Music and the Brain: A Broad Perspective

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Date: Sept. 2000
From: Music Educators Journal(Vol. 87, Issue 2)
Publisher: MENC - The National Association for Music Education
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 1,092 words

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The articles in this special focus issue of MEJ provide an exceptionally useful compendium of current research on music, the brain, and behavior. They also reflect some current tensions. For example, Donna Brink Fox calls for an "integrated delivery system" for early music education that includes shared responsibility among music educators, funding sponsors, parents, early childhood educators, and research scientists. However, Steven Demorest and Steven Morrison, in challenging selected reports of collateral benefits of music education, focus on negative aspects of relationships between researchers and music educators. Similar tensions are discernible in the reaction of the "Virtual Panel" to the slogan "music makes you smarter."

I would like to suggest how these various points of view and concerns can be reconciled by adopting a broader perspective, one that focuses on music as it relates to the basic cognitive and emotional systems that are the foundations of thought, feeling, and behavior. But, first, it will help to consider some of the points made in these special focus articles on "music and the brain."

In "Music and the Baby's Brain," Donna Brink Fox presents a persuasive argument for introducing music early in life. She further emphasizes the importance of "active" interactions vs. passive experiences in having lasting effects on brain and behavior. I am in complete agreement but would amplify this point by noting that passive exposure to music, even at a very early age, can engage a type of information storage generally termed "implicit memory." General musical architectures can be acquired to a considerable extent by mere exposure, as the infant brain tries to make sense out of the stream of sounds it encounters,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A65229630