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Mapping the Musical Brain


A unique free event at Wellcome Collection this September will invite the public to share their curiosity about the power of music with some of the world’s leading authorities on researching the relationship between music and the brain.

’Mapping the Musical Brain’ unites musicians, neuroscientists and psychologists as well as gifted young performers to explore the science of music, music and autism, music in infancy and more.The day includes a series of musical events and performances designed to provoke discussion, debate and participation between audience and experts, all of whom are keen to share their insights with a broader public.

Professor Paul Robertson, curator of the event and Director of the Music Mind Spirit Trust, comments: “For centuries humanity has created music whilst wondering at its mysterious power. By revealing the underlying neurobiological structures of music this event shows how current brain studies can offer entirely new insights into both the personal and social aspects of the musical experience.”

Lisa Jamieson, Wellcome Collection’s Events Manager, says: “This lively, topical event will shed light on why scientists are so excited by the possibilities of studying music and its effect on the human brain, and will satisfy those curious to understand better the power of music. I encourage anyone with an interest in music and the mind to come along.”
Mapping the Musical Brain programme

Saturday 19 September, 11.00-17.00

Complete list of participants to date (subject to change):

* Paul Robertson (Curator of the event), Visiting Professor of Music and Medicine, Peninsula Medical School
* Robert Turner (Scientific Advisor to the event), Director, Department of Neurophysics, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig
* David Aldridge, Editor, ’Music and Medicine’
* Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology, Newcastle University
* Pam Heaton, Psychologist, Goldsmiths, University of London
* Stefan Koelsch, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex
* Medici Trio: Paul Robertson, violin; Anthony Lewis, cello; Mikhail Kazakevich, piano
* Lawrence Parsons, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Sheffield
* Chika Robertson, Joint CEO, Music Mind Spirit Trust
* Colwyn Trevarthen, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology, University of Edinburgh
* Jonathan Willcocks, international composer and conductor
* Robert Zatorre, neuropsychologist, University of McGill, Montréal

Welcome and introduction from Paul Robertson

The brain science of music
An overview by Robert Zatorre, University of McGill, Montréal

Music making and autism
In this session musicians with autism spectrum conditions will perform and discuss their musical experience with Pam Heaton from Goldsmiths. The session will offer a new perspective upon the nature of the musical experience, as well as an intimate and detailed insight into the particular and challenging qualities of autistic minds and the way they interface with music. Tim Griffiths of Newcastle University will join the panel to explain how neurological damage can affect the musical areas of the brain and explore the science of hearing as well as feeling music. Includes audience Q&A.

Music as Therapy
Presentation of a selection of short film clips by David Aldridge of music as therapy.

Music, performance and the musician’s brain
Performance by the Medici Trio (Paul Robertson, violin; Mikhail Kazakevich, piano and Anthony Lewis, cello). Programme to include Shostakovich Piano Trio no. 2 opus 67. The musicians will be joined by Robert Zatorre and Stefan Koelsch for a discussion. The session invites us to consider such issues as: the meaning and ’language’ of music; musical performance and communication; ensemble, empathy, rhythmicity and entrainment; the relationship between notation and embodiment; and gesture and affect.

Music in infancy
A discussion with psychologist Colwyn Trevarthen, neuroscientist Lawrence Parsons and Robert Turner of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. The subjects to cover include: the hearing fetus, mother-infant communication and a child’s first foray into musical learning.

In addition to the presentation sessions above there will be workshops throughout the afternoon, which are suitable for all ages and abilities:

Song Trees
(13.15-14.00, 15.00-15.45, 16.45-17.00)
Created by Chika Robertson as part of the Music Mind Spirit Trust, this innovative music project brings children and families together to rediscover, learn and then perform music drawn from family members’ earliest musical memories. The session is facilitated by internationally renowned composer and conductor Jonathan Willcocks and is an opportunity to sing songs and share memories while creating family and community spirit through the celebration of music.

The event also invites us to enquire into the uniquely precocious formation of musical response, relationship and integrity, and further reflect upon the lifelong influences that such early music experience has upon our later health and wellbeing.

Tickets for the main programme are free but should be reserved in advance.
See Wellcome Collection’s website for more information.

The Song Trees workshops are open to all ages and abilities and no booking is required.

The programme was arranged by Paul Robertson with scientific advice from Robert Turner.

The public event is preceded by a two-day workshop for scientists and musicians organised by Green Templeton College, Oxford.

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

The Wellcome Trust’s former headquarters, the Wellcome Building on London’s Euston Road, has been redesigned by Hopkins Architects to become a new £30 million public venue. Free to all, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The building comprises three galleries, a public events space, the Wellcome Library, a café, a bookshop, conference facilities and a members’ club.


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