I’ve always been fascinated by the human brain’s ability to run an extremely complex organic system as well as control thought, reasoning, and emotions (blah, blah, blah…). I honestly don’t know much about the brain save what I learned in college and a few seminars in grad school. (How much of that do I ACTUALLY remember? Heehee…) But what I do know was that yesterday, my own brain blew my mind.
I was driving to a student’s house and at a red light I decided to try out a rhythm I was considering for a song I’m arranging. I beat both hands on the steering wheel like one would a conga drum – it’s a rather flat hand position. I am no percussionist so I was having a hard time of it. The rhythm was rather complex, essentially pitting two notes per beat against three notes per beat. I just couldn’t get it! (I also had someone honk at me when the light changed to green.)
I drove to my student’s house and got there five minutes early. Again, my wheel became my drum but I just couldn’t get the rhythm!!! RAWR! My hands couldn’t work independently. Why wasn’t I a percussionist in another life? Why?! I felt like a three year-old who’d been asked to pat his head and rub his belly – it wasn’t gonna happen. There aren’t too many fine motor skills at that age, nor, apparently, at mine.
Then I decided to pretend I was playing the piano because then I would only be using my dexterous fingers rather than my clumsy hand.
EUREKA! Angels started singing. My hands were inspired. The rhythm was perfect!
Again, WTF?! How the hell did THAT happen? I was doing the exact same this with an open hand as with my fingers, but the fingers kicked my open hands’ ass.
Tangent: I started playing the piano when I was six and gave up lessons when I chose cello as my primary instrument. I was never a fabulous pianist, but I could put together songs and pieces I liked and reduce harder scores for my enjoyment and arranging needs. That said…
Back on topic: Where was I? Ah yes, my fingers turning my hands to a blubbering pile of ashamed goo on the floor. How the hell did THAT happen?
And then it hit me.
For twelve years I trained my hands to work independently as well as together in order to make music on the piano. My brain had developed pathways from Raine Central to her fingertips. These pathways were accustomed to complex rhythms and allowing each hand to work independently without following each other.
I had activated a tried and true pathway when I switched from conga hands to piano hands. My conga hands had no previous experience in my brain so the poor things had no idea what to do. What a subtle difference!
To a scientist, perhaps this is old news. But for me, in that moment, it was a revelation. Those moments are few and far between. I was so excited I couldn’t make myself go into my student’s house to teach – I called the only other person who was nerdy enough to get excited with me.
My mother and I are so alike that it’s scary. When I told her about my revelation, she flipped out and we spent a few minutes ooh-ing and aah-ing together.
Then I had to teach. (Grr!) But I was so jazzed that the lesson was phenomenal. (Yay!)
Now, readers, if any of you are scientifically inclined, please explain this phenomenon to me. Because it rocked my world.
I’ve got the brain of a four year-old. I’ll bet he was glad to be rid of it. – Groucho Marx.
End Rant 4.
Musical crack to make your brain light up.
From the 2010 T-Drama Autumn’s Concerto starring Vanness Wu and Ady An:
“All for Love” – Victor Huang