Tuesday March 20, 2012

Dan Levitin at McGill has been studying music for years...and by that I mean he's been studying music - how it works in our brains. Levitin is a neuroscientist, with a hefty background in the music industry (and some interesting consulting credits - eg: "The Mentalist"). And he wrote the enormously successful This is Your Brain on Music. He and Vinod Menon of Stanford worked together on a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to see if there are constant mathematical formulae that define certain musicians. Is math at the bottom of our biological need for music?

In the course of studying over 2000 musical compositions, they discovered something pretty neat - "each composer had his or her own highly individual rhythmic signature."

The study was highlighted in futurity.org's article There's math hiding in the music we love - '“This was one of the most unanticipated and exciting findings of our research,” asserts Levitin. “Mozart’s notated rhythms were the least predictable, Beethoven’s were the most, and Monteverdi and Joplin had nearly identical, overlapping rhythm distributions. But they each have their own distinctive rhythmic signature that you can capture."'

We have talked about this business of music and children - and our slavish devotion to the idea that music makes kids smarter. Or that it helps kids with math. Nothing irritated our experts more than that. Why does music have to help math? Why isn't music essential to a child's success on its own merits? Why must it be accountable?

We have some pretty cool thinkers on music in this country...check out the Music and the Mind lab at McMaster University in Hamilton - headed by Laurel Trainor who was on our panel discussion.