DATE: Friday, June 12, 2009
TIME: 8:00 PM-9:30 PM
VENUE: Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College
MODERATOR: John Schaefer
PARTICIPANTS: Bobby McFerrin, Daniel Levitin, Jamshed Bharucha, Lawrence Parsons

Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, scientist Daniel Levitin and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate music’s note-worthy interaction with the brain and our emotions.

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John Schaefer
Radio Host

John Schaefer is the host of WNYC’s innovative music and talk show Soundcheck, which features live performances and interviews with a variety of guests. Since 1982, Schaefer has also hosted and produced WNYC’s radio series New Sounds, which Billboard magazine has called “the #1 radio show for the Global Village,” and since 1986 he has hosted the New Sounds Live concert series. He has written extensively about music, including the book New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music, the Cambridge Companion to Singing: World Music, and the TV program Bravo Profile: Bobby McFerrin. His liner notes appear on more than 100 recordings, ranging from the 1996 award-winning The Music of Armenia to recordings by Yo Yo Ma, Terry Riley, and many others.

Schaefer has curated the BAM World Music Festival and the new music and film series at the World Financial Center, chaired the Pulitzer Prize jury for Music, and hosted many lectures and panels for Lincoln Center, BAM, and Tanglewood’s Contemporary Music Festival, among others.



What Bobby McFerrin does is not an act; it’s spontaneous invention. He peers over the edge of the cliff, acknowledges the void below, and dives head first, buoyed by the element of surprise. McFerrin uses dense rhythms, extraordinary scales, and complicated intervals that accomplished musicians and educators have studied and dissected.

Daniel Levitin
Psychologist, Musician, Author

Daniel J. Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Neurosciences at McGill University, where he holds associate appointments in the Department of Neurology & Neurosurgery, the Faculty of Education, School of Computer Science, and in the Schulich School of Music. He is the author of two best-selling books about music cognition: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature.

Prior to entering academia, Levitin was a record producer and engineer working with artists such as Blue Oyster Cult, Chris Isaak, and Stevie Wonder. As a musician, he has performed with a variety musicians including Mel Tormé, Sting, David Byrne, and Blue Öyster

Jamshed Bharucha
Cognitive Neuroscientist

Jamshed Bharucha conducts research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, focusing on the cognitive and neural basis of the perception of music. He is a past editor of the interdisciplinary journal Music Perception. Dr. Bharucha is the twelfth president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.


Lawrence Parsons is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. His early research on action, spatial reasoning and object recognition was followed by his current work in reasoning, language, emotion and the improvisation of music and dancing.

From 2001-2003, he was responsible for establishing a cognitive neuroscience program at the National Science Foundation. He organized the first public forum on music and brain (at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London) and the first on the cognitive neuroscience of dance (at the Wellcome Institute, London).

Parsons is a trustee of the International Foundation for Music Research, on the Editorial Board of the Social Neuroscience, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, He has published papers in Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Journal of Neuroscience, Proceedings of the Royal Society (UK), Scientific American, and Trends in Cognitive Science.

He was trained in cognitive and neural sciences at UCSD and MIT, and was associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center.