Monday, October 06, 2008

"In Music One Must Think With The Heart And Feel With The Brain" -- Conductor George Szell

Beginning this month, the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., is to host a free, two-year series of lectures on MUSIC AND THE BRAIN. [Pan Cogito will be in hiding for the duration.]

Fall Schedule

October 17, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Ellen Dissanayake, University of Washington

Homo Musicus: How Music Began

The universally-observed interaction between mothers and infants, commonly and even dismissively called "baby talk," is composed of proto-aesthetic, temporally-organized elements that Ellen Dissanayake suggests are the origin of human music. Because infants are born ready to engage in these encounters and to prefer their visual, vocal, and gestural components to any other sight or sound, one could claim that humans are innately prepared to be musical.

October 24, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Charles J. Limb, Department of Otolaryngology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Faculty, Peabody Conservatory of Music

Your Brain on Jazz: Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Improvisation

Many scientists have examined music cognition--how the brain permits music to be perceived and learned--but few have studied brain activity while music is being spontaneously created, or improvised. Dr. Limb’s recent research with jazz pianists reveals increased brain activity during improvisation in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality. In addition, broad areas of the lateral prefrontal cortex, thought to be linked to self-censoring, were turned off, or deactivated. "Without this type of creativity, humans wouldn’t have advanced as a species," Limb says. "It’s an integral part of who we are."

October 30, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Jessica Krash, George Washington University, and Norman Middleton, Music Division

Dangerous Music II

Artistic anathemas, musical mayhem, and cultural conundrums such as "the devil's music"– Middleton and Krash explore the psychological and social issues associated with the human tendency toward censorship of musical expression, as well as what has been described as "suicide-by-music" and crimes that have been connected to musical genres.

November 7, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel, The Neurosciences Institute

The Music of Language and the Language of Music

In our everyday lives language and instrumental music are obviously different things. Dr. Patel, Esther J. Burnham Fellow at the Neurosciences Institute and author of "Music, Language, and the Brain" discusses some of the hidden connections between language and instrumental music that are being uncovered by empirical scientific studies.

November 18, 7:00 p.m. Coolidge Auditorium
Lecture and Booksigning
Dr. Daniel Levitin

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

Director of McGill University’s Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise, and best-selling author of "This is Your Brain on Music," Dr. Levitin blends cutting-edge scientific findings with his own sometimes hilarious experiences as a former record producer and still-active musician. Earning advance raves from reviewers like Sting and Sir George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, his new book takes readers on a journey of the world through six types of songs–friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge; religion/ritual, and love.

December 5, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. David Huron, School of Music, Ohio State University

Why Do Listeners Enjoy Music That Makes Them Weep?

Tearing of the eyes, nasal congestion, a constriction in your throat, and erratic breathing -- your doctor would conclude that you are suffering from a severe allergic reaction. But in special circumstances, music can evoke precisely these symptoms. Music-induced weeping represents one of the most powerful and potentially sublime experiences available to human listeners. How does music evoke feelings akin to sadness or grief? And why do people willingly listen to music that may make them cry? Modern neuroscience provides helpful insights into music-induced weeping, how sounds can evoke sadness or grief, and why such sounds might lead to "a good cry."


Spring Schedule

February 3, 7:00-9:30 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Presented in cooperation with the Mood Disorders Center,
Johns Hopkins University

Depression and Creativity

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison convenes a discussion exploring the effects of depression on creativity with three distinguished colleagues from the fields of neurology and neuropsychiatry: Dr. Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience, Neurology, and Psychology and co-founder and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California; Dr. Terence Ketter, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Chief, Bipolar Disorders Clinic, Stanford University; and Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles.

March 5, 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Steven Brown, McMaster University

From Mode to Emotion in Musical Communication

Looking at the expression of emotion in both Western and non-Western musics, Brown invokes the theory of Clore and Ortony, who posit three categories of emotions 1) "outcome" emotions related to the outcomes of goal-directed actions (e.g., happiness, sadness); 2) "aesthetic" emotions related to the appraisal of the quality of objects (e.g., like, dislike); and 3) "moral" emotions related to an assessment of the agency of individuals’ actions (e.g., praise, scorn). While representational art-forms like theater or dance can represent all three categories, music is probably most adept at expressing "outcome" emotions, such those that sit along the happy/sad spectrum.

March 13 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, Criminal Justice Department, Seattle University
Norman Middleton, Music Division, Library of Congress

"Halt or I'll Play Vivaldi! Classical Music as Crime Stopper"

Helfgott and Middleton examine the use of classical music by law enforcement and other cultural institutions as social control, to quell and prevent crime. Their conversation touches on how classical music is viewed in contemporary culture, how it can be a tool for discouraging criminal activity and anti-social behavior, as well as its history as a mind-altering experience.

March 27 6:15 p.m. Whittall Pavilion
Dr. Michael Kubovy and Dr. Judith Shatin, University of Virginia

The Mind of the Artist

Debate has long raged about whether and how music expresses meaning beyond its sounding notes. Kubovy and Shatin discuss evidence that music does indeed have a semantic element, and offer examples of how composers embody extra-musical elements in their compositions. Kubovy is a cognitive psychologist who studies visual and auditory perception, and Shatin is a composer who explores similar issues in her music.


Header photo credit: Singapore Concert Hall and Arts Complex. © 2005 Formulax via Wikipedia. With thanks.


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