Brock events to explore science behind what draws people to music

Whether its rhythm causes an unconscious sway or its lyrics evoke a swell of emotion, a song can strike a different chord from one set of ears to another.

A series of upcoming Brock University academic and general interest talks aim to unpack the science behind what drives people to love and connect with the music that they do.

Susan Rogers, a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Music Production and Engineering Department at Berklee College of Music, will discuss music cognition and perception, and why individuals are attracted to the types of music they listen to.

In addition to sharing her academic knowledge of neuroscience and how it relates to listening to music, Rogers will share her experiences as an accomplished sound engineer and record producer for musicians such as Prince, David Byrne and Barenaked Ladies.

Three events are set to take place next month, presented by Brock’s Faculty of Mathematics and Science and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in collaboration with the FirstOntario Performing Art Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

The largest event, The Music of Listening, will take place Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Open to the Brock and wider community, it will include a book signing for Rogers’ latest book, This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You, co-authored with Ogi Ogas. Tickets for the event are available through the art centre’s website and are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $20.

In her talk, Rogers will discuss the seven dimensions of musical listening, and how people’s brains develop over a lifetime of listening to music.

“Your listening brain is different from everyone else’s, which gives you a unique response to any given record,” she says.

Rogers explains that a person might like a certain song because they love dancing to its rhythm or they get emotional listening to the lyrics. Another song might resonate with someone because they find the sound design exciting or it ignites their imagination.

The event will also feature a live music ‘record pull’ with local recording artist Mark Lalama. Rogers and Lalama will take turns playing snippets of music and explaining the features of each song that excite them.

“I’m hoping listeners will come away with a sense of their own listener profile and a better vocabulary for describing their musical taste,” she says.

The event will conclude with live music by Grammy nominee, producer, composer and pianist Larry Edoff, who will perform a Prince medley.

Complementing The Music of Listening event will be a film screening of Purple Rain on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $9.50 for the general public or $7.50 for Film House members.

Rogers will also be presenting free lectures for the Brock community.

A Neuroaesthetics of Music Perception lecture will take place Monday, Oct. 23 from 10 to 11 a.m. in Plaza 600F. All Brock University students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend and are encouraged to RSVP via ExperienceBU.

Rogers will discuss how neural processes contribute to music preference and how the brain is involved with hypercreativity.

“Neuroaesthetics is a hot topic right now in neuroscience,” she says. “How do we get a reaction of art appreciation from works of art?”

A Music and Neuroscience lecture will take place Monday, Oct. 23 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Recital Hall, as part of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Walker Cultural Leader Series. Students and faculty from Brock’s downtown arts school are welcome to attend.

The lecture will focus on how students can apply neuroscience-related findings about music listeners to their own writing, recording and producing of music.

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