Upcoming Seminars

Speaker: Daniela Sammler

Date/Time: Wednesday 16th May, 2.30-3.30pm

Location: Lecture Room B, Alison House

Title: Musical Action Planning in Expert Pianists



Over the past 20 years, research on the neurocognition of music has gained a lot of insights into how the brain perceives music. Yet, our knowledge about the neural mechanisms of music production remains sparse. One aspect that has been studied particularly well in perception is musical syntax, i.e. the processing of harmonic rules in the auditory signal. The present talk will demonstrate that the notion of syntax not only applies to the auditory modality but transfers – in trained musicians – to a “grammar of musical action”. I will present a series of neuroimaging experiments that show (i) that the performance of musicians is guided by their music-syntactic knowledge – irrespective of sounds, (ii) that syntax takes priority over the selection of finger movements during piano performance, (iii) that training style (classical vs. Jazz) has an impact on syntactic motor planning, and (iv) that syntax perception and production in music overlap partly – but not fully – in the musician’s brain. Altogether, these results show how strongly musicians rely on syntax as a scaffolding that facilitates their performance and enables them to achieve the motoric proficiency that is required on stage.