Reading MTA

15 September 2017

Mirrors in the Brain – and what they mean for musicians

On this blog site, there are 8 posts that discuss mirror neurons in detail.  Scroll down under Categories to Mirror neurons in the right hand column of this page.  You can find more detailed information about Chia-Jung Tsay’s visual studies on this site at:  Are you listening to the music – or watching the performer?;  Are you listening or watching? part II;  and Now from a jury member. And you may be interested in Seeing Iveswhich is about the visual in a performance of the four Ives Violin and Piano Sonatas, performed by violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Jeremy Denk.

And below are books and videos that I mentioned during the presentation:


Marco Iacoboni. 2008.  Mirroring People:  the science of empathy and how we connect with others.    All about mirror neurons.

Gregory Hickok. 2014.   The Myth of Mirror Neurons:  the real neuroscience of communication and cognition.  Although Hickok agrees that mirror neurons exist, he thinks the claims have been overblown.

Jill Bolte Taylor.  My Stroke of Insight:  A brain scientist’s personal journey.  A Harvard-trained brain scientist writes about her own stroke and her journey to recovery.  And she writes about learning to present again to an audience (after her stroke) by watching a video of herself (mirror neurons).


Svard, L. (2010).  The Musician’s Guide to the Brain:  how to use brain science in the study of music.  MTNA e-journal.   February 2010.   (Discussion of mirror neurons)

Tsay CJ.  (2013).  Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA  110(36): 14580-14585. (The reference list in this paper is an extensive list of research about the primacy of the visual.)

Tsay, CJ.  (2014).  The vision heuristic:  Judging music ensembles by sight alone.  Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 124: 24-33.


Three-year old Jonathan conducting 4th movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The Art of Piano:  Great Pianists of the 20th Century   You Tube link.  This is also available as a DVD through Amazon.

The Art of Conducting:  Great Conductors of the Past.   Available as a DVD, but expensive. (Currently $299.00)

Piano Legends:  Chick Corea Host     Sorry to say, the prices of both VHS and DVD versions are staggering (in the range of $900), and it’s not available on You Tube.  But you might check your public or university library.

My Stroke of Insight.    Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk (over 21 million views at this point)

Simon Rattle conducts 6 Berlin school orchestras

Simon Rattle conducts John Williams: Indiana Jones

Blog post  

Horowitz and Tatum – when jazz met classical     Interesting post about Horowitz, Tatum, and the jazz standard, “Tea for Two.”

And you may also want to check out Yuja Wang playing the same “Tea for Two” at


McMaster University’s LIVELab, a research center for music and the mind.  Check “Current Studies” under the Research tab to see some of the exciting research they are conducting.