Here is a very interesting piece on musical improvisation. Researchers Mónica López-González and Charles J. Limb are using brain imaging to study the creative processes that musicians go through while improvising. A special thanks to @MINDGAINS for bringing this article to my attention. Here’s an excerpt below. Click the link at the bottom to continue reading the article at its source, Dana.org.
Musical Creativity and the Brain
While working with young jazz soloists, Miles Davis once said, “Play what you hear, not what you know.”1 Practice, experience, and sheer talent taught Davis that a personally and socially satisfying gig occurs when the ideas entering the musician’s imagination are developed through solo improvisations instead of ignored in favor of practiced patterns.1 Simply put, no one wants to pay for and hear a contrived performance. Both the fascination we have with the art of in-the-moment creation and the value we place on it continue to flourish. Contemporary artists as varied as pianist Keith Jarrett, vocalist Bobby McFerrin, and rapper Eminem make their living off of improvising and regularly pack concert venues.
Which brings us to the main questions underlying both theoretical and empirical work on creativity: What is it, and how do we accomplish it? The literature on creativity and its related topics—intuition, expert knowledge, problem-solving, achievement, and case studies of exceptional accomplishments—is vast, with perspectives coming from fields as diverse as philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, musicology, and art history.2-15 But research on creativity, particularly from the psychological perspective, can be considered a young science, having progressed only after prominent American psychologist J.P. Guilford made a plea for its empirical study during his 1950 presidential address to the American Psychological Association.3 Despite the later advent of brain-imaging techniques in the 1990s, the neuroscience of creativity began to harbor interest and to pick up pace only very recently.