Everything Else (music, to)

Jimmy, the koi, 9-11

Jimmy, an old man, was a Japanese homeless artist living around a deli on 7th and Prince 11 years ago, though we had left the city a few months before. We’d gotten to know him – which was a bit difficult, trying to follow his discourse in a heavily accented, broken English. He might have been schizophrenic or more likely have had other problems (stroke), seeing as his mobility was somehow not quite right. Anyway, he never asked for money, in fact refused to accept charity of any kind. So we would ‘commission’ art and bring him supplies and then buy the resulting works, heavily influenced by his Onymodo, yin-yang philosophy. The balance of things. And there on the street he would elegantly move his hand and arm in the drawing of koi’s in a pond or other, seeming happy at least in those moments. When it was very cold at night the help in the deli would let him sit inside the plastic tent covering their flowers. 

Still, as slowly he incompletely related his life story over the course of a few months, one thing which strongly stood out: his distant memories. He was born in Nagasaki, it must have been in 1935 or 6, and survived the bomb in ’45. As did his mother, though she would have many health problems from then on. He didn’t say much about his father, so I presume he died either in the explosion or as a soldier in the war.

After several harmonious drawings he then drew a picture of his memory of the event, something much harsher and darker, a mountain, fire, stick figures. Anyway. 11 years ago Prince and 7th was part of the evacuation zone after the towers fell, the second plane using 7th to orient its path into its target. Boom. I’ve been back a few times since and always asked around but no one there had any information on Jimmy, or even remembered him. Which is usual, I suppose. That part of town had already become one of those homogenized playgrounds of the wealthy who really don’t consider place for itself but place as possession. Yin and yang are metaphors only that revolve around, well, themselves.

In Cernobbio, Italy, they’re having their annual conference for what are now called VIP’s in these days. It’s dominated by men with ties and coats, uniforms, the same kind that create the circumstances that in turn lead others to drop bombs just to see how effective they are, others to fly themselves into symbols of power. There’ll be lots of harrumphing, lots of interviews. Men who have always fundamentally treated women basically as two tits with holes to screw will declare how important woman are to the workforce. Men who own houses in Soho and Paris and Singapore and Portofino and Rome and ecc. will say how everyone else has to sacrifice. Men who couldn’t fix a leaking pipe or create a program or discover a drug and whose businesses they administer would do quite well without them (see Argentina) will proclaim to everyone else how things should be done. I wonder how Jimmy would paint their portraits. Like the balanced Koi, or as part of a burning mountain. Well, actually I don’t.



old notes – The Musical Brain: Novel Study of Jazz Players Shows Common Brain Circuitry Processes Both Music and Language

Researchers scanned brains while musicians “traded fours”.

The brains of jazz musicians engrossed in spontaneous, improvisational musical conversation showed robust activation of brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax, which are used to interpret the structure of phrases and sentences. But this musical conversation shut down brain areas linked to semantics — those that process the meaning of spoken language, according to results of a study by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track the brain activity of jazz musicians in the act of “trading fours,” a process in which musicians participate in spontaneous back and forth instrumental exchanges, usually four bars in duration. The musicians introduce new melodies in response to each other’s musical ideas, elaborating and modifying them over the course of a performance.

This is a picture of Louis Armstrong.


The results of the study suggest that the brain regions that process syntax aren’t limited to spoken language, according to Charles Limb, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Rather, he says, the brain uses the syntactic areas to process communication in general, whether through language or through music.

Limb, who is himself a musician and holds a faculty appointment at the Peabody Conservatory, says the work sheds important new light on the complex relationship between music and language.


“Until now, studies of how the brain processes auditory communication between two individuals have been done only in the context of spoken language,” says Limb, the senior author of a report on the work that appears online Feb. 19 in the journal PLOS ONE. “But looking at jazz lets us investigate the neurological basis of interactive, musical communication as it occurs outside of spoken language.


“We’ve shown in this study that there is a fundamental difference between how meaning is processed by the brain for music and language. Specifically, it’s syntactic and not semantic processing that is key to this type of musical communication. Meanwhile, conventional notions of semantics may not apply to musical processing by the brain.”

To study the response of the brain to improvisational musical conversation between musicians, the Johns Hopkins researchers recruited 11 men aged 25 to 56 who were highly proficient in jazz piano performance. During each 10-minute session of trading fours, one musician lay on his back inside the MRI machine with a plastic piano keyboard resting on his lap while his legs were elevated with a cushion. A pair of mirrors was placed so the musician could look directly up while in the MRI machine and see the placement of his fingers on the keyboard. The keyboard was specially constructed so it did not have metal parts that would be attracted to the large magnet in the fMRI.


The improvisation between the musicians activated areas of the brain linked to syntactic processing for language, called the inferior frontal gyrus and posterior superior temporal gyrus. In contrast, the musical exchange deactivated brain structures involved in semantic processing, called the angular gyrus and supramarginal gyrus.

“When two jazz musicians seem lost in thought while trading fours, they aren’t simply waiting for their turn to play,” Limb says. “Instead, they are using the syntactic areas of their brain to process what they are hearing so they can respond by playing a new series of notes that hasn’t previously been composed or practiced.”

link- trading fours: 


comment – ..more than Pinker’s auditory cheesecake, music I suppose is at least a stratified, complex dessert or meal transmitting more information more universally (intrinsically) than more abstracted and culturally influenced/derived narrative methods like words. At some point not so far ahead, emerging neuroscience theory will have to include plural and parallel representations in emergent behavior – even though there remains variably influenced hierarchies in the path to expression, – and take into more account the oddness and determination of time, contexts, entropy and the usually counterintuitive sticky aspect of information.