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Brain scans of jazz musicians unveil language and music similarities.
March 17, 2014 2:36 AM

This very interesting study was published last month:

Jazz fans will know that a defining characteristic of the genre - whose greats include Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus - are the spontaneous "musical conversations" that spark up when members of a jazz band improvise.

This improvisation bears similarity to human speech, with the players often taking it in turns to trade lines that build up into a dialogue.

Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, have found that the brain interprets music and language in a similar way, by scanning the brains of improvising jazz musicians.

What's super interesting is that these researchers were able to concoct an experiment whereby the musicians involved were able to trade fours, all while their brains were being scanned! This is remarkable and a first for science and jazz, no doubt.

The bottom line?

"We've shown in this study that there is a fundamental difference between how meaning is processed by the brain for music and language," says Dr. Limb, who is a keen musician himself. "Specifically, it's syntactic and not semantic processing that is key to this type of musical communication. Meanwhile, conventional notions of semantics may not apply to musical processing by the brain."

It's fascinating stuff that will only grow in interest as the science world discovers the mysteries of jazz.

See? Bird Lives!

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Brain scans of jazz musicians unveil language and music similarities.

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Free MP3s from Vinson Valega:

Live at Blues Alley, Washington, DC (April 2005):
Jiminy Cricket Goes To The Go-Go Dance (Vinson Valega) [5.1 mb]

Live at The Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ (April 2005):
Georgia (Ray Charles) [9.0 mb]

Live rehearsal, NYC (summer 2006):
Ask Me Now (Thelonious Monk) [8.8 mb]

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