Music and the Brain at Boston University, 3/31/14

There was a dry but fascinating group of talks and performances held at Boston University Friday March 28.

The papers deserve more reflection than I’m able to give now. It was very hard for the audience to get a few words in. Dr. Gottfried Schlaug gave a slightly overlong but quite terrific talk on “Singing – when it helps, when it hurts, and when it changes brains.” In his presentation, he reminded me of Professor Warren, the protagonist of Robert Sciodnak’s The Spiral Staircase. We heard clients of his singing various version of Happy Birthday. He felt it was important that the piece be sung properly in tune and of course, at times I would agree with him as I ask the same of my students when teaching melodic memory strategies at the New England Conservatory. However, some of the mistakes were spicy and beautiful. And I had hoped to ask him if scientists who like music had ways of unleashing imagination in musicians under their care. This was followed by Robert Zatorre with “From Perception to Pleasure: Music and its Neural Substrates.” His sense of humor was very welcome.

Sarah Atwood

Sarah Atwood

The whole event was kicked off by Anniruddh Patel “Can learning a musical instrument change the way the brain processes speech?” (Link about Patel: http://ase.tufts.edu/psychology/peoplePatel.htm, please use photo). The highlight of the whole day was the performance by Sarah Atwood who performed Red Violin Caprices by John Corigliano. These were performed by memory and her technique was formidable and her gestures were not contrived. She was also interviewed by the three panelists and answered their questions with welcome brevity and a sense of humor.

Perhaps the biggest kudos go to Kameron Clayton, and amazing undergraduate at BU who studying in both Music and Medicine. (Link about Kameron Clayton with photo:  http://www.bu.edu/today/2014/music-and-the-brain/)

When a student at Bard College in the late 50s, I sponsored the Bard Jazz Festival which had ok music and brilliant speakers.

Kameron Clayton

Kameron Clayton

Events were really nice but really do not compare with the terrific job that Kameron did at organizing the whole program.

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