Music on My Brain: A Conversation with Daniel J. Levitin and Rosanne Cash

WED, OCT 21, 2009

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin and artist Rosanne Cash have a musical conversation about music and the brain. How does music evoke our emotions? Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally-based? Why does music play such an important role in our lives? Levitin is a rock star of science who has worked with actual rock stars, including Sting and David Byrne. Cash, the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, underwent brain surgery in 2007 and brings a unique perspective to music on our minds.

+ BIO: Daniel J. Levitin

Daniel J. Levitin is James McGill Professor of Psychology and Neurosciences at McGill University. He is the author of two best-selling books about music cognition: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. Levitin and singer Bobby McFerrin co-hosted The Music Instinct: Science and Song, a two-hour documentary on the science of music that aired on PBS in June 2009.

Levitin earned his BA in psychology and cognitive science from Stanford, and went on to earn his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Oregon, researching complex auditory patterns and pattern processing in expert and non-expert populations. He completed post-doctoral training at Stanford University Medical School (in Neuroimaging) and at UC Berkeley (in Cognitive Psychology). He has consulted on audio sound source separation for the U.S. Navy, and on audio quality for several rock bands (including the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan) and record labels, and served as one of the "Golden Ears" expert listeners in the original Dolby AC3 compression tests. For two years, he worked at the Silicon Valley think tank Interval Research Corporation, where he focused on issues in human-computer interaction and applications of cognitive psychology.

Prior to entering academia, Levitin was a record producer and engineer working with artists such as Blue Öyster Cult, Chris Isaak, and Stevie Wonder. An accomplished saxophonist, he has performed with a variety of musicians including Mel Tormé, Sting, David Byrne, and Blue Öyster Cult. He has been awarded 17 gold and platinum records.

+ BIO: Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash is an author, a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, and the daughter of country music singer Johnny Cash.

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