Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Set My Brain On Fire

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Oliver Sacks
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Tonight there was a show on NOVA about how music affects the human brain. Most of it was kind of boring and a wee bit annoying (really, playing instruments requires different parts of your brain??? Gee, thanks for enlightening us, Science! And now back to curing the common cold), but some parts were very interesting. For example, Oliver Sacks (the man who was played by Robin Williams in Awakening) had his brain scanned while listening to music. When he was hearing Bach, of whom he's a longtime fan, his brain lighted up all orangey; but when he was listening to Beethoven, whom he doesn't like at all, his brain didn't light up (for a visual example, watch Sacks' interview with Jon Stewart, above).

Well, it turns out this doesn't just happen to Sacks; and it doesn't only happen with music in general or Bach in particular, either. Everyone's brain lights up when they encounter something they like, and usually what you like is established when you're a little kid. For example, Sacks has loved Bach since he was three. When I was an itty-bitty, I can remember listening to my parents' folk music and rock records. And I'm still a total geek about folk music and The Eagles, I'll admit. :)

This got me thinking: when I'm reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a song I really enjoy, my brain must be lighting up like a fireworks display! And that is a great answer to the question of what reviewers are looking for--they want their brains light up, baby!

If Sacks' studies--and my extrapolations--are correct and people are going to respond to a work of art based on such individual factors as past experiences and brain chemistry, how does an artist controll that? The answer is, they can't! And I, as your audience, don't expect you to. I would love for my brain to light up like Paris at night for every work of art I look at, or book I read, or song I listen to; but the fact of the matter is, the number of things that might set off that response in me are pretty small. I know that and I accept it.

But the real challenge now? Figuring out what makes my head light up like a Christmas tree, and then finding it--that's the tricky part.

Powered by ScribeFire.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...