Some interesting musical histories below.

Some projects on music from GenPoB coming soon!!



  • Absolute pitch
  • Synesthesia
  • Amusia
  • Mozart effect
  • Music and dementia - Alzheimer
  • Music and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Music and neuroscience
  • Music and schizophrenia
  • Music and pasion

Absolute Pitch

Perfect pitch or absolute pitch (AP). Refers to the rare ability to identify the chroma of a tone, the uncanny ability to identify the pitch of a tone without a reference tone.

Measuring AP

How rare? It is said about 1:10,000. Not serious evidence. Others say: 4%!!Is there a genetic predisposition to absolute pitch? A few papers exist already, but further evidences are needed, based on more powerful studies. Environment also plays a role, absolute pitch can also be trained.

Early musical training appears to be necessary but no sufficient for the development of absolute pitch (…) Isolation of genes for absolute pitch could illuminate the developmental basis of pitch perception” (Baharloo, 1998)

the exaggerated leftward asymetry in the planum temporale of AP subjects compared with controls matched by musical training suggest a biological basis for this anatomic feature (Schlaug G, Jancke L, Huang 1995 y Keenan JP 2001).


  • Mozart, Scriabin, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Boulez, Rostropovich, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Sibelius, Scriabin, Perlman, are known to had perfect pitch (Grove Music Online, 2001)
  • The picture on the left shows the Cagniard de Latour’s siren (1819) for measuring absolute pitch (from Tyndall, ‘Sound’, 1898). Grove Music Online. Retrieved 14 Apr. 2020, from here.

Do you have perfect pitch?

Test it here, in Classic fm

Other links:

What actually is perfect pitch – and how do I get it?


The phenomena of synesthesia, where an impression received via one sensory modality elicits a simultaneous response in one or more other senses, has been reported as occurring with several prominent composers and performers. Sibelius, who possessed perfect pitch, had exquisite sensory associations to visual and auditory stimuli. His favorite color, green, was precisely associated with a tone that lay between D and E-flat; B-flat major was always experienced as blue-yellow, while B major was associated with red. Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsakoff are reported to have had similar synesthetic responses. (Profita &Bidder, 1988)


Congenital amusia (commonly known as tone-deafness) is a lifelong impairment of music perception and memory that affects 4% of the population. The pitch disorder has a strong hereditary component. Deficits in musical pitch perception have been shown to be strongly genetic in origin. Tune deafness (TD) is a central auditory processing disorder characterized by the inability to discriminate pitch, reproduce melodies or to recognize deviations in melodic structure, in spite of normal hearing.

"Musical Interventions for Brains That Are Out of Tune: Congenital Amusia”. Dr. Isabelle Peretz, Co-Director, Center for Research on Brain, Language and Music, (BRAMS) Université de Montréal

Mozart Effect

  • Does listening to Mozart's music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks? Does early childhood exposure to classical music has a beneficial effect on mental development?

Term first coined by Alfred A. Tomatis who used this music to cure a variety of disorders. Evidences come from initial experiments published Nature. These experiments suggested that listening to Mozart temporarily boosted scores on one portion of the IQ test. It seems that the methodology was not correct. Still, the idea sounds nice:

  • Steele, K.M.; dalla Bella, S.; Peretz, I.; Dunlop, T.; Dawe, L.A.; Humphrey, G.K.; Shannon, R.A.; Kirby, J.L., Jr.; Olmstead, C.G. Prelude or requiem for the 'mozart effect'? Nature 1999, 400, 827-828. See link here.
  • Chabris, C.F. Prelude or requiem for the 'mozart effect'? Nature 1999, 400, 826-827; author reply 827-828. See link here.

A video (in Spanish) on why Mozart did not use B-flat (si bemol)? See here.

Music and Dementia - Alzheimer

In regards to Alzheimer y demencias.

The power of music to estimulate dementia, and Alzheimer patients

  • Música para "Despertar" del Alzheimer y otras Demencias [in Spanish but the video is self-explanatory]: see here and here
  • This is particularly beutiful (she know what she is doing; she is for sure a great pianist): see here

Music and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

An interesting video on TEA / blindness and music.

