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4. Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination 
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Post 4. Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination
Chapter 4.
Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination



Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:44 am
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Post Re: 4. Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination
I don't have much to say about this chapter, just a few things.

It seems to me this chapter isn't showing us much other than introducing us to the idea of imagining music even when there is no external music present. When or why these images come to mind seem to remain a mystery, as Sacks doesn't really give a very good explanation of the neurological nature of such imagery. He gave us anecdotes from his own friends and a few patients, and a line or two from a medical perspective, but nothing really supporting his statements or adding any kind of validity to the rest of the book. I do feel that this chapter is in the book only as a prelude to the next chapter, which I assume will tackle the real details of why certain tunes get stuck in our minds without our voluntarily putting them there, as he suggests he does in this chapter.

I do agree with him that musical imagery is important to professional musicians and is a true, physical thing, because I can hear entire orchestral works without having to be listening to it on my iPod or computer or in concert. When I was studying piano (and flute, for that matter), my teachers (and my music professor mother) always emphasized the importance of "practicing away from the piano/flute." As a young child and even a teenager, I didn't understand the significance of this and found it to be tedious and silly, but it actually does help to cement the music in your hands as well as your head. The idea is to have the music in front of you, reading it and physically acting like you are playing the instrument without actually playing the instrument. You imagine the music as if you were actually playing it, and once you return to the instrument after having imagined the music without it, you have a new understanding of the music and a better sense memory, and it really does help to allow you to catch more of the nuances and subtleties of what you are trying to play. I was also told to do this with choral and vocal music, to imagine singing it as well as practicing singing it physically. The same was true here: I knew the music better, and could feel the emotions behind it more because I had spent time hearing myself sing it without being too busy engaging in the act of singing it. If that makes sense.

This also made me think that the "air guitar" could possibly be more productive and less silly than it seems to be, and I had a good smile at the thought.



Sat Apr 03, 2010 7:54 pm
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Post Re: 4. Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination
bleachededen wrote:
It seems to me this chapter isn't showing us much other than introducing us to the idea of imagining music even when there is no external music present. When or why these images come to mind seem to remain a mystery, as Sacks doesn't really give a very good explanation of the neurological nature of such imagery. He gave us anecdotes from his own friends and a few patients, and a line or two from a medical perspective, but nothing really supporting his statements or adding any kind of validity to the rest of the book. I do feel that this chapter is in the book only as a prelude to the next chapter, which I assume will tackle the real details of why certain tunes get stuck in our minds without our voluntarily putting them there, as he suggests he does in this chapter.


Yes, that was exactly my take on this chapter. I'll not put a spoiler here about the next chapter, see you all over there.


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Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:18 pm
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Post Re: 4. Music on the Brain: Imagery and Imagination
Quite actually, I like this chapter so far. I am not a musician and can barely play the radio, so some of the insights in this chapter are new to me. I knew that Beethoven could hear the music in his head even though he was deaf, he could even conduct pieces, by following the movement of the bow of the first violin. But I didn't realize the extent the musical imagination plays on the part of most composers. I was surprised by the comment that many things are composed in their minds and the placing of the notes on the staff is a mere formality. I would think that writing the music down as you went and trying it on an instrument was necessary for all but geniuses. I am also very surprised that imagining playing the music can be more beneficial that actual practice with an instrument.

My own musical imaginings happen but are pretty much limited to what I can hum. In fact even though I am not emitting any noise, my breath and throat move as if I were humming it. These tunes go on just about constantly, some I like, some I don't but seem to get caught up in habit.

One thing I do that is kind of neat is that I dream in full fidelity, all the instruments, exact score. I have woken up to hear various symphonies playing in my head that sounded exactly like the recordings I have of them. The music will last for about 30 seconds and then fades out just about the time I think wow, Tchaikovsky Symphony Number 6 in beautiful technisound!


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Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:02 pm
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