What makes creativity work in music? What happens in the brain? Susan Rogers has uniquely contemplated those questions both alongside artists like Prince and in research into the mind.
I got the chance to interview Dr. Rogers at SONAR+D last month, and I found my own mind wandering to how her mind works, as she characterized different kinds of intelligence. She exudes an easy sense of empathy, and in both her talks at Ableton Loop and SONAR, she’s quick to remove her own ego and move her role out of the immediate act of creativity. I imagine the ability to do so would be essential when you’re in the studio with Prince or David Byrne or the various other oversized personalities she’s managed to work with over the years. Even our audience members seemed to immediately trust her – that unique unsung talent of the best kinds of people who work behind the superstars in music.
There was a fair bit of talk about Prince at Ableton Loop. But in Barcelona, we got to focus on the mind itself – and as Susan emphasized backstage, how to define what music is in the first place. And that moves us into her work in cognition and the neuroscience that works to decipher it.
Susan is so uniquely positioned to understand this now, surrounded by young, hungry rising musical stars at Berklee atop her decades of experience.
But I also really hope we start more cross-disciplinary conversations about the topic. There’s a slide bringing up classical greats – musicology has been so caught up in comparing manuscripts and whatnot that I think there’s a vast opportunity for more interaction with fields like neuroscience. And some of what Susan describes about creativity and its variability, its interaction with depression and social isolation, the different kinds of aptitudes and thinking styles and what that means for collaboration, I suspect speaks to a lot of us on a deeply personal level. And that may be true in our lives even if we’re nothing like Prince.
Have a watch – I’m sure you’ll be as engaged throughout as I was onstage.
And I hope we look deeper into this, as what better mystery in music to explore than the mind?