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Free music essays at Nature

Posted Jul 07 2008 7:14pm

Since May 8Naturehas published nine essays - one per week - on contemporary music research. Reflecting the recent extraordinary advances made in our understanding of how the brain perceives music many of the essays focus on results coming out of neuroscience labs (although they also mention workbased on anthropology, acustics, statistics, as well as other disciplines). Among the authors are some of today’s preeminent musicologists, includingDavid Huron,Laurel Trainor,Aniruddh Patel, andJohn Sloboda. Together, the nine essays touch upon a number of music research’s hardest and most intriguing questions such as the question of why we prefer some combination of pitches and rhythms to other, or the question of whether or not any of the processing mechanisms underlying the experience of music are shared with other cognitive abilities, expecially language.

With the publication of the last essayNaturehas made all nine essays available for free. Go tothis sitewhere it is also possible to download a special edition of theNaturePodcastcontaining interviews with two of the authors,Philip Balland John Sloboda.

I spend the morning reading all nine essays, and while they are all highly engaging I couldn’t help thinking that we still deperately need a comprehensive review of the whole range of neuroscience research on music conducted in the last five or ten years. The only book even attemting to introduce this body of work in a popular form isDaniel Levitin’sThis is Your Brain on Music, and I think it is fair to say that this book only manages to cover but a fraction of the many, many exiting results currently being published. Could this be a job for the incomparableCarl Zimmer?


The photo shows some 70.000 people convening at the Roskilde Festival here in Denmark to enjoy four days of music. Why?

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