The Science of Music

The Science of Music was Robert Winston’s most recent BBC Radio 4 series .

The programmes covered aspects of  the evolution of musicality, the physics of music, the science of performance and the impact of music on brain function

Listen to the programmes here.

5 thoughts on “The Science of Music

  1. Always enjoy your programmes about music and this series on the Science of Music no less. About absolute pitch: pitch was not fixed or defined until the 1930s. How can there then be absolute pitch? My brother-in-law is a fine concert pianist with absolute pitch but he finds the notation impossible to get around if he has to transpose the music. I as an organist have played many old instruments that are tuned often a tone higher than today, or maybe lower, and the music takes on a completely different hue when played on these instruments. Much baroque vocal music sounds much more relaxed about a semi-tone lower than today, thought to be the more probable pitch of performance originally. To me Beethoven’s 9th symphony (last movement) sounds too high in D because the singers seem to strain so much. Did Beethoven mis-remember how singers sound at sustained higher pitches? He undoubtedly had what we might call absolute pitch since he went on to write so much when deafness had overcome him. Is that not what absolute pitch is, a sophisticated form of musical remembering, and in some people that may indicate a musical propensity? I do not have absolute pitch but I have a good relative pitch ability – I can be correct 90% of the time, and if I think about it I can usually correctly guess the pitch. That is an advantage to me when I have to transpose music, often at sight, but then I used to read Haydn symphonies in bed when I was a boy, rather than reading a book! Then there’s the issue of keyboard tuners and scale and pitch which is somewhat relevant to the subject of absolute pitch …

  2. Hi – loved the science of music. Are there any plans for a book / CD, transcriptions, or for it to be available for download? The involvement of other perspectives is brilliant – our undergraduates would benefit from having access to this beyond the life of the BBC availability… Thanks again, it was a great series.

  3. Fascinating programme. Is there a weblink or publication where your sources are referenced? I am trying (unsuccessfully) to trace the works of the musicologist who stated that hierarchical approaches to music are a characteristic of hierarchical societies, whereas in more egalitarian cultures music-making is more communal. The name referenced in the programme sounded like ‘Amaderville Pasteur’ but I’m obviously mis-hearing that. I’d like to use this in my master’s thesis, so any help would be much appreciated.

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