What the Jazz Greats Knew About Creativity

John Coltrane performs in the 1960s

From Time Magazine:

The improvisational flights of jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane are so transporting that they can seem almost otherworldly — especially when the listener is aware that these musicians weren’t following any score, but were making up their riffs in the moment. New research on what happens in the brain when we improvise, however, is showing that it is very much an earthbound activity, grounded in the same neural processes at play in every one of us when we engage in spontaneous self-expression, like a conversation with a friend.

“Creativity is far from a magical event of unexpected random inspiration,” wrote researchers Charles Limb and Mónica López-González in an article published in the journal Cerebrum last month. “Instead, it is a mental occurrence that results from the application of ordinary cognitive processes.” Many students and employees are discovering this for themselves as the techniques of musical and dramatic improvisation move into educational and workplace settings, where they’re used to boost the creativity of people who’ve never picked up a saxophone in their lives.

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