Lunchtime Lecture Series: Listening to listening

Lunchtime Lecture Series: Listening to listening

Lunchtime Lecture Series: Listening to listening

PUBLISHED 21 June 2023

Adam Brown, Music Teacher and Co-ordinator of Co-curricular Music, led this half term’s lunchtime lecture, delving back into what is known about the earliest vertebrates and lives of our ancestors to understand the evolutionary importance of being able to hear - both to navigate and hunt.

He showed us photos and played recordings of flutes made from the wing bones of vultures 40,000 years ago, used either to attract birds, or for enjoyment, referring to Steven Mithen’s, ‘The Singing Neanderthals (the origins of music, language, mind and body)’, to reflect on how music was pervasive in the earliest societies and how there has been remarkably little change in the instruments we use as we’ve moved from cave to concert hall. In modern society, we may not have the pleasure of hearing the natural world, but the mechanics of how we hear have not changed at all.

The discussion also challenged the commonly-held belief that hearing and listening are different and questioned why we infer emotion from music, often associating minor chords with feeling sad – although this is likely to be just association and social conditioning, rather than an inherent quality of the music itself.

This thought-provoking lecture helped us appreciate how listening has played a critical part in our survival, as part of rituals and how it has been central to the development of societies.

Our lunchtime lecture series is mandatory for Academic Scholars, but open to all students in Senior School and Sixth Form to attend. Lectures take place twice a term at 1.30pm to 2.15pm. Look out for further information on our parent bulletins.

AUTHOR: Alex Brown
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