Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

The Musical Brain

When neuroscientist, Paul Kalanithi was faced with his own mortality, he wrote down his musings in his book “When Breath Becomes Air”. He had begun to question his assumption that the mind is just the mechanics of the brain. Could the mind possibly have a life and an intelligence of its own outside the physical organ?

How do we measure or even define intelligence? Neuroscience can explain the operating rules of the brain but the mind addresses our thoughts, feelings, relationships and morality. Walt Whitman alluded to this duality as “physiological – spiritual man”.

There has been much discussion and research regarding the idea of “multiple intelligences” including musical intelligence, and how they   interact.

The linguistic region of our brain’s left hemisphere rules over rhythm, timing and structure of speech and hearing while the right brain manages melody, musical rhythm, pitch variation, volume, timbre, singing production, and expressive, metaphoric language often found in songs. It helps us hear tonal patterns and assists with musical memory. Therapeutically, speech improves more quickly using singing vs. spoken exercises.

Our logical intelligence in the left brain controls mathematical prowess while in the same location in the right brain, harmony (which, in Western music, is mathematically based) is processed.

Spacial intelligence governs our perception of the world in 3D and our movement through space. In the right brain, music is represented  spacially via musical notation. It recognizes patterns and the overall arc of a composition . Our left and right brain work together to kinesthetically act out instructions delivered by the brain to the body in an expressive manner.

Training, research, deep thinking and a willingness to let our voices, especially in singing, reveal our deepest emotions, allows us to tap into our inter/intrapersonal intelligence.

On the way to mastering Western music, musicians’ brains have developed asym-metrically. The intensity of practice increases the volume of gray matter in certain areas of the brain and builds a stronger bridge between the 2 hemispheres creating a refined and essential relationship. One can say that music is the great unifier, integrating the brain and the mind to create a complete thinking and feeling being!

Mindful Voice. Lynn Helding. Journal of Singing, Sept/Oct 2009.                                                                           Bodymind& Voice: Foundations of Voice Education. L. Thurman EdD & G. Welch PhD co-ed. The Voice Care Network. 2000.                                                                                                                        

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