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Music and the Brain

What went on in Charlie Parker’s medial prefrontal cortex as he started soloing on ornithology? When you coo to your baby, are you stimulating a part of her brain that’s hard-wired for music? Can music bring down governments, or chase away criminals? With fascinating explorations into music’s relationship to human evolution, language and communication, social behavior, culture and education, the Library presents a thought-provoking cycle of lectures and special presentations that highlight an explosion of new research in the rapidly expanding field of “neuromusic.”

Music and the Brain Series, hosted by the Library of Congress. 2008-2009 Power of music / chromolithograph from Duval & Hunter, Philadelphia. 1872

Culminating in March 2009, the Music and the Brain series is sponsored by the Library’s Music Division and its Science, Technology and Business Division, in cooperation with the Dana Foundation. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, served as project chairwoman and brought together scientists, scholars, composers, performers, theorists, physicians, psychologists and other experts.

In an effort to bring the Library’s resources to you, programming in the series is available in podcast form. Hosted by Steve Mencher, a former radio producer for Carnegie Hall and National Public Radio, the podcasts feature one-on-one interviews with the guest speakers. Past topics have included the brain activity behind music improvisation, the hidden connections between language and instrumental music and crimes that have been connected to musical genres.

In addition, webcasts of the actual presentations are also available. Search the Library’s webcasts site for “music and the brain.”

The Music and the Brain series, which is also available on iTunes, is just one of the several offerings from the Library. Also available are podcasts from the 2007 and 2008 National Book festivals.

A good starting point for further exploration of the Library’s music resources is the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, which includes scores, sheet music, audio recordings, films, photographs, and other materials. In addition, the guide showcases digitized items from the collections; special Web presentations on topics and collections; articles and biographical essays; finding aids to collections; databases for performing-arts resources; information on concerts at the Library; and a special Performing Arts Resource Guide that contains entries for hundreds of Library collections, Web sites, databases and exhibits.

If science is your interest, you can check out a recent list of science and technology books catalogued at the Library, including online tables of contents, publishers' summaries, and/or samples.

A. Music and the Brain Series, hosted by the Library of Congress. 2008-2009. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

B. Power of music / chromolithograph from Duval & Hunter, Philadelphia. 1872. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-USZC4-6019 (color film copy transparency), LC-USZ62-23519 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: PGA - Duval--Power of music (D size) [P&P]