Exploring the Mind Through Music: Music and Language with Fred Lerdahl and Aniruddh Patel


"Exploring the Mind Through Music" is a week-long conference bringing musicians and scientists together to explore each other's disciplines. In this joint lecture, composer and music theorist Fred Lerdahl and neuroscientist Aniruddh Patel ask the questions: Is music language? Is language musical?

Linguistic and Musical Syntax by Fred Lerdahl
The use of the term “musical syntax” reflects the familiar view that language and music share basic organizational features. But what do the two domains really share, and how are they different? This lecture addresses these questions, primarily from the perspective of music theory. After a brief historical survey, linguistic and musical syntaxes are addressed abstractly and then concretely through analyses of songs by The Beatles and Schubert and their text settings. The lecture closes with a summary of shared and unshared structures with an eye on neuropsychological and evolutionary evidence.

Music, language, syntax and brain by Aniruddh Patel
The relationship between music and language has long fascinated thinkers from a broad range of scientific and humanistic disciplines. In recent years new methods have been brought to bear on old questions about this relationship. In this talk, Patel will discuss cognitive neuroscience studies which address the following question: Does the processing of structural relations in tonal-harmonic music have anything in common with the processing of grammatical relations in language? This is a much-debated question, relevant to the theoretical issue of ‘modularity’ within cognitive science and to practical concerns such as the study and treatment of Broca’s aphasia.



Shepherd School of Music
6100 Main St.
Houston, TX 77005-1892


Admission is free
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