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A Head Full of Symphonies

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Bob Milne is one of the best ragtime piano players in the world, and a preternaturally talented musician -- he can play technically challenging pieces of music on demand while carrying on a conversation and cracking jokes. But according to Penn State neuroscientist Kerstin Betterman, our brains just aren't wired to do that. So she decided to investigate Bob's brain, and when she did, she discovered that Bob has an even more amazing ability... one that we can hardly believe, and science can't explain. Reporter Jessica Benko helps us get inside Bob's remarkably musical mind.

Comments [6]

lmo clayfield from los angeles

A good playlist but absolute horrible torture. I just got it and i'm 57.

Jul. 11 2014 07:33 PM
Bob Milne

The term "symphony" is used for expediency in the broadcast. Also, the tunes played in the broadcast were not the same as in the actual test. The Radiolab guys all did a good job. It was a real treat to work with them.

Jul. 02 2013 06:21 AM
Karen G

I hope you do a show investigating the phenomenon of synesthesia. Bob Milne appears to have this ability. Interesting show!

Jul. 02 2013 02:47 AM
Veronica from Colorado

Fabulous program this week. Fascinating.

Jun. 29 2013 05:00 PM
Fidelio from Houston

Great piece on Bob Milne. However, I was bothered by everyone's wayward use of the term "symphony." The Beethoven you played was not a symphony, but a piano concerto (the "Emperor" concerto). The Mendelssohn wasn't even orchestral! I understand that the genre of the musical work doesn't ultimately matter in order to demonstrate Milne's extraordinary cognitive multitasking, but hearing this kind of simple blunder on public radio is depressing. What's next, someone who can memorize Shakespeare's "novel" Romeo and Juliet?

Jun. 29 2013 04:40 PM
lab rat

This sounds very much like synesthesia to me.

Jun. 27 2013 08:56 PM

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