I just returned from the UK where the Music, Science and the Brain symposium was held in celebration of the end of the European EmCAP project. (The lectures will be online as vodcasts soon.)
I particularly liked, among others, the presentations of David Huron (Ohio State University, US) and Lauren Stewart (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK).
David Huron was the keynote speaker (delivered by video link from Columbus, Ohio), His talk was entitled: ‘How Music Produces Goose-bumps and Why Listeners Enjoy It’. Paralleling one of the chapters of his recent book ‘Sweet Anticipation’ (MIT Press), he treated the audience on a waterfall of ideas and findings on why and how music elicits physiological reactions like goose bums (or piloerection, as it is formally called). Because the speed of it all, some ideas lacked alternative interpretations or proposals on how to (potentially) falsify them. Nevertheless, I’m a great fan of David. His knowledge of the literature is more than impressive. You should read his book that presents these ideas at a more appropriate pace.
Lauren Stewarts’s talk was on amusia (or tone deafness, see earlier blog), and the question of whether people with amusia are destined to get no pleasure out of music (listening) whatsoever. She discussed a recent study, published earlier this year in Music Perception, on the use and functions of music for people ‘suffering’ from amusia. While people with amusia seem to be mostly annoyed by music (‘[I have experienced] just a sort of irritable rage. Now I wonder what others feel and think I may be missing out on something.’), some music appraisal seemed to be shared with ‘normal’ listeners.
CLAIRE MCDONALD, LAUREN STEWART (2008). USES AND FUNCTIONS OF MUSIC IN CONGENITAL AMUSIA Music Perception, 25 (4), 345-355 DOI: 10.1525/MP.2008.25.4.345