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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On musicians and intelligence,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? ' Hi Alice,

Did you know that musicians are actually smarter than other people?

Get a load of this:

(3 October 2008) New research suggests that trained musicians really do think differently than the rest of us. Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that professionally trained musicians more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking, and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person. The research by Crystal Gibson, Bradley Folley and Sohee Park is currently in press at the journal Brain and Cognition ...

'Musicians may be particularly good at efficiently accessing and integrating competing information from both [brain] hemispheres', Folley said. 'Instrumental musicians often integrate different melodic lines with both hands into a single musical piece, and they have to be very good at simultaneously reading the musical symbols, which are like left-hemisphere-based language, and integrating the written music with their own interpretation, which has been linked to the right hemisphere.'

The researchers also found that, overall, the musicians had higher IQ scores than the non-musicians, despite the groups having identical SAT scores, supporting recent studies that intensive musical training is associated with an elevated IQ score.

Your friend,
Helen Reich, '

Ask Alice

Alice Dear Helen,

Yes, this is a newsflash.
Yes, researchers have discovered that musicians have brains!!!!!

Conductors over the world were gobsmacked at the news. Said one conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic (who did not wish to be identified): 'Blow me down. I thought all they did was eat, drink and not watch me on the pizzicati.' Another prominent conductor (recently fired from the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London) said, 'I thought they only had fat bottoms, which is why I've always said that women musicians should not wear trousers. Or is it play in orchestras? I forget.' Other prominent anonymous conductors opined, '{**&^&%^%$$!!!' and 'You're joking. I always thought they were like hamsters running around in a cage -- except for my daughter, of course', and, 'Zees is ze finding dangereux. Eeet should be repressed forthveeth and as soon as possible-lay!'

Yet another remarked: 'divergent thinking? I should cocoa. The violas in my section have been divergent for decades!' while another said witheringly, 'Are we really supposed to take seriously a report authored by two people called Crystal?'

Second Newsflash:

Conductor has just been discovered to have a brain!! Recent research, soon to be published in the journal Nature, suggests that, if a teaspoon is lowered into the cranial cavity of one's average (dead, obviously) conductor, one can often find as much as a teaspoon-full of brain material. It is not as much, perhaps as your average Alsatian, but well above the probable brain size of any rodent or bird. This comprehensively disproves the theory that conductors have as much brain as a gerbil, and makes a mockery of any attempt to compare the brain-size of your average conductor with, say, the brain-size of your average check-out attendant. There is no question that, although the conductor may exhibit unmistakeable signs of superior vocabulary, your average supermarket worker will have a fatter brain (and, in almost every case, also faster reflexes).

This super-secret research -- published here for the very first time -- confirms what many musicians have been saying for years, such as this comment by a prominent violinist:
'In my opinion, it was about time that the tramontane blew our way, and that this knowledge was assayed and thus made remittable to the wider public,' while his colleague, a trombonist, added, 'Many conductors I know are unaware that the brain even possesses two hemispheres, let alone what to bloody do about it.'

With thanks for yours,

Copyright © 10 October 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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