  • Derek is absolutely unique!!. See video here

Music and Neuroscience

There are several interesting institutions working on music and neuroscience. Invite you to visit the following:

The AUDITORY COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE LABORATORY (Robert Zatorre, Principal Investigator): A lab aimed "at achieving a better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying complex auditory processes in the human brain". Several different lines of research are ongoing to explore how the auditory nervous system allows us to perceive, understand, remember and imagine sounds. In particular, this lab is most concerned with the two most complex and characteristically human uses of sound: speech and music. See the following interesting conferences by Zatorre

  • From Perception to Pleasure: Music and its neural substrates - Dec. 10th, 2015
  • Brief presentation (20 minutes)

“Structural and functional features of human auditory-related cortex: Possible clues in the search for genetic links”. Robert J Zatorre

A prerequisite for establishing links between genes and musical behaviors is to characterize the neural substrates underlying such behaviors. This presentation will summarize some of the crucial functional and anatomical specializations of the human brain that may be relevant. In particular, we will emphasize studies of two important music-related abilities: pitch and rhythm. The neural substrates of pitch perception are particularly relevant, as they reveal certain specializations in auditory cortex; processing of absolute pitch may offer a particularly useful model for revealing the interaction between genetic, environmental, and maturational factors. A second area of research that may be fruitful to consider involves rhythmic motor reproduction; current evidence for auditory-motor interactions revealed by such studies may prove important in terms of potential linkages. Finally, we will consider whether any data support the contention that preexisting anatomical or functional neural features may predispose individuals to success with musical training.

  • Robert J. Zatorrea & Valorie N. Salimpoor (2013) From perception to pleasure: Music and its neural substrates. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 18; 110(Suppl 2): 10430–10437. PubMed link

BRAMS, International Laboratory for BRAin, Music and Sound Research, is a unique centre dedicated to research excellence, located in Montreal and jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal and McGill University. The research centre is devoted to the study of music cognition with a focus on neuroscience.


Music is experienced, performed and shared by people in all societies, ages and social groups. Recently, neuroscientific interest in music has increased dramatically as modern brain imaging techniques have provided researchers the means to investigate the living human brain at work.

The Danish National Research Foundation’s Center for Music In the Brain (MIB) is an interdisciplinary research center at Aarhus University and the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Aalborg, Denmark aiming to address the dual questions of how music is processed in the brain and how this can inform our understanding of fundamental principles behind brain functioning in general.

Music and Schizophrenia

An interesting TED talk by Robert Gupta, violinist with the LA Philharmonic. He talks about a violin lesson he once gave to a brilliant, schizophrenic musician -- and what he learned. Called back onstage later, Gupta plays his own transcription of the prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1. See here.

Music and Pasion

  • One of my favorite videos: Bejamin Zander (English conductor; currently he is the musical director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.). In this video he uses the prelude of Chopin (Prelude No. 4 in E minor op 28) to explain the power of music. See TED video here. By the way, I cannot avoid to give you my favorite interpretation of this piece by Grigory Sokolov (here)

Other Curiosities

Early Origin - Use of Music in Surgery

An early documented case of a physician in the 20th century using music in the context of surgery occurred in 1914, when Evan O’Neil Kane published his report in JAMA on the use of the phonograph within the operating room. The next year, W P Burdick published a more detailed account of the experiment in the American Yearbook of Anesthesia and Analgesia. He found that patients almost universally tolerated anesthetic induction better and also benefitted from reduced anxiety before undergoing the surgery.

Scientists have turned the structure of the coronavirus into music

Listen to the music of proteins folding

Conferences of interest

12th Annual NeuroMusic Conference: "The Therapeutic Nature of Music Across the Lifespan". McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. Hamilton, Ontario,2016

- "Music and Procedural Memory: How music cues functions that are preserved after stroke and in those with Alzheimer’s disease" Dr. Concetta Tomaino, Exec. Director, Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), New York


Links I like - not necessarely related to science

Art and Culture - Google