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I teach in Oregon City and online videochat. I work with all ages and levels and a variety of styles. I specialize in creative exploration, the psychology of music, and conscious music practices. Visit the lessons page to learn more.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brain Parts Song VIDEO (and Creative Commons discussion)

Several weeks ago, I posted a recording of my new Brain Parts Song. I mentioned then that it called for a video, and I realized later that I couldn't rely on someone else to do it. But that doesn't mean I had to create everything from scratch. Thanks to the internet and Creative Commons, I was able to put together a very effective video:

The player above is from YouTube, but I also uploaded to Vimeo
to, a great media site that is free, open, and non-profit! I also posted files with chords at that link.

There's so much in this video packed into 3 minutes, so I highly recommend repeated viewings/listenings for anyone wanting to use this song as a memory/learning aid. The song lacks the exact repetitiveness of much pop music, but it can be pretty catchy after hearing it enough.

I was concerned about my original audio-only recording for learning purposes because the brain parts are not the words being rhymed, so they could be wrongly mixed up and the song would still work musically. I think having the associated video content solves the problem. I'm a bit disappointed how the mistake/joke about the Anterior Cingulate Cortex isn't as surprising and funny as it is with audio alone, and other hidden subtleties in the recording are more obvious now that they are illustrated visually, but there's new subtleties and details in the video content, so it's all good.

Side-note: as the video hints at, these ideas are simplistic beginning concepts. Besides plasticity, even concepts like having separate motor and sensory areas are wrongish. The whole neocortex has motor and sensory aspects. The main distinction within the cortex is more about which parts are most connected to signals from elsewhere in the brain and body. Don't take any of these rough elementary 101 ideas too strictly.

I had fun making this, and I hope everyone enjoys it and maybe learns something too.

Read on for discussion of making this with Creative Commons, and for credits and lyrics

Issues with Creative Commons licensing:

For a mere three minutes, this took a lot of work. Google, Flickr, and Wikimedia were great sources. In finding Creative-Commons-licensed material, however, I came up against an important-to-understand yet non-obvious situation:

The Creative Commons Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC) license  (and also the BY-NC-SA license) substantially hampers the creation of non-commercial derivative works!

This non-commercial license is usually chosen by people who want to share their work with other creative artists yet still be paid royalties for any commercial use. However, a simple CC share-alike license is enough to stop traditional commercial enterprises from taking advantage of the artist's CC generosity. I doubt a network TV show, for example, would use a song licensed as CC BY-SA (other than by paying the creator under a regular copyright license), because they wouldn't want to license the whole show under Creative Commons. So any share-alike license will probably discourage major commercial exploitation. Small-time commercial uses that would happily accept a share-alike license are probably not going to pay much of anything anyway, and it'd be better for most creators to allow such use and benefit from the publicity.

But here's the real problem with the NC license: I made a non-commercial video but could not use any NC-licensed content because that is incompatible with the BY-SA content I used from Wikimedia and elsewhere!

Again, choosing BY-NC over the BY-SA license probably makes little or no difference regarding major commercial use. What NC primarily does is: stops people from mixing the content with anything from Wikimedia or any other BY-SA content. If someone writes a song, licenses it as CC BY-NC, they just stopped fans from making awesome videos using images from Wikimedia.

I used lots of BY-SA content from Wikimedia. This would have otherwise been impossible. I don't have the ability to make my own accurate images of brain anatomy! Therefore, even though I was planning to license that way regardless, I am now required to license my video in the same way. This means everyone is free to share and alter or use parts of my video and song, as long I am credited, any content I used from others is appropriately credited, and any new derivative is also licensed the same way to keep sharing. Because this allows commercial use, I cannot include any material that restricts commercial use, even if my project and all its derivatives ever remain non-commercial. I still can't include NC-licensed material because allowing commercial use is incompatible with restricting it.

The simplest take-away is: You saw my video; would you have liked it to have included your photo perhaps? The photos I used have been seen by many thousands of people, and I included credit and link-back for everything. Helping me make this video is great, and it also helps get attention for the work of these great photographers.

Well, if you use a license with NC or ND restrictions (or not even any CC), then I skipped your photos, as did who-knows-how-many other neat projects. If you liked my video, put a CC-BY-SA or CC-BY or CC0 mark on your work from now on. My video wouldn't have existed without people doing that.

