Daily Archives: March 23, 2009

A Musician’s Brain (03/20)

brains1

In Part II, chapter 7 of Oliver Sacks book, Musicophilia he states that:

Anatomists today would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician–but they could recognize the brain of a professional musician without a moment’s hesitation.

p.100

You may be asking yourself how on earth is that possible?

Using MRI morphometry, Gottfried Schlaug at Harvard and his colleagues made careful compariaons of the sizes of various prain structures. In 1995, they published a paper showing that the corpus callosum, the commissure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, is enlarged in professional musicians and the auditory cortex has an asymetric enlargement in musicians with absolute pitch.  Schlaug et al. went on to show increased volumes in gray matter in motor, auditory, and visuospatial areas of the cortex as well as the cerebellem.

Leave a comment

Filed under life, music

Django Reinhardt (03/19)

I first heard of the musician Django Reinhart when I saw Woody Allen’s film Sweet and Lowdown. As you may recall, Sean Penn’s character Emmet Ray idolizes Django and if I recall correctly, passes out when he sees Django at a gas station.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I began listening to some of Reinhardt’s guitar solos. The music he makes is amazing and after you read what happened to him in 1928, you’ll be even more amazed.

On November 2nd, 1928 an event took place that would forever change Django’s life. At one o’clock in the morning the 18 year old Django returned from a night of playing music at a new club “La Java” to the caravan that was now the home of himself and his new wife. The caravan was filled with celluloid flowers his wife had made to sell at the market on the following day. Django upon hearing what he thought was a mouse among the flowers bent down with a candle to look. The wick from the candle fell into the highly flammable celluloid flowers and the caravan was almost instantly transformed into a raging inferno. Django wrapped himself in a blanket to shield him from the flames. Somehow he and his wife made it across the blazing room to safety outside, but his left hand, and his right side from knee to waist were badly burned.

Initially doctors wanted to amputate his leg but Django refused. He was moved to a nursing home where the care was so good his leg was saved. Django was bedridden for eighteen months. During this time he was given a guitar, and with great determination Django created a whole new fingering system built around the two fingers on his left hand that had full mobility. His fourth and fifth digits of the left hand were permanently curled towards the palm due to the tendons shrinking from the heat of the fire. He could use them on the first two strings of the guitar for chords and octaves but complete extension of these fingers was impossible. His soloing was all done with the index and middle fingers! Film clips of Django show his technique to be graceful and precise, almost defying belief.

Leave a comment

Filed under life, movies, music

Beware of Bezoars (03/18)

I will spare you, and not post a picture of this:

bezoar – A ball of food, mucus, vegetable fiber, hair, or other material that cannot be digested in the stomach. Bezoars can cause blockage, ulcers, and bleeding.

In other words, a hairball.

But I am not talking about a cat here.

Humans and cud-chewing animals, such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, and antelopes get hairballs or other types of “bezoars”.

“Bezoar” is a Persian word that means “protection from poison,” because bezoars were believed to be a universal antidote against poisoning.

to see pictures and read more click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under life