The physics are sensual: a rosined bow purposely glides across a string, easing it into harmonic motion. The vibrating wire sends off a wave that caresses a tympanic membrane. Once the eardrum is stroked, an electrochemical extravaganza ensues. Neurons fire in a symphony of sparks and flashes, endorphins waltz through the bloodstream and pleasure receptors pulse in ecstasy.
Humans are undoubtedly wired for sound, especially music, which can elicit a score of emotions from joy and bliss, to agitation and consternation. Despite music’s power and presence in life, the human affinity for melody remains a mystery to the scientific community. We’re analyzing the links between Bach, the brain, and behavior, trying to resolve the evolutionary tension between biological necessity and sensory stimulation.
Mark Tramo, musician, songwriter, and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School;
David Huron, musicologist at Ohio State University;
Robert Zatorre, professor of neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University.