Sunday, November 7, 2010

Step into the consciousness of your right brain

I'm putting the finishing touches on my workshop for the upcoming Fiddle Hell weekend. I've been reviewing the differences between the right and left sides of the brain, and doing a lot of thinking about what makes the old time fiddling experience different.

Seems to me, the sort of jamming and playing by ear that I do is related to giving the experience over to the right brain functions: hearing the tune as a whole, perceiving fingering and chords as spatial shapes (rather than letters and numbers), jamming as a communal activity using sounds instead of words. In contrast, reading notation and learning phrase by phrase is strongly rooted in analytical left brain functions. Here's some background information about what the right brain does.

First up, Jill Bolte Taylor's dramatic account of having a stroke.

And, here's an article that has a good side-by-side comparison of what the 2 hemispheres do.

Not to worry, I won't do much talking in the workshop. And, it certainly won't be a neuroanatomy lesson. We'll learn how to describe some techniques and put those words into use right away by playing the whole of the tune.

Here's a worksheet that I'll handout in the beginning to get folks thinking about old time fiddling techniques. Maybe some folks will give it some thought before the workshop.

See you 'round the jams!


Jim Marks said...

Heard JBT's story on WAMC some weeks ago, blows me away. Thanks for posting this. Interesting that you chose this, as I was thinking when I heard it that one of my problems in playing music is that the left brain is sometimes much too noisy...

Ter said...

There's another vid out there somewhere. Couldn't find it just now. But, the experimenter applies electromagnetic vibrations to subject's left side of the head for a rather long (I thought, but who asked me?) interval of time. The subject scored much higher on right brain tasks. eg, being shown a computer monitor with many dots in random patterns and then close to accurately saying how many dots there were. Whereas when they were tested with both sides of the brain, subjects would get hung up trying to count and not be able to complete the task. I'm having a lot of fun thinking about this in relation to jamming, particularly about how we learn a tune as a whole, not a one-dimensional something with only a beginning, middle, and end.