Arts Dean’s Lecture Series to explore music, cognition, biology, and language

Arts dean's lecture series poster
Aniruddh Patel
Aniruddh Patel
Christian Wolff
Christian Wolff
Katy Payne
Katy Payne
Douglas Repetto
Douglas Repetto

This spring, the Arts Dean's Lecture Series will offer up a series of public lectures by eminent scholars and artists to explore the fundamentals of why and how we make and hear music.

Eight guest speakers will be featured from a variety of disciplines, including music, music cognition, biology and language.

Running from April 6 through May 27, the lectures will take place from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Media Theater on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

Admission is free, and the public is invited.

Titled Music, Language, Mind, Evolution, the 2015 series is curated by music professor Larry Polansky. He explained how he came up with the idea for this year’s series.

“As a composer, theorist--and well, as someone who thinks a great deal about music--I wanted to broaden the scope to include the various perspectives of thinking about music and sonic communication,” said Polansky. “It seems to me that there are a number of questions about music that have to be asked in reference to biology, cognition, and evolution.”

“It’s a very important way to think about music, kind of ‘from scratch,’ trying not to privilege conventions of style, particular cultures, what people ‘think music is’ or should be--just keeping a very open mind and asking quite simply, ‘What is music?’"

"To me, and to others, that question evokes cognition, evolution, and some consideration of the relationship to language.”

The series begins on April 6 with Carol Padden, a Deaf studies scholar and sign language researcher, who is also a 2010 MacArthur Fellow and Dean of Social Sciences at UC San Diego.

Other guests include Katy Payne, an acoustic biologist, founder of the Elephant Listening Project, and a whale song expert; Thalia Wheatley, a cognitive scientist in the emerging field of “emotion”; and acclaimed American composer Christian Wolff.

The lineup also includes Rex Cocroft, a groundbreaking researcher in insect and plant intelligence; and Douglas Repetto, a composer, bio-artist, and founder of the “DorkBot” movement, which has made him an international celebrity in experimental arts.

“There are two very important and highly experimental musicians, two cognitive scientists who are making important strides in very new ways, two animal communication scholars, and two great thinkers about language,” noted Polansky.

“The level of brilliance, creativity and impact of this group is extraordinary.”

This series is sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division, the Arts Dean’s Fund for Excellence, and US Bank.

For more information, visit the Arts Division’s web site.

The complete schedule

Monday, April 6--Carol Padden

Deaf studies scholar and sign language researcher, 2010 MacArthur Fellow and Dean of Social Sciences at UC San Diego

Monday, April 13--Christian Wolff

Widely acknowledged as one of the most important American composers of the 20th century

Monday, April 27--Katy Payne

Acoustic biologist, founder of the Elephant Listening Project, and whale song expert

Wednesday, April 29--Thalia Wheatley

Cognitive scientist, leading researcher in the nascent field of perception of emotion

Monday, May 4--David Huron

Pioneering and pre-eminent scholar in music cognition and cognitive musicology

Monday, May 11--Rex Cocroft

Groundbreaking researcher in insect and plant intelligence and vibrational communication

Monday, May 18--Douglas Repetto

Composer, sound- and bio-artist, founder of the international DorkBot movement

Wednesday, May 27--Aniruddh Patel

Cognitive scientist, author of the major and innovative work Music, Language, and the Brain