Musical Brain Conference 2011:
Why Music? Is Music Different from the Other Arts?

Friday 7th October 2011 at the UCL Institute of Neurology, Queens Square, London WC1N 3BG.
The evening concert, which is integral to the conference, will be in St. Pancras parish church, a ten minutes walk away.

8.30: Registration opens

9.45: Introduction – Prof. Michael Trimble
There have been debates going back for over 2,000 years about the similarities and differences between art forms, and
several writers at various times have venerated music as superior to the rest. This symposium will explore these views from
a multidisciplinary perspective, from the philosophical to the therapeutic, and from the psychological to the neurological. The relevance of the latter, especially as revealed to us with modern brain imaging, will be the subject of discussion, questioning
the current role of neuroscience for philosophy and aesthetics.

Can there be a Science of Musical Understanding?
Prof. Roger Scruton
We speak of understanding and misunderstanding music; music is a form of communication; and the habit of sitting still and listening while music plays is one that demands an explanation, especially at a time when hardly anyone does it. What form should such an explanation take, and is neuroscience likely to have a part in shaping it? And what bearing would the
explanation have on our understanding of other art forms?

The Neurohistory of Art: how Neuroscience Illuminates Individual Inspiration
Prof. John Onians
Neuroaesthetics tends to look to neuroscience for help in the study of universals, such as beauty. Neurohistory uses
neuroscience to help to explain those behaviours of individuals and groups that are exceptional, from the creativity of
particular artists and musicians to the responsiveness of particular viewers and listeners. The talk suggests ways in which
brain scanners and electron microscopes offer insights into the most mysterious activities of the human mind. It also argues
that in doing so, far from reducing the mind’s mystery, they greatly enhance it.

What Classical Musicians can learn from Other Arts about how to Build Audiences
Prof. John Sloboda
There has been a well-documented decline in attendance at classical music concerts at the same time as audiences for other
art-forms (e.g. visual art) have never been healthier. This lecture reviews some of the psychological factors that impact on audiences when experiencing music and other art forms, and outlines some recent initiatives, which encourage musicians to
build a stronger relationship to audiences by learning from other arts, particularly drama.

The Purpose of Art and the Role of Music in Therapy
Professor Raymond Tallis and Prof. Nigel Osborne
Art, like human consciousness, is gloriously useless. It has no biological function but rather is an attempt to come to terms
with, even to heal, the wound in the present tense, which is in part the result of the fact that ideas and experience, content
and form are in conflict. It is an expression of the unique freedom of human beings to make their own sense of the world.
The therapeutic implications of this for those who have been damaged by life or by illness are both self-evident and

Can Music Portray Happiness and Sadness?
Ian Brown, Stephen Johnson and Ian Ritchie in discussion with the Sacconi Quartet
Debate and Open Forum – Neuroimaging is Important for our Understanding of Aesthetics and our Responses to Art
Profs: Michael Trimble, chairman, John Onians, Nigel Osborne, Roger Scruton, John Sloboda, and Ray Tallis
At St Pancras Parish Church (10 minutes walk from Queen Square)

19.00: Concert introductory talk: Ian Ritchie and Stephen Johnson
19:30: Concert

Sacconi Quartet / Ian Brown piano
Haydn: String Quartet Op77 No1
Schubert: Andantino from Piano Sonata D959
Barber: Adagio
Beethoven: Scherzo from Piano Sonata Hammerklavier Op106
Elgar: Piano Quintet



Click here to view the pdf of the 2010 Conference.


“I thought the whole thing was very worth while, and I learned a lot during the weekend.” Stephen Johnson

“The Musical Brain Conference was a very interesting and unique experience for us. I loved learning things from a scientific perspective. The lectures that we saw were very engaging. If only we could have gone to them all!” Hannah Dawson, violin, Sacconi Quartet

“The weekend was a fantastic chance for us to learn more about composers' minds and our own! It really felt like we delved further into the music and it was great to all share our ideas with others.” Cara Berridge, cello, Sacconi Quartet

“This was a wonderful weekend. It was a unique opportunity for us to learn a little about the science of how music affects the brain, and to share experiences and play to a very knowledgeable audience.” Ben Hancox, violin, Sacconi Quartet

“The fantastic individual elements of the conference – the workshops; the masterclasses – all formed together to make something really very special, which was felt by all.” Pippa Patterson

“…packed full of exquisite recitals and exciting talks. It was particularly special to hear about the humane aspects of music (Professor Osborne) and also to listen to the flowing musical language of Stephen Johnson” Shevaun Mendelsohn

“The presentations were so stimulating and the presenters so engaging that I came away feeling deeply satisfied. The richness of the material presented was really impressive and what a wonderful setting!” Patricia Murphy, British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

“The Musical Brain Conference was a superb and fascinating enterprise. Stephen Johnson’s talk, with accompanying illustrations by Ian Brown and Anna Tilbrook were indeed illuminating and it was of great interest to hear Nigel Osborne’s talk and film on the ‘Therapeutic effects of music’ with relation to trauma.” Veronica Franklin Gould, Director, Arts 4 Dementia

“The combination of concerts and lectures was fantastic.  The illustrations provided by musicians were also particularly appreciated.” Fiona Costa

“The theme of the two days worked very well and the links between the talks and the concerts were brilliant. I particularly enjoyed the use of the musicians to illustrate the talks. Nigel Osborne was as always inspiring. Stephen Johnson combined a superb intellect with a humility and willingness to share his experiences which was inspirational.” Andrew Wilson

“I enjoyed it profoundly and took at least 30 pages of notes!” Anna Zienkowska, music student

“Stephen Johnson's contributions were thought-provoking and enlivening, making engagement with the music irresistible; and his insights into bipolar disorder were invaluable, both for the study of Schumann, and for dealing with today's world. The concerts I was able to attend were a welcome change of format / style / focus from the talks but also indirectly relevant, and very enjoyable.  I was very interested in Stefan Koelsch on the analogy between musical and linguistic reception in the brain. Nigel Osborne was as always provocative, energising, and fascinating.” John MacAuslan

“…a marvelous weekend - and I do hope it will be repeated. I especially enjoyed the presentations from Cambridge and Edinburgh on the functional aspects of music perception and Stephen's masterly accounts of matters musical.” Ann Barrett, Professor Emeritus of Oncology in the University of East Anglia

The Musical Brain ®
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