Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Musical Brain (Documentary)

I saw part of this Canadian documentary on an airline flight last November, and I have wanted to find some way to see the whole thing since then, but it's pretty hard to find. The Musical Brain was supposedly available at this CTV site, but early this year it was blacked out due to some issue with broadcast rights to the Winter Olympics (not sure why they had to black out all news content for that). That was supposed to end on March 1 but it's still blacked out. I finally found it on YouTube in six parts (part 2 is missing), but it may not be there for long.

It's worth seeking out. It's a really interesting documentary based in large part on the excellent book This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Leviton. Leviton is a former professional musician and producer who pursued a neuroscience degree and who now studies how music works in the brain (among other things). He had always wanted to do brain imaging studies on a master musician, and he managed to sign up Sting for this. Much of the program involves discussions with and about Sting and his approach to music, with some discussion about his (fMRI) brain scan results. The actual scan results don't reveal any great insights to the viewer or to Sting himself - things like the fact that his brain "lights up" equally in response to jazz, rock, or classical music but very little for "muzak" - these are things that Sting already knew about himself. It was noted that when listening to or composing music, Sting's brain showed a lot of activity on both the right and left sides, which had not been seen in similar exercises with non-musicians or amateur musicians. 

It's not all about Sting. There's also good information on how babies respond to music, on the role that music has in the brain's development, and on the various roles that music plays in culture and in social situations.


Kathleen M said...

The Musical Brain is being rebroadcast on Tues, July 13th, 2010 on Bravo. It's also available on DVD here:

Kathleen M said...

Or at Bravo's website: