An introduction into how an understanding of the two brain hemispheres can help us with aspects of musicianship that are normally considered ‘unteachable’!


Show Notes

  • [6:30] The story of how I came to understand the fundamental difference between the two brain hemispheres. The difference between analytic & holistic processing. Narrow focus & broad focus
  • [10:35] The evolutionary explanation for divided brains
  • [14:15] Right hemisphere gives the raw experience from the senses. Left hemisphere understands & predicts, is concerned with manipulating the world for survival, and splits all aspects of experience into mental categories
  • [16:35] What it feels like to be predominantly right or left hemisphere dominant when playing an instrument
  • [25:55] Right hemisphere deals with social interaction, good for perceiving interconnected relationships & seeing the big picture, getting a ‘feel’ for things
  • [28:47] Dominant left hemisphere state triggered by threats to the ego/ sense of being competent
  • [34:10] Iain McGilchrist’s descrption of the  ‘winner takes all’ model of the two brain hemispheres. The dominant hemisphere inhibits the opposite side- right hemisphere a little less so. Iain McGilchrist argues that the right hemisphere is the best ‘master’
  • [38:45] Very hard to recognise when we’re in a keft hemisphere dominant state and let go of control to the right hemisphere when needed. Left hemisphere totally closed to anything new or that contradicts held beliefs. Right hemisphere is receptive & deals with things that are new
  • [43:40] We can practise developing the skill to move towards right hemisphere states when we need it- this is arguably 90% goal of Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, etc
  • [48:25] Emotions and brain hemispheres
  • [53:40] Does the social perception of ‘classical music’ push people into a counterproductive left hemisphere dominant state? As opposed to jazz for example…

Book References:

The Master and His Emissary- Dr Iain McGilchrist

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat- Oliver Sacks

Further Notes:

The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s