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MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT BRAIN-BASED MUSIC PEDAGOGY Donald A.

Hodges Music Research Institute University of North Carolina at Greensboro Abstract The Neurosciences of Music (2003) and The Biological Foundations of Music (2001) are just two recent publications by the New York Academy of Sciences that provide an indication of the recent upsurge in neuromusical research. The good news is this upsurge of interest in neuromusical research is providing ever more information that can inform the music teaching-learning process. The bad news is that considerable misunderstanding is causing practitioners to put stock in exaggerated claims that are unsupported by data. The purpose of this multimedia presentation is to identify what practices, if any, may be based on solid evidence and what practices are not supported by the data. Among recent findings, for example, is mounting evidence to support the notion that extensive musical experiences, especially when initiated at an early age, have consequences for the morphology of the brain. (In fairness, it should be noted that this likely true of nearly any activity in which one engages over a long period of time.) Some have used research findings such as this to make very strong claims for music pedagogy applications. An analysis of the literature leads to three broad conclusions: (1) we simply dont know enough yet to make very many particular music teaching applications, (2) a limited number of practices may be supported by the evidence, and (3) a number of suggestions have been made that do not hold up under careful scrutiny. Background The good news is that a recent upsurge of interest in neuromusical research is providing ever more information that can inform the music teaching-learning process. The bad news is that considerable misinformation is causing practitioners to put stock in exaggerated claims that are unsupported by data. Aims The purpose of this multimedia presentation is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to identify what practices, if any, may be based on solid evidence and what practices are not supported by the data. Main Contribution The Neurosciences of Music (2003) and The Biological Foundations of Music (2001) are just two recent publications by the New York Academy of Sciences that provide an indication of the recent upsurge in neuromusical research. Among the findings, for example, is mounting evidence to support the notion that extensive musical experiences, especially when initiated at an early age, have consequences for the morphology of the

ISBN 1-876346-50-7 2004 ICMPC

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ICMPC8, Evanston, IL, USA

August 3-7, 2004

brain. (In fairness, it should be noted that this likely true of nearly any activity in which one engages over a long period of time.) Some have used research findings to make very strong claims for music pedagogy applications. The paired notions of the Mozart effect and music makes you smarter, for example, have caught hold in the publics imagination and among many music teachers. Strong counter reactions have come from music researchers, psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists. Implications An analysis of the literature leads to three broad conclusions: (1) we simply dont know enough yet to make very many particular music teaching applications, (2) a limited number of practices may be supported by the evidence, and (3) a number of suggestions have been made that do not hold up under careful scrutiny.

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