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Self-Awareness and the Mind of the Musician

Billy Cobham + Dr. Stephen Fleming

Saturday, April 24, 2021
2:00 PM–3:00 PM

What happens in the brain when a musician is in a “flow state”? Are musicians aware of the mechanics of their actions and what is happening around them? In his new book,”¯Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness,“¯cognitive scientist Dr. Stephen Fleming explores the dynamics around metacognition—our ability to think about thinking—and what happens when it is abandoned. He puts his theories to the test with one of the greatest fusion drummers of all time, Billy Cobham, in a discussion that may touch on the implications of AI in the arts and our society, as well as the function of the beat in our bodies and brains.

About the Speakers

In 2001″¯Billy Cobham“¯was named one of the 25 Most Influential Drummers by Modern Drummer magazine, and he is regarded as one of the great innovators of percussive technique and set-up. The Panama-born percussionist was featured in Miles Davis’s fusion ensemble, and he can be heard on Davis classics such as “Like-Evil” and “A Tribute to Jack Johnson.” He continued to develop his fusion style with the Mahavishnu Orchestra before starting his own band, Spectrum, whose debut album reached number one on the Jazz Billboard. A contract with Atlantic Records was followed by one with CBS Records. The seminal album A Funky Thide of Sings marked his transition into commercial jazz, yet his diversification continued: a collaboration with the Grateful Dead on their side project Bobby & the Midnites inspired the group Jazz is Dead, which infused Grateful Dead music with jazz iterations.”¯In 2001″¯Cobham”¯started a series of releases, Drum “˜n Voice,“¯which marked a return to the 1970s jazz-funk sound. In 2011″¯Cobham”¯started teaching drums online at the Billy”¯Cobham”¯School of Drums, which is a”¯ArtistWorks”¯Drum Academy. Later in the decade he toured across the United States with the Crosswinds Project, concluding in 2019 as a celebration of”¯his”¯75th”¯birthday.”¯Cobham”¯continues to tour worldwide.”¯”¯

Stephen M. Fleming“¯is a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. He is fascinated by how brains create conscious experience, and what allows the human mind to be self-aware. Fleming is a Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust/Royal Society fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology and Principal Investigator at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, where he leads the Metacognition Group. He lives in London, United Kingdom, and Zagreb, Croatia, where his wife is a diplomat. His first book, Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness, comes out this April.

About Brainwave 2021: Awareness

In our hyperconnected world it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and distracted. This may seem like a modern problem, but the earliest Buddhist teachings sought to help followers awaken from similar states of disconnection. From the Buddhist perspective, the first step to awakening is cultivating awareness.

Through the lens of neuroscience and psychology, the Rubin Museum’s 2021 Brainwave program series will explore awareness with speakers from different walks of life and experiment with tools to reconnect with ourselves, our surroundings, and our communities. Pay what you wish to attend any of this year’s programs.

Lead support for Brainwave is provided byScience Sandbox, an initiative of Simons Foundation, and by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Major support is provided by Gerry Ohrstrom with program support provided by Cheryl Henson.


Suggested Ticket Price: $15

Pay what you wish to attend this program. A generous ticket purchase shows your support of the Museum and helps us develop future offerings

Find the Zoom link to connect to the program in your confirmation email. View our Frequently Asked Questions for more information or contact our Box Office at for assistance.