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June 23rd, 2009
Interview with Daniel Levitin
Live Q&A with Daniel Levitin co-host of The Music Instinct

Download A transcript of the Twitter-based Q&A (PDF | RTF)

During the broadcast premiere of The Music Instinct: Science & Song on June 24th at 9pm (ET), Dr. Daniel Levitin, co-host of The Music Instinct and author of the best-selling books This Is Your Brain On Music and The World In Six Songs took your questions about the show live via Twitter. Daniel Levitin’s Twitter account can be viewed and followed here.

Dr. Levitin can be asked questions directly through Twitter by including “@danlevitin” in your tweets (as Twitter messages are known), and we ask that tweets about the show include the hashtag #musicinstinct.

Twitter is a free, real-time short messaging service that allows individuals to post messages of up to 140 characters in length. Conversation is filtered through the use of descriptive words known as “tags” that allow anyone on Twitter interested in a particular subject or conversation to see only those messages (i.e. “tweets”) pertaining to that topic. During the live Q&A, viewers can view the online conversation in real-time by going to the following web URL: http::// and typing in the tag: #musicinstinct into the search box.

In addition to the use of tags, conversation on Twitter can be directed to particular users of the service by using the @ symbol in connection with their Twitter ID. Dr. Levitin’s Twitter ID is danlevitin. Any questions for Dr. Levitin about the Music Instinct should be directed to Dr. Levitin by including @danlevitin in that Twitter message.

  • M. E. Nordstrom

    Well, I am too old to Twitter, but thanks for putting a comment box here. I am fascinated, because I have been looking at the future implications as in the Music of the Spheres, impressed by Pythagoras measurements within the universe as related to musical concepts. I am sure that rather than Green Pastures, in a future dimension we will establish some kind of universal harmony.People can already be treated with healing sounds (Jonathan Goldman’s book “Healing Sounds”.)Learning is facilitated by the support of classical music listening(”A Well-Tempered Mind” by Peter Perret and Janet Fox reviewed at by Marvin J. Ward, Ph.D.)Etcetera.
    My own blood pressure is lowered when I practice contemplative organ music at the keyboard. I hope I don’t forget to watch these 3 programs on PBS, but alas, I probably will, so I hope you will repeat them regularly and advertise them well.

  • Johnny-O

    What is it that makes a style of music – Southern Rock for example – move me and impact me in a profound way, but rap or opera not move me in the same way?

  • Joe Patti

    All of what I see so far has been discussed, researched and taught by music researchers since the 1960s. Nothing new.

  • Joe Patti

    I read your book and said, this has been taught in university courses since the 1960s. The research is old. Conduct a broader search of the research literature.

  • joe Patti

    Galvonic skin response research is VERY OLD. Check the research lit.

  • Dr. Kris Setzekorn

    I differ with Mr. Patti. I did not study music in college, nor have I researched music. Tonight’s program was fascinating for me. I appreciate this high quality information and would like to know when it will be re-run so I can suggest that my family and friends watch it.
    Thanks very much!

  • Eric W.

    I also disagree with Mr Patti. What you saw may be decades old but I am confident you didn’t watch the whole program. There was a lot related to neurobiology that is very recent. Heaping scorn without fully reviewing content does not make you seem smart.

  • Eric W.

    I would like to take issue with poll on the home page. It really doesn’t do justice to the production as a whole and seems like something tacked on thoughtlessly by disinterested web lackeys. (sp?) What I got from the information conveyed was that there is a third option: That language and music may overlap in some ways physiologically but are for the most part very distinct.

  • Kyle G

    One thing that is new about this program, the scientists have the benefit of laptop computers with audio and video capability that did not exist in the 60s or 70s. In several of the clips the computer analyses or graphics were instrumental to showing the scientific phenemenon behind the discussion.

  • C Stovall

    Are emotional responses to music strictly a matter of musical context? I often think so, however it is storming outside and the sounds are so pleasing. Why do the sounds FEEL good?
    Thank you for your work!!!

  • Stephanie K

    What is the total name of tonight’s session (6-24) and how can I get a DVD to show my students. I am a music teacher in Vancouver WA.

