[JPL] Maybe this might be worth your comments.

Russell Haines rfhnyc_ at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 3 20:25:14 EDT 2009


In recent years, there have been several interesting neuroscience experiments that attempt to get inside the head of performers as they engage in improv. One study, led by Charles Limb of the NIH and Johns Hopkins University, examined the brain activity of jazz musicians as they played on a piano. The musicians began with pieces that required no imagination, such as the C-major scale and a simple blues tune they’d memorized in advance. But then came the creativity condition: The musicians were told to improvise a new melody as they played alongside a recorded jazz quartet.
 
While the musicians riffed on the piano, giant magnets whirred overhead monitoring minor shifts in their brain activity. The researchers found that jazz improv relied on a carefully choreographed set of mental events, which allowed the musicians to discover their new melodies. Before a single note was played, the pianists exhibited a “deactivation” of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a brain area associated with planned actions and self-control. In other words, they were inhibiting their inhibitions, which allowed the musicians to create without worrying about what they were creating.
 
But it’s not enough to just unleash the mind — successful improv requires a very particular kind of expression. That’s why the fMRI machine also recorded a spike in activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a fold of frontal lobe just behind the eyes. This area is often linked with self-expression — it lights up, for instance, whenever people tell a story in which they’re the main character. The scientists argue that this part of the brain is required for jazz improv because the musicians are channeling their artistic identity, searching for the notes that best summarize their style.
 
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/09/classical-improv.html#more
 
 
Russell Haines
Jazz/World Music Director
WWSP 90fm
1608 Reserve Street
Stevens Point, WI. 54481 



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