"you Go To my head": saxophonist Flip Phillips, behind the scenes.William Gottlieb/The Library of Congress "you Go To my head": saxophonist Flip Phillips, behind the scenes.
A jazz performance, how can you when a musician is improvising, and when he or she plays a prepared melody, style? What happens in a certain way, it sounds almost exactly the same than the other?
A team of German scientists wanted to learn more about how the brain deals with spontaneity. They had so much jazz six pianists improvise a runway of accompaniment. Then researchers transcribed these representations and had pianists to replicate the improvisations of their colleagues. All this is recorded.
These recordings were played for another set of jazz musicians 22. Under MRI taken at listening, the part of the brain called the amygdala - an emotional response centre - reacted higher improvisation and imitations. (Computer analysis reveals that the improvisations are more dynamically variable and more rhythmically irregular than their imitations). And the team also found that when musicians thought they listened improvisations (if they were or not), they appeared to be improvising imagine - or at least, the parts of the brain that control the action lit up.
You can read the full study, or just a summary. But a report in Science magazine online is easier to digest and more fun. Basically, there are two sets of examples of what musicians listened - you can test for yourself whether or not it is improvised. Don't worry if you get wrong: proves that the musicians got it right only 55% of the time on average, barely above chance. [Science:brains on Jazz feel music]