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Vernon Reid + Gary Marcus

The Science of Learning (to Play the Guitar)

Saturday, April 28, 2012
5:30 PM–7:00 PM

Presented in association with Urban Zen
By his own admission quite talentless, one of our most eminent neuroscientists spent a year teaching himself to play the guitar. Why? As a scientist Gary Marcus was keenly interested in the compensatory mechanisms: how the brain can essentially rewire itself to make up for deficits caused by a stroke, trauma or even a nonexistent sense of rhythm. Maybe with training his prefrontal cortex could accomplish what his cerebellum couldn’t… The document of this experiment is Guitar Zero. And in the presence of Vernon Reidhe is put to the test.
Probably best known as the founder of the rock band, Living Colour in New York City in 1985, Vernon Reid was named #66 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. As a music producer Reid has delivered two Grammy-nominated albums, has composed for film, as well as performing with Masque, the Yohimbe Brothers, and Free Form Funky Freqs.
Gary Marcus is an award-winning professor of psychology and director of the NYU Center for Language and Music (CLAM), where he studies evolution, language, and cognitive development. He has written three books about the origins and development of mind and brain, including, most recently, Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of The Human Mind, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. He is also the editor of the The Norton Psychology Reader and the author of numerous science publications in leading journals, such as Science, and Nature. His essays have appeared in forums such as Wired, Discover, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Marcus will hold a book signing for his latest book, Guitar Zero: The New Musician and The Science of Learning, after the program, and Reid will sign CDs.
“An entertaining and enlightening memoir, filled with insightabout music, learning, and the human mind, by Gary Marcus,one of the deepest thinkers in cognitive science.” – Steven Pinker
About the Karma Chain
As a prelude to the staged program, we are planning to stage a simple game of ‘telephone’ prior to the session to demonstrate the fallibility of oral transmission and the nature of short-term memory. Each ticket holder will stand on one of the steps of the 108-stepped spiral staircase of the Museum. The guest speaker stands at the base, whispers a short phrase they have prepared to the visitor on the first step, and the phrase would spiral up through the line until it reaches the ear of the scientist. The conversationalists will only reveal the original phrase and the result phrase when on stage in the theater, thus starting the conversation about memory.
About the Mnemonic Art Tour
Take advantage of a short tour of some paintings in the collection that function as mnemonic devices. The iconography in these paintings serve to reference specific passages in the sutras. That is why most of these works were not meant to be revealed to those who were not already initiates. The tour will include two types of paintings: narratives such as the life of the Buddha, and mandalas which are complex two-dimensional diagrams of one’s multi-dimensional state of mind.