The Shepherd School of Music
Rice: Unconventional Wisdom
The Shepherd School of Music
Exploring the Mind Through Music




Ian Cross: “Music as everyday interaction”

We conceptualise and investigate music as something to which we listen and which modulates our emotions.  But in many world cultures—including our own—music is an interactive, participatory medium with different social roles and cultural embeddings; participation in music has consequences that are not limited to the affective or aesthetic domains.  I shall suggest that by conceiving of music as a primary human mode of interaction, and by situating this idea within recent research on the human capacity for complex interaction, we can develop novel and effective ways of understanding and exploring music and its functions in human life.

Michael Thaut: “Neurological Music Therapy - From the Neuroscience of Music Perception to Clinical Translations”

The evidence that music is an ancient autonomous biological language of the human brain and that music has had a significant role in shaping the human brain gives it also a central role in reshaping- and retraining the injured brain. The conceptual shift in considering music’s function in therapy and medicine has created a wealth of scientific evidence and a clinical music-based treatment system – Neurologic Music Therapy – unprecedented in the history of music therapy. The shift moved music’s rehabilitative role from an associative, interpretative,  and predominantly socioemotional focused model to a perceptual model enabled these breakthroughs. A central function emerged in the study of rhythm: rhythm as a temporal control system for motor control, speech/language, and cognitive functions. We now know that music as a complex auditory language can induce neuroplasticity which can be utilized to effectively train and retrain brain function. Clinically translational research in music perception and the clinical applications codified in Neurologic Music Therapy are now widely accepted in neuroscience, neurodevelopment, and neurologic rehabilitation.


Elizabeth Margulis: “Empirical Approaches to Aesthetic Listening”

Listening experiences can be powerful, yet difficult to articulate. This talk considers the role empirical methods might play in understanding these experiences.  It surveys various empirical approaches ranging from continuous response methodologies to tasks relying on the detection of structural elements or the explicit evaluation of subjective impressions. In what ways do these studies fall short of the goal of illuminating aesthetic listening, and in what ways to they reveal aspects of it that may have been inaccessible to other modes of inquiry? The talk concludes with some thoughts about the future of studying aesthetic experiences of music.  

David Temperley:  “Information Flow in Music”

Recent research in psycholinguistics has shown that language processing is optimal when information is conveyed at a moderate, uniform rate—a principle known as Uniform Information Density (UID). In this talk I will suggest that UID has great explanatory value with regard to music as well. The UID principle suggests that high-information (low-probability) events should be lengthened and spaced out in time, and that events that are low-probability in one respect should be high-probability in other respects. I will discuss applications of UID in several diverse areas of music: rules of Renaissance counterpoint, the construction of classical themes, and patterns of expressive performance. Title: Information Flow in Music


Frank R. Yekovich Memorial Lectures

Isabelle Peretz: “The biological foundations of music - Insights from anomalies”

The last decade of research has provided compelling evidence that the ability to engage with music is a fundamental human trait, and its biological basis is increasingly scrutinized. In this endeavor, the study of individuals who have anomalous musical abilities is particularly informative because their peculiarities have neuro-genetic underpinnings. They are accidents of nature and provide a rare chance to examine the
biological basis of music by tracing causal links between genes, environment, brain, and behavior. I will present the main and most recent insights that the study of anomalies has provided on the biological foundations of music.

Lawrence Zbikowski: “Challenges to Music and Mind”

In an essay first published in 1981 (“Music, Mind, and Meaning”) the late Marvin Minsky—a passionate musician as well as one of the founders of the research paradigm commonly known as Artificial Intelligence—took up a seemingly simple question: Why do we like music? Minsky used this question to explore, from a fresh perspective, the basic attributes of musical sound and practice and to elaborate some of the basic design features of artificial intelligence that he had proposed in the previous decade, features he subsequently formalized in his 1985 book The Society of Mind. The 1970s and 1980s were heady times for research on artificial intelligence and many—Minsky included—believed that a range of problems, including humans’ predilection for sequences of patterned non-linguistic sound, would soon become quite tractable. Some three decades later, however, the relationship between music and mind remains a profound mystery. In this presentation I shall use Minsky’s observations about music and the structure of human intelligence as a framework to explore some of the enduring challenges musical practice presents to our study of the human mind and brain, and to suggest how a re-examination of the role music plays in human cultural interactions might provide a new model for research on music and the mind.