Yale lectures focus on music and human evolution

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The 2012 Shulman Lectures in Science and the Humanities will explore the human capacity for music-making and music perception in light of new developments in evolutionary science and theory.

The three lectures in the series take place at 5 p.m on the evenings of Jan. 31, Feb. 21, and March 27 in Rm. 208 of the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. They are free and open to the public.

The lectures are organized in conjunction with the Yale College seminar “Music and Human Evolution,” taught by Gary Tomlinson, professor of music and humanities. The talks include “The Revolution That Wasn’t,” by University of Connecticut anthropologist Sally McBrearty, on Jan. 31; “The Alignment and Synchronization of Brain States through Music,” by Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha, on Feb. 21; and “Adapted to a Symbolic Niche: How Less Became More in Human Evolution,” by University of California-Berkeley professor Terrence Deacon, on March 27.

McBrearty is professor and head of the department of anthropology at the University of Connecticut-Storrs. She has directed archaeological field projects for more than 30 years in East Africa, where she focuses on the Middle Pleistocene and the origin of Homo sapiens. She is particularly interested in the behavior of early humans, their environmental setting, and how behavior and environment interact with geologic processes to produce the fossil and archaeological records.

A cognitive neuroscientist and classically trained violinist, Bharucha has written extensively on the cognitive and neural underpinnings of music. Before becoming president of Cooper Union in 2011, he was a top administrator at Tufts University and at Dartmouth College, where one of his signal achievements was the creation of the nation’s first brain-imaging facility for the study of cognitive neuroscience outside a clinical setting.

Deacon’s research has focused largely on the evolution of the human brain and its unique cognitive capacities, especially with respect to language skills. He has also studied comparative brain anatomy, neural development, and cross-species transplantation of fetal neurons and stem cells. His award-winning book “The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain” synthesized neurological, evolutionary, linguistic, and semiotic approaches to understanding human brain and language evolution.

The lecture series is named after Robert Shulman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Molecular Biophysics, and Biochemistry, and senior research scientist in diagnostic radiology, in recognition of his roles as a founding fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center and as an unwavering supporter of the integration of science and the humanities.

For more information contact Susan Stout at 203-432-6556 or susan.stout@yale.edu.

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Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345