[Dixielandjazz] Mozart Effect - Redux

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sun Jun 5 12:44:29 PDT 2005

Fascinating stuff. I've added some inter-paragragh comments that begin 
with CAPS.--Charlie Suhor

On Jun 5, 2005, at 10:39 AM, Don Mopsick wrote:
> What I found VERY fascinating in this book was the discussion about the
> physical properties of music itself, how brains react to properties 
> such
> as consonance vs. dissonance, and the physiology of perfect pitch. Here
> are some points that stayed with me:

NOT in the above list, but there's good reason to believe that the 
appeal and endurance of jazz improvisation is related to our hard-wired 
ability to make language improvisationally. Everyday talk is generated 
from the deep structure of syntactic choices, and jazz (pre-avant 
garde) takes off from a base of chords song structure.

> *Dissonant music of every type created a marked difference in brain
> scans. The implication is that dissonance is hardly processed by the
> brain at all as music. This goes along with the pop-psychobabble notion
> that dissonance kills your plants and upsets your digestion.

I WONDER, though, if most people haven't simply been conditioned to 
grimace somewhere on the road from triads to flatted fifths to chord 
clusters. Once we open our minds to the potential beauty of dissonance, 
our brains might well respond in an appreciative, though different, 
way. I can bliss out on Bartok and Monk as well as Bach and Bix. I 
wonder if a brain scan would reveal, in such a case, different patterns 
from the scan of a dissonance-hater. And anyway, how can what's 
registering on a scan trump one's dissonance-based bliss experiences 
and call them "bad"?
> *The very existence of perfect pitch is remarkable because it proves
> that musical memory exists in the absolute--that there really is an
> internal musical world! Also, it is a relatively rare phenomenon. The
> author downplays the heritability of perfect pitch and musical ability
> in general, but I would like to see updated data on this theory as 
> well.

INHERITED or not, couldn't perfect pitch just be an instance of a 
highly refined, and specialized, musical memory function that some 
people have, just as some people are sharper than most in remembering 
numbers or dates or whatever? And some animals have a sense of smell 
several times keener than humans. The point being, I don't get why 
perfect pitch needs to be described as a discrete absolute when simpler 
explanations in terms of variable sensory acuity seem to do as well.

> As far as intelligence, a good book on this subject is "Emotional
> Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman published in 1995. It turns out that 
> the
> way outdated tool "IQ" measures only a few kinds of intelligence, that
> emotional intelligence is the most important kind to have and the best
> indicator of success in life, and by the way musical intelligence is in
> its own category and not necessarily related to any other kind.

YEAH, Goldman and Howard Gardner (of "multiple intelligence" fame) have 
opened some doors that were closed when n"I.Q." was the main measure.

> However, in an interview I heard him say that musically intelligent 
> people are
> often abundantly intelligent in all other areas, that is to say that 
> they are generally gifted people.
> But, I'm sure we all know musically gifted people who can barely
> function socially and in fact seem to be emotional cripples.

I THINK THAT "often" is the operative word here. We've all known 
musicians who were gifted in other areas, and musicians who were not 
very bright in school and other areas. Charlie Parker was an addict, 
and he once said that he spent four years in high school and ended up a 
sophomore. But nothing will convince me that he wasn't very broadly 
intelligent, his academic failure rooted in other causes. The 
abstraction of Bird's groundbreakingly complex rhythmic lines and his 
innovative improvisation on the higher intervals of chords demonstrate 
a creative genius, not a musical savant or an example of roped-off 
emotional intelligence.
> This is yet
> one more way musical ability can be a curse rather than a blessing.
> mopo
> Don Mopsick, Riverwalk Webmaster
> www.riverwalk.org
> www.landing.com
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