Music on the brain

12 March 2004

In a unique public experiment, scientists from UCL working with the New London Orchestra will test Camden schoolchildren to find out how musicians learn a piece of music. There will also be talks and hands-on demonstrations held as part of global 'Brain Awareness Week'. Members of the public and media are welcome to watch or participate - no booking necessary. The free event will take place on 20th March 2004 , 12:30-5:30pm , at Camden School for Girls, Sandall Road , NW5. Musical children should pre-register by calling in advance Cassie Tait on 020 7823 5523. www.icn.ucl.ac.uk/music

The programme for the event will include interactive lectures and computer-based experiments. The main focus of the day will be a live experiment investigating whether the modality for learning music - by sight reading and by ear - affects the musicality of the performance. Young flute and clarinet players from across London will help deliver this experiment assisted by UCL students and scientists.

The budding musicians will be asked to learn two pieces, one by sight and one by ear in a nearby studio. They will individually record their pieces and be asked a few simple questions about the music they played. Two New London Orchestra musicians will join the students during the afternoon holding an active music workshop session.

Once the students have finished learning the pieces they will be asked to play together to the audience, who in turn will vote how musically each piece had been played. The event will be interactive and accessible, appealing to musicians, scientists and anyone interested in finding out more about how brains figure out music. 'Music on the Brain' promises to be a lively and engaging event.

Dr Daniel Glaser, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience , UCL, says: "It's exciting to be taking science out of the lab. For generations, parents have wanted children to learn instruments and the debate around the best teaching methods has raged. We hope that a scientific exploration of the question will help elucidate the issue. Anyone interested in music and the brain can hear about the latest work and take part."

Dr Lauren Stewart, Research Fellow, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience , UCL, says: "My previous work has looked at how people read music, this is an opportunity to explore how people memorize it. Looking at learning from sounds and symbols, we'll ask: when it comes to music, do the eyes or the ears have it?"

Julian Knight, NLO General Manager, says: "Our partnership with UCL scientists on projects of this nature offer the public opportunities to engage in music and science in a new way. We hope this will lead to a better understanding of the power and importance of music, and inspire us all to learn more about the brain and support the research currently taking place."

Notes for Editors

1. The public experiment will take place on 20th March 2004, 12:30-5:30pm, at Camden School for Girls, Sandall Road, NW5.

2. For further information or to attend, please contact Alex Brew in the UCL media relations office on 020 7679 9726 or a.brew@ucl.ac.uk or contact Daniel Glaser on 07734 679 265