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Pick of the Week: Radiolab – Unraveling Bolero

July 4, 2012
Radiolab – Unraveling Bolero
Podcast release date: June 18, 2012
Hosts: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich
Time: 20:58

I’m catching up on posts. This is my pick for the third week of June.

This episode of Radiolab tells the stories of an artist and a composer whose lives follow a parallel path after they intersect. Anne Adams, a cell biologist who became a painter later in life, became obsessed with Bolero in 1994. She painted “Unraveling Bolero,” a visual representation of “Bolero.” Maurice Ravel’s composition “Bolero” premiered 66 years earlier in 1928. Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” and Anne Adams’ “Unravelling Bolero” both involve lots of repetition and may have been the first signs of primary progressive aphasia, a disease which targets the part of the brain responsible for language. The deterioration of the language portion of the brain may allow the parts of the brain involved with creativity and movement (and repetition) to become more active.

This episode is a great example of how Radiolab makes science accessible to the general public through story telling. This story was first published in the scientific journal “Brain” by W.W. Seeley et. al. in 2008 (see the citation below). Radiolab distills the essence of the story from the journal article, and includes interviews Anne Adams’ husband, one of the co-authors of this publication, and an expert on Maurice Ravel, among others.

If you enjoy this story, I’d recommend visiting Anne Adams’ online gallery at the University of California San Francisco and checking out the article in the journal Brain.

Seeley W.W., Matthews B.R., Crawford R.K., Gorno-Tempini M.L., Foti D., Mackenzie I.R., Miller B.L. 2008. Unravelling Boléro: progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex. Brain, 131(1):39-49.

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