I encourage all creative people to use CC BY-SA and contribute to the growing and valuable resources of Creative Commons!
I license this entire blog under CC-BY-SA too, as marked at the bottom of the site.
Click here for the precise details of the CC BY-SA license.

Side note: YouTube recently added the ability to mark videos CC-BY but no other CC license. Vimeo and, on the other hand, both have full support for marking all Creative Commons licenses, thus making them superior places (at present) for CC content. Ideally, YouTube would just add CC-BY-SA. I'm ok with ignoring the problematic NC and ND licenses. Anyway, anyone can always say in the description and on the video itself what the license is.


This is a song about parts of the brain
I'm singing it to memorize the names
The ideas here may be simplistic
But matching meaning and rhyme is a tough logistic

The cerebral cortex has four main lobes
with names from the nearby skull bones

Frontal does the thinking
Occipital deals with vision
Parietal senses objects
and Temporal listens

Inside these lobes there's specialties
like Broca's Area which produces speech
Wernicke's Area handles language comprehension
and the Motor Cortex is for moving with intention

The Sensory Cortex handles perception
of touch, pain, temperature and proprioception

There's two outer brain parts that are distinct
They may seem separate, but everything's linked

The Cerebellum does balance & coordination
and has our memorized-movement archive
The Brainstem sets heartbeat & respiration
and other things that we need to survive

The brain's inner parts are unique
cut the Corpus Callosum to take a peek

The Thalamus handles signal routing
and the Amygdala's emotions can have you shouting

The Hippocampus does our long-term memory saving
and the Hypothalamus makes our sex and food cravings

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex learns from mistakes
and in controlling movement, the basal ganglia is the brakes

The brain parts list is much longer, indeed
But for my class assignment this is all I need

Credits for images:

Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, and C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist:

from Gray's Anatomy (public domain):

Human Eye by Rainer Ebert

Rosenthal rotating cube in Ann Arbor, photo by Douglas Muth:

Ear by David Benbennick


Touching Metorite by Bo-Gordy-Stith:

Cast by Mark Tristan:

Alpha shivering on the deck:

Upside Down by Johnny Jet:

Balance Beam:

Juggling by Peter Fristedt:

Electronic phase control by Dmitry G:

Expression of Emotions by Guillaume Duchenne:

All We Need Is Smile:

Triste by Arwen Abendstern:

Scream and Shout by Mindaugas Danys:

Always Kiss Me Goodnight by Courtney Carmody:

Brooklyn Heights Pizzeria by Robert Banh:

Human Heart by Mikael Häggström:

Basal Ganglia by John Henkel:

various images from BodyParts3D/Anatomography:


P.S. You think people could just ask for permission every time? It was a ton of work just finding resources and going through the due diligence to credit them all. It becomes prohibitive to have to ask permission all the time. Some people don't even have time to answer requests. There's tons of reasons why permission-culture is a broken model. Anyway, I couldn't use any such ask-permission-first material in this video for the same reasons stated above about NC. These extra requirements are incompatible with the license of the other CC-BY-SA sources.


  1. >Anyway, I couldn't use any such ask-permission-first material in this >video for the same reasons stated above about NC. These extra >requirements are incompatible with the license of the other CC-BY-SA >sources.

    Well, that is not true. It would be a lot of work to ask if you want to incorporate several "NC" licenses, but the author of any work can of course give you and anyone using a derivative of your work more rights.

    And I agree it is a hassle and most of the times the -NC is unnecessary and serving no real purpose.

    BTW: For enough money almost anyone having a "CC-NC" work will likely sell the work for any use you wish, including putting into public domain or shutting it away (the latter being hard to enforce in such a case)

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, James!

    You're correct that going through the whole hassle of getting permission *could* effectively get people to allow compatible terms for my work and its derivatives. But my point was that allowing the full terms needed for that amounts to a change in terms, no longer being ask-permission-first. Sure, they could still present the old terms to others. That's like publishing the same material in two places, one listed as All Rights Reserved and the other as CC.

    Also, to clarify about your last sentence: CC licenses are irrevocable. No amount of money can ever get someone to take away the CC license they used because once anyone gets a copy under the CC license, the license can never be revoked.

    So, in the end, yes, people can present different terms to the public under different cases, but my points apply to the situation that is almost always the case where we assume any terms available to the general public (not exclusive to a particular use or user) are effectively known to the public. It's basically a dual-license. For someone to give me the rights to publish under CC BY-SA while they also publish under other terms is comparable to publicly saying "this work is available under *either* of these licenses".