-A +A

Music and the Mind: a thought-provoking meeting of disciplines at St Edmund Hall

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Raymond Tallis and.jpg

Duncan Aspden, Raymond Tallis and Ben Cox
Professor Raymond Tallis (centre), who spoke about Schubert, talking to Duncan Aspden and Ben Cox in the SCR

The College hosted the inaugural symposium of its new Centre for the Creative Brain on Saturday, attracting around 80 attendees including current students, academics, alumni and the wider public. It was a day of high quality talks and stimulating discussion with a well engaged audience.

Guest speakers approached the theme of ‘music and the mind’ in a wide range of ways.  The event was a very effective demonstration of how an Oxford college can facilitate interdisciplinary discourse.

Julian O'Kelly
Dr Julian O'Kelly (left)

Unusually, the day was focused on synthesis of science and the arts. The opening session was delivered by Dr Sallie Baxendale (Clinical Psychologist, Epilepsy Society Research Centre & University College London) who discussed music and epilepsy, and Dr Julian O’Kelly (Research Fellow, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability) who spoke about music and neuro-rehabilitation.

Philosopher and Professor of Medicine, Raymond Tallis, then identified the major conceptual challenges of the interdisciplinary interface, asking ‘Was Schubert a musical brain?’. This was complemented by a beautiful selection of Schubert Lieder performed by the College’s Director of Music, Chris Watson, a professional tenor who sings with some of the world’s leading choral ensembles.

Chris Watson and Gulliver Ralston
St Edmund Hall's Director of Music, Chris Watson, with his accompanist for the event, Gulliver Ralston, Director of Music at the University Church

In the afternoon, neuroscientists Professor Lauren Stewart (Reader, Goldsmiths, University of London) and Professor Paul Matthews (1974, Chemistry; Head, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London & Fellow, St Edmund Hall) addressed brain mechanisms for creativity and music.

The day concluded with BBC music critic and St Edmund Hall alumnus Alyn Shipton (1972, English) providing an insightful review of the history of jazz improvisation to look at the balance of ‘inspiration and perspiration’ that underlies creative artistry.

St Edmund Hall’s Centre for the Creative Brain launched in October and this, its inaugural symposium, was a resounding success that will pave the way for future events and cross-disciplinary collaborations!

Dr Charlotte Stagg (Fellow, St Edmund Hall) said, on behalf of the organising committee, “We were delighted to welcome so many people to our first symposium. The day was a fantastic success – inspirational talks mixed with world-class music – and the discussions at coffee-breaks showed the attendees' engagement in the subject. We’ve got a hard act to follow with future events, but I’m very much looking forward seeing our plans come fruition over the next months and years.”

Paul Matthews, Charlotte Stagg and Alyn Shipton
(left to right) Professor Paul Matthews, Dr Charlotte Stagg and Alyn Shipton

The new Centre will continue to encourage dialogue between the College’s three common rooms (the JCR, MCR and SCR) with undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows all well represented at this first event.  Please contact Dr Charlotte Stagg (charlotte.stagg@ndcn.ox.ac.uk), who is leading the development of the Centre, if you have ideas for future events.

You can also find out more by visiting the St Edmund Hall Centre for the Creative Brain webpages.