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Music and the Spark of Spontaneity

Saturday, June 4, 2011
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Music. Improvisation. Spontaneous creativity. How does the brain do it? In the world of improvised music, eighteen-time Grammy award-winning jazz guitarist Pat Metheny is a legend. We took a live tour of his masterful musical mind at work as he performed and engaged in discussion with leading scientists who are also all musicians—Jamshed Bharucha, whose research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience will serve to explore the biological centers of creativity; Charles Limb, an otolaryngologist, surgeon, and neuroscientist who uses fMRI to study musicians while they improvise; Gary Marcus, a developmental psychologist who taught himself to play guitar at age 40 in order to examine the process of learning music; and Aaron Berkowitz, author of The Improvising Mind: Cognition and Creativity in the Musical Moment. Through performance and conversation, the program explored the neurological processes underlying improvisation and what they tell us about human creativity and the structure of the brain.


John SchaeferRadio Host

John Schaefer is the host and producer of WNYC’s long-running new music show New Sounds, which Billboard magazine has called “the #1 radio show for the Global Village,” founded in 1982, and its innovative Soundcheck podcast, which features live performances and interviews with a variety of guests.

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Pat MethenyMusician

Pat Metheny was born in Kansas City into a musical family. Starting on trumpet at the age of 8, Metheny switched to guitar at age 12. By the age of 15, he was working regularly with the best jazz musicians in Kansas City, receiving valuable on-the-bandstand experience at an unusually young age.

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Jamshed BharuchaCognitive Neuroscientist

Jamshed Bharucha conducts research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, focusing on the cognitive and neural basis of the perception of music. He is a past editor of the interdisciplinary journal Music Perception. Dr. Bharucha is the twelfth president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

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Charles LimbOtolaryngologist, Neuroscientist

Charles Limb is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, where he specializes in neurotology and skull base surgery.

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Aaron BerkowitzAuthor, Neuroscientist, Physician, Musician

Aaron Berkowitz is the author of The Improvising Mind: Cognition and Creativity in the Musical Moment, which explores improvisation from the perspectives of cognitive neuroscience, musicology/ethnomusicology, and music pedagogy.

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Gary MarcusCognitive Psychologist

Gary Marcus, scientist, bestselling author, and entrepreneur, is Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at NYU and CEO and Co-Founder of the recently-formed Geometric Intelligence, Inc.

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