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Music Science

Brain Scans of Rappers and Jazz Musicians Shed Light On Creativity 92

Posted by Soulskill
from the medial-prefrontal-lit-like-thrusters-on-the-shuttle dept.
ananyo writes "Rappers making up rhymes on the fly while in a brain scanner have provided an insight into the creative process. Freestyle rapping — in which a performer improvises a song by stringing together unrehearsed lyrics — is a highly prized skill in hip hop. But instead of watching a performance in a club, Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. The rappers showed lower activity in part of their frontal lobes called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during improvisation, and increased activity in another area, called the medial prefrontal cortex. The areas that were found to be 'deactivated' are associated with regulating other brain functions. The results echo an earlier study of jazz musicians. The findings also suggest an explanation for why new music might seem to the artist to be created of its own accord. With less involvement by the lateral prefrontal regions of the brain, the performance could seem to its creator to have 'occurred outside of conscious awareness,' the authors write in the paper." Bonus points for science rhymes; for anyone who has the time.
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Brain Scans of Rappers and Jazz Musicians Shed Light On Creativity

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  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday November 16, 2012 @07:57PM (#42008085) Homepage Journal

    And is the translation any good?

    I speak and read Chinese, with a particular interest in classical characters. I've read, with considerable interest, the Tao te Ching in its near-original form, and also numerous English translations. I'm a martial artist, so such an expounding on "the way" is of great interest. I even suffered through a reading by Ursula Le Guin. Man, was that ever annoying. Then I had a few beers to try to forget. And I like her fiction. And I don't particularly like beer. Anyway...

    In the translations, in an attempt to make the content lyrical in English terms, and sometimes to rhyme, and sometimes to map to a particular agenda, the meaning is badly mangled — to be kind about it. The original can say something entirely mundane, and the translation gets all spiritual and freaky. It's enough to make me turn a little green sometimes.

    I wonder if these Kyrgz translations are more of the same.

    In the case of English and Chinese, the languages don't have anything even remotely resembling a 1:1 map once you get any further into them than "Ni hao", and even then... Someone probably, somewhere, might have told you Ni hao means hello... that's a very common start. What it actually means, though, is "you good" as an implied question that they do NOT expect you to answer... but if you go for "Ni hao ma" that's actually asking "you good?" whereas the first form doesn't indicate a need for an answer (compare to asking someone "how ya doin?", and they start telling you, while you groan to yourself "it was RHETORICAL, please SHUT UP!") It's not hello and it doesn't mean hello, it's just used where we would use hello. Ni hao maps a lot closer to an uninflected (non-questioning) "how ya doin" and ni hao ma to an inflected "how ya DOIN?." But you rarely get taught that, you sort of figure it out later. Well, some do.

    These mapping issues get much stronger as you get into any deeper meanings. In Chinese, that is. So... when I see translations of poetry and particularly when attempts are made to rhyme in another language... I get a little (more) cynical. :) Somehow I doubt that Kyrgyz ramblings make much sense at all in modern English, no matter what you do to 'em. That is to say, if you do enough to get them to make sense, they no longer map back to the original well.

    I can guarantee that's the case for English translations of the Tao te Ching. If you actually want to understand it, you've got a whole culture to learn, and THEN you've got to come to grips with centuries of change.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday November 16, 2012 @08:15PM (#42008257) Homepage Journal

    I don't have a problem with the artists, if I don't have to listen to there(sic) noise.

    "their"

    At least someone can explain to me why they like a certain hip hop song without a twenty minute discussion of music theory and jazz history.

    Did it ever occur to you that if you had a few years of musical education, such an explanation could be a short, concise event? There are terms and concepts that cover why one likes, or doesn't, jazz, classical, etc. They just don't boil down to "not 'nuff skanky hos" or "that shit don't rock my sub, man."

    Personally, if they completely cancelled football and actually taught music and music theory instead so people could create and/or appreciate music on more than a surface level when they heard it, I think we'd all be much better off. Certainly when I hear a "pop" music station, I think so. :/

    But... hey. Who am I to stand in the way of Little Billy's busted spleen? Rah. Rah. And stuff.

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