Making Music Together

When musicians have chemistry, we can feel it. There’s something special among them that’s missing when they perform alone. Anyone who’s heard a Mick Jagger solo album knows that’s the case. Clearly nature wants us to jam together and take flight out of our individual selves. The reward is transcendence, our bodies tell us so. What’s the secret of that chemistry?

It’s a question that one of the most refreshing neuroscientists who studies music has been probing lately. Refreshing because her lab is not only in academia but also on stage, where she performs as an opera singer and with chamber ensembles. Talking to Indre Viskontas is a treat because she animates her research as a scientist with her experiences as an artist. She breaks down the symphony of brain activity in the language of singing lessons and rehearsals.

In a recent interview, as Viskontas and I delve into the chemistry among performers, and the brain circuitry behind it, it becomes clear we’re talking about more than music. The qualities that make a great band, she is saying, represent a harmony in all of us, waiting for expression.

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