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Comparing the brain activity of jazz and classical pianists

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IT DOESN’T take a musical genius to recognise the differences between performances by Arthur Rubinstein and Duke Ellington. They were both prominent pianists in the 20th century, but were known for two distinct genres. While the upbeat swing of Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is the epitome of jazz, Rubinstein and his world-renowned recordings of nearly every work by Frédéric Chopin have a special place in the classical world. But it appears the differences between these musicians may have actually extended beyond their scores and into their brains. 

New research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, shows that jazz and classical musicians’ brain activity is different—even when they’re tackling the same score. In a sense, it comes down to different priorities, dictated by a musician’s native genre. While the improvisation in jazz requires a…Continue reading

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