Santa Fe Institute

Audio: 'Science symphony’ combines Bach and brain science

Nov. 3, 2011 11:24 a.m.

Scholars and artists have long recognized the power of music in creating recollections and vivid images within the mind. The brain, in all its complexity, underlies and integrates the emotional and cognitive responses to sound. Thus, familiar music can forever evoke the memories first associated with the piece, along with those associated with repeated hearings. 

On Sunday, October 30, in Santa Fe, SFI and the Santa Fe Symphony collaborated to produce a unique event exploring the interface between music and brain science. Two special concerts for New Mexico 4th graders were performed on Monday, October 31.

Read the Santa Fe New Mexican article about the educational concerts (October 24, 2011)

Voyages of Discovery III: Bach On the Brain, featured selected works of Johann Sebastian Bach interspersed with commentary by neuroscientist Chris Wood and demonstrations of the brain’s response to sound and music. It was the third SFI-SFS “science symphony” in as many years.

“The program explores, in Aldous Huxley’s words, ‘the vast number of obscure miracles’ that music elicits in the brain, and that underlie our musical experience,” saidWood, who is SFI’s VP for Administration and Director of the Business Network.

Listen to a KSFR Santa Fe Radio Cafe interview with SFI's Chris Wood and the Symphony's Greg Heltman (22 minutes, October 27, 2011)

Voyages III was underwritten by the Sydney & Andrew Davis Foundation.

As in past years, Voyages included an educational component. On Monday afternoon, October 31, the symphony and Wood performed a condensed version of the concert for Santa Fe-area 4th graders. Educational materials were distributed to local classrooms to accompany the concert and to demonstrate the scientific and mathematical basis of musical experience.

Read the Santa Fe New Mexican article about the educational concerts (October 24, 2011)

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Comments - Oct. 15, 2011, 9:48 a.m.

I've heard of this similar to Mozart's music calming autistic kids because the rhythm of Mozart is similiar to the brains rhythm which has a calming effect.

Barry Curran - Dec. 8, 2011, 1:31 p.m.

In high school in the late 60s a few of my more enlightened teachers- ancient history and English- would play Mozart,Beethoven and Bach L Ps during finals. It provided an good acoustic shield to noise from the halls. As long as it was mostly strings, woodwinds and brass OK; very soothing with improved concentration or so we liked to believe. Don't recall if it improved anyone's grades. But woe if any pianos- old Ludwig Van- crept into the field of sounds. Agitation and fidgeting broke out like a collective case of hives.Liszt would have been total meltdown. Not sure why. What was it that the pianos? Anthony Burgess was onto something in Clockwork Orange. Has anyone done any studies on other composers works than Bach?

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