Leading professor says music moves minds

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Prof Eckart Altenmüller

A LEADING world authority on music and neurophysiology is coming to the ANU School of Music this week.

Neurologist and flautist, Prof Eckart Altenmüller is head of the Department of Music-physiology and Musicians’ Medicine at the University for Music and Theater in Hannover, Germany. A world authority in the area of “music and the mind”, his research focuses on the brain’s processing of music and motor learning in musicians.

Prof Altenmüller is in Canberra as a result of a successful application by woodwind lecturer and flautist Sally Walker, an ANU grant-winner.

He has consistently argued that music induces powerful adaptations of the brain in terms of increased neural wiring, enlargement of critical areas and improvement of memory functions, with specific uses in rehabilitation for stroke and Parkinson’s patients.

He believes that in dementia patients, music can restore biographical memories and he also sees choir singing as a mean to directly improve the immune system.

Prof Altenmüller will give a public presentation on “why music moves us”, but he is also an accomplished flautist, so in the same session, titled “Apollo’s Gift: Music and the Mind”, he will join flautist Sally Walker and pianist Natalia Tkachenko in a recital of Baroque works and a “Music and the Mind” related work by Elena Kats-Chernin.

Composer Cyrus Meurant will also be on hand to perform two movements from his work “Monday to Friday”, which featured Walker and has been nominated for “Innovation of the Year – Dementia Solution” at the Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards.

Eckart Altenmüller sessions open to the public: “Healthy Practising: how modern brain sciences contribute”, Kingsland Room, ANU School of Music, 3.30pm-5pm, Thursday, March 14; “Apollo’s Gift: Music and the Mind”, Larry Sitksy Recital Room, 7pm-8pm, Tuesday, March 19. Registrations for both sessions to music.cass.anu.edu.au

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