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Art and science

Music and science: a harmonious or discordant duo?

17 Jul 2017

Albert Einstein once said that he found Mozart’s music so beautiful that he saw it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe. He also said that really good music cannot be analysed. For many people – eminent scientists included – an appreciation of music is so entangled with individual human experience that science can offer very few insights. Others are less dismissive, believing that science can offer fascinating insights into how music can strike such a deep emotional chord. In this podcast, our regular host Andrew Glester discusses the subject of music with a varied ensemble of academics and musicians.

Featured in the podcast is UK recording artist Hannah Peel, along with a track from her 2016 album Awake But Always Dreaming. Peel talks about how that record was inspired by witnessing her grandma’s struggle with dementia and how music helped the pair to communicate when memory began to fail. Peel says her forthcoming album, Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, is a journey from the mind into space, influenced by a visit to an Alzheimer’s research lab at University College London.

Glester recorded the podcast at the Cheltenham Science Festival 2017, where he met academics with a variety of interests and opinions about music. On the one hand, polymath Raymond Tallis believes that scientific data about people’s physical response to music is of limited value to understanding why we appreciate music. On the other hand, physicist and “rock doctor” Mark Lewney speaks about the useful role acoustics can play a role in designing guitars with the tonal properties desired by musicians. Researcher and science popularizer Alice Roberts speaks about the possible evolutionary functions of music, while violinist Jenny Glester speaks about her experiences taking music into healthcare settings.

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