Art, Music, and the Brain (Music 321-Psych 349)

Music and Childhood in the Western Tradition course profile

Image Courtesy of Ellen Alvord, Art Museum

Instructors: Professor Mara Breen, Professor Linda Laderach

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.” - Oliver Sacks

All human cultures make art. All human cultures make music. What is it in our brains that compels us to do so, and to appreciate and understand a variety of art and music forms even when they are unfamiliar to us?

Co-taught by a psychology professor who studies the melodic inflections of speech, and a Music professor and violinist who specializes in digital tools for performance and learning, this interdisciplinary, hands-on course introduces students to how the brain processes visual and auditory stimuli.

We will experience first-hand the ways that music co-opts, transforms, and stretches every part of the brain, increasing its nimbleness. Using iPads, violin bows, and our own bodies, among other gadgets and tools, we bend sound, tinker with luminance, and examine music cognition and perception. Newcomers to artistic and musical practice welcome!

  • Students will: learn to improvise on a blues scale with the violin or viola 
  • recreate the “The Dress” illusion 
  • understand how art and science are intimately related, and how each informs the other