EPTA Helsinki

39th EPTA Conference
Helsinki, Finland
10 – 13 August 2017

The Musical Brain of Infants
Learning the Language of Music, Part I

For further information, go to Categories in the right hand column of the Home page and scroll down to Brain hardwiring, Cognition, Infants and music, Infants and language, and Music cognition.  That will link you to posts in which I have discussed these topics.

Reference list for articles discussed in presentation:

Corbeil, M., Trehub, S., & Peretz, I. (2015). Singing delays the onset of infant distress. Infancy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/infa.12114. pdf

Gerry, D, Unrau, A, and Trainor, LJ (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental Science, 15(3), 398-407 View Abstract

Hannon, E. E., & Trehub, S. E. (2005). Tuning in to musical rhythms: Infants learn more readily than adults.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 102, 12639-12643. pdf

Hannon, E. E., & Trehub, S. E. (2005). Metrical categories in infancy and adulthood. Psychological Science, 16, 48-55. pdf

Partanen, E., Kujala, T., Tervaniemi, M., & Huotilainen, M. (2013).  Prenatal Music Exposure Induces Long-Term Neural Effects.  PLoS ONE, 8(10).

Trehub, S. E. (2010). In the beginning: A brief history of infant music perception. Musicae Scientiae. pdf

Trehub, S. E. (2001). Musical predispositions in infancy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 930, 1-16. pdf

Winkler, I., et.al. (2009).  Newborn infants detect the beat in music.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(7).

Zentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010).  Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(13).


Annie Jessy Curwen, 1898, Music TeachingThe Parents’ Review, Vol. 9, no. 7

Edwin Gordon. NCKP Keynote, 2015.  Gordon believed all humans have a potential for music achievement, that we are born with varying degrees of aptitude for music and that we develop this aptitude through audiation, or the ability to “think in music.”  He  was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the National Conference for Keyboard Pedagogy in summer 2015.  Ill health prevented him from being there, but his talk was read by Scott Price and is linked here.

Midori Koga (2016).  Ti,  A Drink with Jam and Bread:  Developing Musical Understanding through Solfège.  American Music Teacher, April/May 2016.  Excellent article about teaching solfège before notation – “sound before sign.”


These books were not covered in the presentation, but they reference hardwiring for music in disciplines other than cognitive psychology.

Charles Darwin, 1871.  The Descent of Man.   Contains a few pages about music’s original role in sexual selection.

Steven Mithen, 2006.  The Singing Neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind, and body.    Music as fundamental to the human condition, existing before language.

Oliver Sacks, 2007.  Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain.  Sacks’s classic about the place music occupies in the brain, and what happens when neurological impairments cause enjoyment of music to go awry;

2010.  The Mind’s Eye.  First chapter is about Lillian Kallir, the pianist who lost the ability to understand musical notation (Musical Alexia)


Three-year old Jonathan conducting 4th movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.   Jonathan is only three years old in this video, but clearly able to move to music and to keep a beat.