Awasu » This is your brain on jazz
Saturday 8th March 2008 5:39 AM [General]

An insanely cool paper has recently been released that describes research done analyzing brain activity in jazz musicians as they play:

A pair of Johns Hopkins and government scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow. ...

The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

I've always said (only half-jokingly) that one of the signs of a really good musician is that they can still play even when totally drunk. It shows that they've really internalized the mechanics of playing their instrument and the music is coming directly from within, a release from one's normal inhibitions and other constraints to give complete freedom to the creative process.

I used to play with a guitarist in the north of Thailand who often came to gigs so loaded on drugs and booze, he could barely stand yet he was able to play some of the most amazing stuff I've ever heard. Now he's pushing 50, he's off the drugs and drinks only moderately but unfortunately, now doesn't play anywhere near as excitingly 🙁 But it certainly showed me what can happen when you get into the zone.

Computer programmers also often get into the same kind of place, madly churning out code in an almost trance-like state although I'm not sure if drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels before a coding session would help all that much. It's a bit of a programmers' joke to tag a piece of code with the comment "drunk, fix later" 🙂

And no, there are none of those in the Awasu source code... 🙄

Have your say