Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2009 (4611 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
AS a true student of his art form, Sting jumped at the opportunity to learn more about what makes his musical mind tick.
But when faced with a very scientific analysis of what happens inside his brain when he’s creating or listening to music, the former Police frontman became concerned that learning too much might unravel the magic.
"Music’s a mystery," he insisted after listening to McGill University neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin’s very academic assessment of a scan of Sting’s brain. "And I think the more you do find out, the less you’re sure."
This uneasy exchange of musical inspiration and scientific explanation is the centrepiece of The Musical Brain, a fascinating hour-long documentary that airs tonight at 7 on CTV. The film begins with the baseline premise that, for humans, the love of music is universal, and then makes a creditable effort at trying to explain why.
Levitin, a teacher/researcher and musician/producer who has also authored a book titled This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, serves as an excellent tour guide in this exploration of the musically inclined corners of the mind.
Sting, who has read Levitin’s book, agreed to meet the professor during The Police reunion-tour stop in Montreal. After a brief discussion of that which they were hoping to discover, the musician allowed himself to be strapped into an ominous-looking bit of medical headgear before being shuttled into a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine.
Once inside, Sting was given a series of cues by Levitin, each requiring him to perform a series of musical tasks while the MRI machine measures brain activity.
Three months later, when The Police returned to Canada for a show in Toronto, Levitin reunited with Sting to study the final results of the scans.
What the singer/songwriter learned was both fascinating and slightly offputting, and even he was surprised by his sudden reluctance to impose too much logic on what has always been a mysterious creative process.
But as unnerving as it was for Sting, the information in The Musical Brain should prove quite captivating for the average, non-pop-star TV viewer. Several other high-profile musicians, including Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, current "It" girl Leslie Feist and former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean, offer their opinions on why music is such a deeply ingrained part of the human experience.
Among the food-for-thought revelations in the documentary are the notion that music has been part of every human culture in recorded history, the fact that children who learn to play a musical instrument increase their IQs by as much as seven points, and the reality that music doesn’t really even exist as music until sonic vibrations enter our ears and are translated by our brains into the musical sounds we think we hear.
Despite teetering, at times, on the brink of becoming obfuscatingly scientific, The Musical Brain manages to hit all the right notes. It deserves to draw a big audience, which, I’m sure, will be music to CTV programmers’ ears.
The Musical Brain
Tonight at 7