Music and the Brain from Descartes to Helmholtz

Course Level: 

This undergraduate seminar offers historical and critical perspectives on music and the brain between approximately 1660 and 1870. Through engaging with scholarship and primary sources from disciplines including musicology, philosophy, and the history of science and medicine, we will focus on the role of music in shifting understandings of mental states, aesthetic ideals, methods of treatment, and questions of sensation, attention and cognition. We will examine the role of resonance and vibration in various models of mental activity, conceptualizations of music as a healing or destabilizing medium, as well as the role of musical instruments and sounds in different philosophical and physiological theories of the body. Based on our readings and investigations, students will develop new strategies for engaging with music from analytical, historical, and scientific perspectives. The course is intended to foster interdisciplinary engagement between musicology, the history of science and medicine, and disability studies, providing students with critical tools to examine constructions of music and the brain in various contexts.

Past Offerings

Fall 2015

Day & Time: 
M 4:10pm-6:00pm
620 Dodge Hall