The Starry Night isregarded as one of Vincent Van Gogh’s best works and is probably one of the most well-known images in art, having been appropriated for everything from mugs to mouse pads to desktop wallpaper.
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night
I recently happened upon a very unusual version of Starry Night – a video of the iconic image created by falling dominoes. As I watched the dominoes fall (or not, in some cases), it struck me that the falling dominoes are a perfect analogy for motor programs in the brain as we perform a piece from memory.
In music we often talk about auditory, visual, and motor memory. But outside of the music world, we encounter a dizzying array of memory terms. We read about short-term vs. long-term, explicit vs. implicit, declarative vs. procedural, semantic vs. episodic – and more. So what do all of these terms mean in relationship to memory for music? Continue reading →
When I was in grad school (the first time), a friend showed up at lunch one day looking far more stressed than usual. When I asked her what was going on, she said she had a dream the previous night, and she was convinced it was a premonition of disaster for an impending degree recital. In her dream, she walked out on stage, acknowledged the very large audience of faculty, friends and family, sat down at a beautiful 9’ Steinway on which she had practiced, and then drew a complete blank. Not only could she not remember how to begin the first piece, she couldn’t even remember what repertoire was on the recital. Sound familiar? Continue reading →
It wasn’t so long ago that the very existence of synesthesia was questioned. (You may recall from an earlier post that there are 60+ types of synesthesia, the condition in which stimulation of one sense leads to automatic experience of a second sense.) Many scientists throughout the twentieth century scoffed at the idea of synesthesia – saying that people who claimed to have it just had strong childhood memories linking two senses – for example, colors and numbers.
But research during the 1980s and 90s definitively proved the existence of synesthesia, and scientists are now looking at its advantages and disadvantages. Does having synesthesia give you cognitive benefits? Does it improve memory? Is it embedded in our genes, or do we learn it through environmental associations from childhood? Can adults be taught synesthesia?
A few months ago I wrote several posts about the importance of mirror neurons in the study and performance of music. Mirror neurons, as you recall, are the cells that fire both when we act and when we see someone else making the same action, and multiple studies have been conducted that specifically explore mirror neurons in musicians. But some scientists have called mirror neurons the most hyped concept in neuroscience. So are mirror neurons myth – or reality. And what difference does this controversy make to practicing musicians? Continue reading →
This year, instead of giving a gift card from a favorite bookstore or a DVD from the Met Opera Shop, how about giving an iPod or donation to Music and Memory in the name of that special someone? A non-profit organization, Music and Memory brings music to the elderly and disabled, particularly those with Alzheimer’s, and the results have been nothing short of amazing. Continue reading →