The Case for the Science of Music

I spend a lot of time looking at the places where music and science intersect:  technology, neurology, biology, evolution, demographics, economics–the list goes on.  A lot of this investigations were prompted by my involvement as the creative director in a travelling science centre exhibit called The Science of Rock’n’Roll.  (It’s currently at Science Museum Oklahoma and will be at theOntario Science Centre starting June 11.)

One of the more interesting things I’ve read regarding science and music is this article from Hypebot.  Give it a look.

Recently, at the Music, Mind and Meaning conference at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, one reception conversation was the ever-laden research debate between performers, theorists and scientists. While many consider it their duty as scientists to push the cognitive and neurological envelope, ever seduced by “why?” one music theorist would say (and I quote) “Our brains like music; music is agreeable. You don’t need to know why.”For some theorists, it simply seems inexorable that anything so “subjective” can be subject to objective proof. Fortunately, for those who would seek to use music for tangible purposes, such as therapy, a plethora of data provides evidence to the contrary. But why is this important in the advancement of the new music industry?

Five years ago, it was unknown that listening to personally preferable music could increase the brain’s release of dopamine anywhere from 6-28% – just around 1% less than shown releases after cocaine use (Salimpoor, 2011). In the last couple of years alone, studies have arisen like wildfire revealing music’s capacity to enhance daily activities such as digestion, exercise and stress relief, and provide healing for health-related issues such as dementia, anxiety and mental instability. In 2012, the media erupted with reports of having found the “anatomy of a tear jerker” behind Adele’s Someone Like You.

For some, music goes farther than that. Music has shown to enable the mute to speak again, and the comatose to wake. Music heals, and music can save a life. The studies of clinical neuromusicology, music psychology, and the cognitive science of music have done much in establishing a concrete validity to provide funding for exploration into these types of ventures. With the concurrent media popularization of neuroscience, it should come as no surprise that scholars in every field are paying heed to the beneficial facets of music more than ever before. Although there remains the musical agnostic, the intellect devoted to the cultivation of these studies continues to multiply in and outside of the academy.

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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