Musical Perception

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Fall 2018 quarter

Taught by

behavioral neuroendocrinology, molecular neuroscience, physiological psychology

Most of us know something about music, particularly the sounds we have learned to like. This program will offer a much deeper introduction to music through modes of perception, which are both culturally and neurologically bound. This program explores the links between music, science, and cultural expression. The goal is to provide students with a challenging intellectual environment while exploring the ways in which we understand sound. In this program three main topics will be covered: from sound to meaning, music in emotion and learning, and the development of skills in critical thinking and writing.

By learning to play several different types of music from around the world, including Indonesian gamelan and Brazilian drumming, students will gain memorable, hands-on experiences to focus their attention on music in terms of culture, aesthetics, and biology. Students will learn about the physics of sound waves, the biology of the auditory systems and brain function, and the neurobiology of music in relation to emotions and learning. Laboratory work will include anatomy, investigations of sensory perception and emotional processing, and molecular biology techniques. We will also explore the field of ethnomusicology (anthropology of music) in terms of how it connects sounds and cultures across the world. Each week will include lectures, workshops, short films, readings, writing, and seminars. Students will practice introductory science writing and the ability to effectively describe and discuss music. At the end of the quarter, students will give collaborative presentations on topics related to the program fields of study.

Anticipated credit equivalencies of the program include expository writing, introduction to ethnomusicology, introductory biology, and introduction to critical thinking.

This program will be repeated in winter. Students who take this program in fall should not register for the winter repeat.

Program Details

Fields of Study

aesthetics anthropology biology cultural studies music writing

Preparatory For

Science and the Arts


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

No Required Online Learning