestly grabs attention” sound like? Would it be like ambient music?

Would it be quiet? Slow? Would it have a drone? Would it be microtonal?

Would be an unfolding process?

Would it leave space for nature to creep in?

Would have many layers, sometimes moving both fast and slow simultaneously?

Maybe we need to keep studying nature for the answers…

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