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Music, Language, and Emotional Expression
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Music, Language, and Emotional Expression

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18 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Culture, Biology, or Both?
Explore the distinction between music and musicality. While musical styles change, musicality is the stable array of mental processes that underlie our ability to appreciate and produce music. Begin by…
Episode 2 Seeking an Evolutionary Theory of Music
Darwin believed that musical behavior arose because it gave our early ancestors a biological advantage. But what advantage? Investigate Darwin's theory and other adaptationist explanations for the evolution of music.…
Episode 3 Testing Theories of Music’s Origins
Follow two lines of research that have put ideas about music's origins to the test. Start with studies of music perception in monkeys. Then turn to an ingenious experiment with…
Episode 4 Music, Language, and Emotional Expression
What makes a piece of music sound sad? Or joyful? Or angry? Why does music have expressive power beyond words? Explore the different ways that music conveys emotion. Test your…
Episode 5 Brain Sources of Music’s Emotional Power
Delve deeper into the emotional reactions that people have to music. Feel the chills induced by certain musical passages and study the theories about where these powerful feelings come from.…
Episode 6 Musical Building Blocks: Pitch and Timbre
Focus on two processes that are fundamental to musicality: the perception of pitch and timbre. Pitch allows us to order sounds from low to high. Timbre lets us distinguish two…
Episode 7 Consonance, Dissonance, and Musical Scales
What brain processes lead people to hear certain intervals as more consonant and others as more dissonant? Evaluate the major theories, one of which traces the phenomenon to the acoustic…
Episode 8 Arousing Expectations: Melody and Harmony
Melodies and harmonies combine pitches according to rules that we have internalized through experience. Listen to musical examples that demonstrate unresolved and resolved expectations. Consider the analogy to grammar in…
Episode 9 The Complexities of Musical Rhythm
Begin your study of musical rhythm by distinguishing periodic from non-periodic rhythmic patterns. Periodicity can be thought of as beat; non-periodicity involves expressive techniques such as timing variations and phrasing.…
Episode 10 Perceiving and Moving to a Rhythmic Beat
Look beneath the surface of a seemingly simple feature of music: beat. Discover that beat perception in humans is exceedingly complex and incorporates six distinct criteria. Then survey animal studies…
Episode 11 Nature, Nurture, and Musical Brains
Use neuroimaging to investigate the ways that brains of musicians differ from those of non-musicians, asking whether the differences are due to nature or nurture--whether they are inborn or the…
Episode 12 Cognitive Benefits of Musical Training
Probe the ongoing research into the effects of musical training on the microstructure of the brain, which points to cognitive benefits in areas such as speech processing. Focus on how…
Episode 13 The Development of Human Music Cognition
Not all aspects of musicality mature in the brain at the same rate. Trace the developing music faculty in infants, who have already learned to recognize their mother's speech patterns…
Episode 14 Disorders of Music Cognition
Turn to cases where music cognition breaks down in disorders such as dystimbria and amusia. General Ulysses S. Grant and novelist Vladimir Nabokov appear to have been affected by amusia.…
Episode 15 Neurological Effects of Hearing Music
Consider how the biological effects of listening to music might affect people with a wide range of medical conditions, from those undergoing surgery to premature infants, stroke victims, and Alzheimer's…
Episode 16 Neurological Effects of Making Music
See how actively engaging in music can enhance communication and movement in patients with a variety of neurological disorders, including aphasia, Parkinson's disease, motor disorders, and autism. Music's connection to…
Episode 17 Are We the Only Musical Species?
We may be the only animal that uses words, but we are not the only animal that sings. Survey music-making among other species, from fruit flies to gibbons, whales, parrots,…
Episode 18 Music: A Neuroscientific Perspective
Conclude the course by examining the biological significance of music though the lens of neuroscience. Look at five aspects of language that point to biological specialization in humans, and ask…

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