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AISB event Bulletin Item

TODAY! Whitehead Lecture: JUSTIN LONDON - The Psychology and Neurobiology of Musical Virtuosity


The eighth and final Whitehead lecture of the autumn series 2010 will be given by Professor Justin London, Music, Carleton College, Northfield USA, at 4 pm on Wednesday 15th December 2010, and will be entitled "The Psychology and Neurobiology of Musical Virtuosity". An abstract for the lecture and short biography for the speaker are appended below.

The lecture will take place on 15th December 2010 at 4pm in the Ben Pimlott lecture theatre at Goldsmiths College .

Everyone is very welcome to attend the lecture and a drinks reception afterwards.

PLEASE ADVERTISE: a colour display poster can be downloaded from 

The Psychology and Neurobiology of Musical Virtuosity
- Professor Justin London

ABSTRACT: We are all amazed and enchanted to hear the performance of a musical virtuouso, whether it is Jimi Hendrix or Isaac Perlman.  But what makes a virtuoso a virtuosoor to put it another way, what are cognitive constraints and sensorimotor affordances for musical virtuosity?  Is virtuosity simply a matter of playing very, very fast?  Why is virtuosity a solo art? In this lecture the interaction between virtuosity and innate human limits on rhythm and timing are discussed, including the outer limits of musical speed (illustrated with examples from the "World's Fastest Drummer Competition"), interpersonal coordination, and musical expression.  Other topics addressed will include the "10,000 hour" rule, Fitt's Law, and the Hick-Hyman Law in relation to skilled musical behavior.  The talk concludes with aesthetic considerations of both virtuosity and anti-virtuosity, the latter as exemplified in "outsider" music.

BRIEF BIO: Justin London is Professor of Music at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, USA, where he teaches courses in Music Theory, The Philosophy of Music, Music Perception and Cognition, and American Popular Music. Trained as a classical guitarist, he holds the Ph.D. in Music History and Theory from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied with Leonard Meyer.  He has written articles and reviews on a wide range of subjects, from humor in Haydn to the perception of complex meters.  His book Hearing in Time (Oxford University Press, 2004) is a cross-cultural exploration of the perception and cognition of musical meter.  In 2005-2006 he was a visiting scholar at the Centre for Music and Science of Cambridge University under the auspices of a UK Fulbright Foundation grant. He has given many talks and symposia, including the Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory (New York, 2005), the International Orpheus Academy for Music & Theory (Ghent, Belgium, 2007), and the Interdisciplinary College (IK) in cognitive science (Gnne, Germany, 2009 & 2010). He served as President of the Society for Music Theory in 2007-2009.