The joy of creativity, risk and improvisation


I’ve been listening to a great TED Radio Hour on the theme of creativity. In one segment, the host interviewed a scientist at Johns Hopkins University, Charles Limb, who is researching the source of creativity by studying jazz musicians’ brains with an MRI while they improvise.

Keith Jarrett apparently improvises whole concerts; he just sits at the piano and channels music. He said he has, from long experience, an intimate relationship with the piano and even now he never knows what will come out. He considers it a great joy and privilege to be that channel.

One fascinating thing the Hopkins researcher found was that the prefrontal cortex shuts off during these improvisations. Continue reading

Beneath the crust


A spring storm battered Baltimore for two days in April 2014. After a record-setting winter of Arctic cold and snowstorms that broke water mains and opened potholes, the second day of rain fell in a deluge, flooding roads and softening the ground beneath the crust of asphalt and concrete. In one neighborhood block, the parking lane began to sag, cars listing to starboard against the curb. A small crowd gathered in the rain to document the event on smart phones and trade complaints.

“I’ve been trying for three years to get it done right.”

“We’ve got hundreds of pictures of this. They’ve been out here ten times and all they do is try and fill it in.”

And then, as they watched, everything exited the scene: street trees just leafing out, wrought iron light poles, cars, paving, fence, and stone retaining wall slid twenty feet to the railroad tracks below. Cries of alarm and outrage erupted on the video as a plume of dust rose and subsided. Continue reading