The ability to improvise represents one of the highest levels of musical achievement. An improviser must master a musical language to such a degree as to be able to spontaneously invent stylistically idiomatic compositions on the spot. This feat is one of the pinnacles of human creativity, and yet its cognitive basis is poorly understood. What musical knowledge is required for improvisation? How does a musician learn to improvise? What are the neural correlates of improvised performance?
In The Improvising Mind, these questions are explored through an interdisciplinary approach that draws on cognitive neuroscience, study of historical pedagogical treatises on improvisation, interviews with improvisers, and musical analysis of improvised performances. Findings from these treatises and interviews are discussed from the perspective of cognitive psychological theories of learning, memory, and expertise. Musical improvisation has often been compared to 'speaking a musical language.' While past research has focussed on comparisons of music and language perception, few have dealt with this comparison in the performance domain. In this book, learning to improvise is compared with language acquisition, and improvised performance is compared with spontaneous speech from both theoretical and neurobiological perspectives.
Tackling a topic that has hitherto received little attention, The Improvising Mind will be a valuable addition to the literature in music cognition. This is a book that will make fascinating reading for musicologists, music theorists, cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists, musicians, music educators, and anyone with an interest in creativity.
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Aaron Berkowitz received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University, his Ph.D. in music from Harvard University, and his Bachelors degrees in Music (B.A.) and Biology (B.S.) from George Washington University. He has published his research in the journals NeuroImage and Twentieth Century Music, has been an invited speaker at several major U.S. universities and conferences, and served as a guest professor in music and psychology at Tufts University. As a pianist and fortepianist he has performed throughout Europe and the U.S., and as a composer his compositions have been performed in Europe and the U.S., including Carnegie Hall.
"The author has it all: psychology, biology, and music, both theoretical and practical.
He surely knows what he is talking about. This expert knowledge is accompanied by a
conspicuous enthusiasm for the subject. This enthusiasm shows up throughout the book, but it is perhaps most apparent in the Dedication and Acknowledgements. I cannot recall a book that expressed such sincere gratitude to so many teachers, colleagues, friends, and family...What I particularly liked about the book was the wealth and diversity of information brought to bear on the topic... good reasons why I am reviewing this impressively informative book instead of playing." --PsycCRITIQUES
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