Category Archives: Brain Hardwiring for Music

Making music with brain waves

Imagine that you have been singing all your life.  You’re not a professional, but you sing with the elementary school students in your fifth-grade class, you conduct a church choir, and you’re good.  You have a nice voice, you can sing in tune and finding the right pitch is never a problem.  Suddenly one day, everything changes.  You can no longer find the correct pitches for a familiar song.  You can hear them in your mind, and you can hear that you are singing not only out of tune, but hitting totally wrong notes – but you can’t fix it.  You’re bewildered about what’s happening, and panic sets in. Continue reading

Should everyone be able to make music if we’re hardwired for it?

I thought I had finished writing this post when a fascinating new study appeared in my Inbox, and I simply had to incorporate it.  Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered that, for several months after birth, infants can recognize a melody that they have heard in utero.  In a study of 24 women conducted during the final trimester of pregnancy, half of the women played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to their fetuses five days a week for the last few weeks of their pregnancies, half did not.  (Yes, the researchers really used Twinkle, Twinkle.)  Continue reading

Are we hardwired for music?

Music has usually been studied as a cultural product – specific to a certain time and place. We associate different kinds of music, tuning systems, qualities of the sound and kinds of instruments with different ethnic groups or different cultural societies.  And we attribute different structural forms, harmonic systems and (again) instruments to various time periods.  We learn why Bach could only have written what he did during the era that came to be known as the Baroque and why the minimalism of Philip Glass or Steve Reich could only have happened in the late twentieth century (although Satie came close in the late 19th century). Continue reading