Amplify with Lara Downes: Esperanza SpaldingLara Downes | April 24, 2021 To be Esperanza Spalding is to be many things that myths are made of — the myths of genius, of creativity, of beauty, of success and stardom. Just to be a female bass player in the man's world of jazz is to be a unicorn, that most mythical creature. To have, on top of that, a voice that spins gold and casts spells — to win a Grammy for an album literally called 12 Little Spells. The possibilities for myth, magic and fairytale are endless. But Esperanza Spalding is very real. She's grounded in the pursuit of truth before fantasy, determined to sing songs that avoid the same old stories, to create work that defies convenient endings. At the moment, she's busy deconstructing an actual Greek myth while taking on the fabulous beast that is opera. Her self-produced and crowd-funded project Iphigenia is a collaboration with mentor/creative partner Wayne Shorter. His groundbreaking improvisation – and legendary quartet of musicians at the center – mixes classical and jazz forms in a score set to Esperanza's poetic and subversively radical libretto. Together, the music and text reveal a new perspective into this ancient story that would have us believe that Iphigenia was born to be sacrificed. But what if we let her tell her own story and make her own ending? In this conversation, we talk about our power to liberate the victims of historical sacrifice — in myth, in opera, in the day-to-day experience of being human. To deconstruct also means to rebuild, and Esperanza is applying her "athletic creativity" to the construction of work intended to give shelter and safe haven from the dangers of our time. Her Songwrights Apothecary Lab, developed during this pandemic year, is a hybrid of songwriting workshop and guided research practice. She brings together musicians and practitioners of various disciplines — music therapy, neuroscience, Black American music, Sufism and South Indian Carnatic music — in the spirit of radical healing. It's a bold vision of what music can do, of what artists can do. And what can happen when we tell our own stories.
Lack of joy from music linked to brain disconnectionHave you ever met someone who just wasn’t into music? They may have a condition called specific musical anhedonia, which affects three-to-five per cent of the population. Researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University have discovered that people with this condition showed reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions responsible for processing sound and subcortical regions related to reward. To understand the origins of specific musical anhedonia, researchers recruited 45 healthy participants who completed a questionnaire measuring their level of sensitivity to music and divided them into three groups of sensitivity based on their responses. The test subjects then listened to music excerpts inside an fMRI machine while providing pleasure ratings in real-time. To control for their brain response to other reward types, participants also played a monetary gambling task in which they could win or lose real money. Using the fMRI data, the researchers found that while listening to music, specific musical anhedonics presented a reduction in the activity of the Nucleus Accumbens, a key subcortical structure of the reward network. The reduction was not related to a general improper functioning of the Nucleus Accumbens itself, since this region was activated when they won money in the gambling task. Specific musical anhedonics, however, did show reduced functional connectivity between cortical regions associated with auditory processing and the Nucleus Accumbens. In contrast, individuals with high sensitivity to music showed enhanced connectivity. The fact that subjects could be insensible to music while still responsive to another stimulus like money suggests different pathways to reward for different stimuli. This finding may pave the way for the detailed study of the neural substrates underlying other domain-specific anhedonias and, from an evolutionary perspective, help us to understand how music acquired reward value. Lack of brain connectivity has been shown to be responsible for other deficits in cognitive ability. Studies of children with autism spectrum disorder, for example, have shown that their inability to experience the human voice as pleasurable may be explained by a reduced coupling between the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus and distributed nodes of the reward system, including the Nucleus Accumbens. This latest research reinforces the importance of neural connectivity in the reward response of human beings. “These findings not only help us to understand individual variability in the way the reward system functions, but also can be applied to the development of therapies for treatment of reward-related disorders, including apathy, depression, and addiction,” says Robert Zatorre, an MNI neuroscientist and one of the paper’s co-authors. This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept. 27, 2016. It was made possible with funds from the Governments of Spain and Catalonia, and from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro – is a world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world’s top minds make The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute.
Are geniuses real? The neuroscience and myths of visionaries | Big ThinkAre geniuses real? The neuroscience and myths of visionaries Watch the newest video from Big Think: Learn skills from the world's top minds at Big Think Edge: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Revolutionary ideas and culture-shifting inventions are often credited to specific individuals, but how often do these "geniuses" actually operate in creative silos? Tim Sanders, former chief strategy officer at Yahoo, argues that there are three myths getting in the way of innovative ideas and productive collaborations: the myths of the expert, the eureka moment, and the "lone inventor." More than an innate quality reserved for an elite group, neuroscientist Heather Berlin and neurobiologist Joy Hirsch explain how creativity looks in the brain, and how given opportunity, resources, and attitude, we can all be like Bach, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TRANSCRIPT: -There is no such thing as a lone inventor. We want to be as empowered as Ayn Rand. We want to think that we are the fountainhead, so this is how we tell the story. But until you believe that genius is a team sport, you will never give up control. - It's not just about collecting a bunch of data and knowing a lot of facts, but it's making these novel connections between ideas. - I think all of us as humans are sort of endowed with the need to make things better. Genius is just an extreme version of that but it represents us as humans in a very fundamental way. TIM SANDERS: There are myths of creativity and these myths are usually propagated by people that have romantic notions about heroes, romantic notions about eureka moments. And these myths of creativity keep people from collaborating and it causes them to be a lone wolf. And the research says it causes them to fail. So let me talk a little bit about those myths of creativity. In the world of sales and marketing, I battle against three myths. Myth number one, the lone inventor. This is very dangerous because there is no such thing as a lone inventor. As a matter of fact, there's a lot of historical research that has debunked Einstein. Specifically in terms of inventions, Henry Ford, not a lone inventor. Classic example, Thomas Edison. In the invention community, Thomas Edison is a brand. It stands for 14 people. Yes, there was a figurehead named Thomas Edison. His name is on 10,000 patents. He did not invent a single thing. He marshaled people together and knew how to spot innovations and put people together like, a creative soup, if you will. Here's a classic example, Steve Jobs, you ask the average person, say a millennial who uses a lot of Apple technology, "Who's one of the greatest inventors of our time?" They'll say Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs once said, "I never created anything. "All I did was notice patterns "and put people together to finish projects." So think about it. If he doesn't have Wozniak, there is no original Apple, right? If he doesn't have Ive, there is no iPod. If he doesn't have Tony Fiddel, there is no iPhone. And the list goes on and on. Got a good friend of mine, David Berkus, who wrote a really wonderful book about the myths of genius. And he was telling me that it's a romantic notion. And I remember when I first read this research years ago, no lone inventor, it did kind of hurt my feelings. I'm a musician in my past. I thought I wrote a lot of songs but according to the research, I'd never wrote a song. I always collaborated with somebody, the song that actually made it to the record and made it on the radio had 15 to 50 hands on it. When I talked to David, I said, "When I read your research, it kind of hurt my feelings." And he goes, "It's a romantic notion because we want to be heroes." We want to be as empowered as Ayn Rand. We want to think that we're the Fountainhead. So this is how we tell the story. But until you believe that genius is a team sport, you will never give up control. And this is the problem for a lot of people in sales. They don't want to cede any level of control over their process to somebody outside of sales world because they don't value those voices enough. But the research is clear on this, Miller Heiman Institute researched the difference between good and great. They call it world-class organizations. They win, they sell 20% more than their nearest competitor. The only thing they have in common is they've broken this myth and they understand that every deal is about rapid problem solving and no one person can solve the problem on their own. Quickly, the other two myths of creativity that must be dispelled is the eureka moment. There is no such thing as a big idea that changes the world. I know this is another one of those hurtful, but very true based on empirical research... To read the full transcript, please visit