Sting's Brain Scanned to Study Mental Music Organization - Rolling Stone
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Sting’s Brain Scanned, Analyzed to Study Mental Music Organization

‘This Is Your Brain on Music’ author Daniel Levitin looked at way musician makes connections between different pieces of music

Sting, Brain, Scanned, Scientists, McGill University

Sting's brain was scanned and analyzed by a McGill University scientist during a visit to Montreal.

Courtesy of McGill University

After visiting Montreal for a show, Sting met with cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, who, alongside colleague Scott Grafton, analyzed fMRI images to study how the musician’s brain analyzes and organizes music.

“The state-of-the-art techniques really allowed us to make maps of how Sting’s brain organizes music,” Levitin, the author of This Is Your Brain on Music, said in a statement. “That’s important because at the heart of great musicianship is the ability to manipulate in one’s mind rich representation of the desired soundscape.”

According to an article released by McGill University, Sting had been a fan of Levitin’s book and reached out to meet with the scientist. Levitin and Grafton have released their research, which included them playing several songs to Sting and noting the brain activity that processes unexpected connections that may not be heard by the average listener. 

According to their study, Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” and the Beatles’ “Girl” were the most similar in Sting’s mind due to their minor keys and “similar melodic motifs.” Another connection was made between the musician’s own “Moon Over Bourbon Street” and Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions,” two songs in the key of F minor that carry the same tempo and swing rhythm.

Levitin concluded his research with the hope that the same scans can be used to discover how “athletes organize their thoughts about body movements; how writers organize their thoughts about characters; how painters think about color, form and space.”

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