  • Margaret

    How intriguing to see the positive effects of musical training on the brain; what a strong statement that music education should be part of the education and how sad to think that music education is on the chopping block all over the state of CA.

  • Frederick G. Rodgers

    Music of all types is not only universal and varies from plainchant (no instrument) to the “king of instruments,” the pipe organ but communicates in curious and elusive ways! I agree that good music is a cure for either the silence forced upon some or the racket pummeling large urban areas here and abroad. Program was one of best PBS has offered in 2009;it should spawn similar in- depth, premium programs.

  • ken paul

    Perhaps all of this will never be completely put to rest. The relation of spoken language to music remains intriguing. Some languages are “pitch-sensitive” (”sing-songy” to outsiders), plus research has suggested that people with perfect pitch are much more common in those cultures. Is it mainly acculturation which separates speaking from singing? What does this imply regarding
    thought itself, which is mostly language-dependent? Is everybody born with perfect musical pitch, but most lose it because they do not use it? Fun to ponder.

  • Veronica O’Grady

    Music is ancient…it was here BEFORE we were. It is the pulse of Creation running rhythmically through form. Our brain is the purest, finest and truest of all instruments that take the harmonics of Creation and bring them to form on this level of reality. Thank you Daniel for creating such an amazing plethora of research, input, expertise and passion! Its already touched so many live and has begun a new era in healing. Much gratitude for all you do!

  • Irfan Samad

    Yay! Neuroscience + music rocks!

  • Bernard S.

    As a physicist, researcher and violinist I am highly interested in your enlightening presentation. I fully agree with your statement,

    “music contains an enormous amount of information of unique content” and that “there’s more information than speech,” and further, “ it conveys emotional information that’s very nuanced, and we’re sensitive to that,” and especially “it’s much better …. than language is; It’s much better at communicating the dynamics of human emotion.”

    I think music was not just an early form of emotional communication between humans, but –especially in its form we know today– a very highly developed form of communication. As a vehicle for emotional communication the music “language” is universal, capable of traversing the boundaries between ethnicities and cultures, well beyond the capability of language.

    The experiment you showed in your TV presentation demonstrates that most elementary forms of human emotion (happy, sad and scared) can be unmistakably understood even by isolated tribe in Africa that has never been exposed to western music in their whole live. My scientific instinct tells me, this fact might be scientifically extrapolated to conclude that well-developed western music as played by symphony orchestras and opera performers conveys a lot more emotional information, compared to primitive music or pop music, judged by a higher complexity of structure and a larger variety of nuances, in the same manner as language is evaluated.

    This fact is already shown by your fractional CAT scan images of human brain taken while listening to certain types of music (of course it must be presumed that the test person is enjoying the music being played, so his brain would not respond indifferently, or even become annoyed). I am quite impressed to see that your CAT scan images showed how the entire human brain is excited or stimulated upon listening to Richard Strauss’s song cycle “The Four Last Songs” (September?). This agrees with my own personal intuition; I shed my tears especially when listening to the last song “Im Abendrot” (In the Red of Sunset). It also agrees with Franco Zeffirelli, Director of Met Opera in the Movie, who said in his introduction to the 2008 production of Puccini’s La Boheme, it is completely okay for the audience to cry, because “Puccini wants you to cry”.

    In this regard it might be quite interesting to expand the experiment to test the validity of the “Mozart effect”, thus providing a scientific foundation to the hitherto controversial hypothesis. It might be even more interesting if the result would further show that different parts of the brain would be dynamically excited or stimulated by different movements of a symphony or concerto, thus giving a solid reason, why a classical symphony or concerto needs a multiple of movements to form a complete, dynamic and self-contained work of art.

    If these prove to be objectively true –by evidence of experimental results, as always demanded by science– we may then have strong reasons to challenge the relative concept of cultural value, i.e., that we can not say whether one particular culture is more developed than the other, as presently claimed by some liberal scholars, allegedly for lack of standard. The scientific evidence would then be the standard, a very strong and solid standard.

    Bernard S., physicist and violinist, Herndon, VA

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