Category Archives: Discussion

We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For

Thanks to an episode of pinball reading (and its offshoots) which I can now barely recall, I received a free DVD of David Putnam‘s*  film, We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For.

Narrated by John Hannah, it explores the huge problems which today’s young people will inherit and investigates how well or poorly current educational practices across the world prepare them for this future.

The conversations and cast (Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Cream Wright, Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray, Dame Ruth Silver, Zoë Redhead of Summerhill SchoolHenry Winkler amongst many others) will be familiar to many but I found it instructive to see an extended piece on this topic with input from many countries: UK; USA; Sweden, South Africa, Netherlands.

If anyone in my weekly orbit would like to borrow this DVD, just give me a shout.

*On the sleeve of the DVD the film is described as having been inspired and guided by David Putnam. The directors are Daryl Goodrich and Caroline Rowland.

p.s. re the title – never end a sentence a preposition with 🙂

EUSci Pod

I spent quite a few hours of the Easter Holidays at Edinburgh International Science Festival events and was delighted to discover, via Facebook (Edinburgh University Science Podcast), that a podcast featuring interviews with various participants is available. Amongst others are featured:

You can access the podcast here (click “download link” which appears under 1st paragraph).

Music Matters

Are you concerned about the future of classical music and the arts as the elections approaches and in the current climate? Why not listen to (or participate in) Saturday’s live phone-in on Radio 3’s Music Matters at 12:15? Emailed questions are also invited. The panel features Secretary of State for Culture, Ben Bradshaw, and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts, Ed Vaizey and Don Foster.

The Music Instinct

Philip Ball discusses his new book, The Music Instinct, on Start The Week – available on here on iPlayer until Monday 15th. Scroll forward to 12:13 (or play from the beginning if you want to hear John Adams discuss his new work City Noir).

The Music Instinct seeks to explore the effects of music on the brain and emotions.  At one point in the interview he describes music as a gymnasium for the mind and goes on to outline how music engages language and motor centres in the brain. From the point of view of evolution, our skill in detecting patterns, predicting outcomes and enjoying the violation of these expectations resonates with me and with what I see in pupils’ developing experience and skills.

Music Supported Here

Denegrators of Twitter, who are invariably non-users, claim that users feel others must be updated on their every meal and bodily function. Those of us living in the real-virtual world know that a great deal of professional connection is to be had there. For example, this morning I was directed to four short films by the Musicians’ Union‘s campaign, Music Supported Here. The campaign also has a YouTube channel.

Horace Trubridge, the MU’s Assisstant General Secretary, sets the scene:

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One of the ironies of this situation is the use of YouTube in defence of copyright when one draconian outcome of the Digital Economy Bill could be its blocking due to copyright infringements. Can you imagine life without YouTube?

Music & Language

For a musician, timing is everything – but it’s often not as much fun as serendipity. I emerged from the today’s post-work swim just in time to hear a piece on Radio 4’s PM on the links between music and language. This is one of the topics on the agenda of the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s forthcoming conference.

You can hear the piece here (approx 5 mins long – scroll forward to 0:44:20) for the next seven days. There is mention (and sometimes demonstration) of:

  • how the enhanced audio/language processing skills in musicians are exactly those diminished in certain “clinical populations”
  • how the electrical activity in the brain mirrors much more exactly the patterns of music recently heard than would be possible in the case of speech – the corollary being that frequent, active exposure to music can strengthen language processing
  • how the eye contact necessary in some music therapy activities can strengthen the social skills of the most withdrawn
  • how a stroke patient, struggling to recall the content of an out-of-context lyric, seemed suddenly capable of total recall when asked to sing the same lyric
  • the differing opinions of Darwin, Spencer and Rousseau on whether music grew from language, language from music, or whether they emerged as co-dependants

Notes & Neurons

I mentioned this as an aside yesterday but feel it deserves to be highlighted in its own right. A World Science Festival panel, chaired by John Schaeffer and featuring Jamshed Bharucha,  Daniel Levitin,  Lawrence Parsons and Bobby McFerrin discuss whether music is hard wired or culturally determined. The resulting output is five videos (featuring musical illustration) which can be accessed here.

Daniel Levitin (record producer/engineer turned neuroscientist) is the author of a very readable book entitled This Is Your Brain on Music. Both subjects are so jargon-heavy that the accessible writing is nothing short of miraculous.