Independent Production Fund is producing a three-part public television series focusing on the latest research in the science of music. The programs will explore how cutting-edge science is revealing new connections between music and the human mind and body, the natural world and the cosmos. The series will follow researchers from a variety of fields including physiology, neuroscience, psychology, biology, physics and education, as they use groundbreaking techniques and technologies to unravel age-old mysteries about music's persistence, universality and emotional power. It will show how these researchers are shedding valuable new light on the way brains work. The impact of the programs will be extended through a content-rich companion web site and innovative formal and informal educational-outreach materials to both middle and high school age students, as well as a complementary radio component. Mannes Productions will produce the series; Goodman Research Group will conduct formative evaluation and Rockman et al will conduct summative evaluation.

Project Report

, a co-production of Thirteen for WNET.ORG and Mannes Productions, Inc., is a multi-platform project that investigates music’s fundamental physical structure, its biological, emotional and psychological impact, its brain altering and healing powers, and its role in human evolution. Narrated by Tony and Grammy-award winning actress Audra McDonald, with world-famous musician Bobby McFerrin and NY Times best-selling author and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin as guides for the program, the two-hour documentary premiered on PBS on June 24, 2009. In the film and on its companion website, researchers, scientists, and rock, rap, jazz, and classical musicians probed some of music’s deepest mysteries and the connections between music and science. The broadcast and website were accompanied by a national educational outreach campaign that extended the program’s reach beyond the customary PBS viewing audience. Activities and impact: 1) Television Broadcast: The program aired nationwide on PBS on June 24, 2009, reaching 900,000 viewers in its primetime premiere alone. It was accompanied by a widespread press campaign, resulting in national coverage and reviews, features, interviews, and highlights in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and more. A radio media tour reached over 2 million listeners, and the broadcast received extremely positive and high-profile reviews. Highlights included the Wall Street Journal proclaiming that "PBS is doing what it does best," and the Los Angeles Times calling it a "splendidly expansive documentary." 2) Website ( The website included interviews from contributors, video from the broadcast and exclusive web extras, and interactive contests for visitors. The site has received 313,676 visits since its launch in May 2009, including 203,446 unique visitors and 623,864 pageviews. 3) Educational Outreach: Working with an advisory board of formal and informal educators, WNET developed a series of three online, video-enhanced, standards-based middle school lesson plans. This was accompanied by a printed Music Instinct Activity Guide, 5,000 of which were distributed across the country. Additionally, WNET partnered with nine PBS stations to implement local outreach activities. Each station partnered with a local science museum, music education organization, or local informal education organization to provide inquiry-based learning workshops and events that reached approximately 1,000 underserved middle-school aged children. In addition to the broad audience reached through the project’s broadcast, online presence, and outreach activities, the project team presented The Music Instinct and its associated educational resources at several professional conferences, including: the National Science Teachers Association; the National Association of Music Merchants; the National Association for Music Education; and the New York State School Music Association. Outcomes and evaluation: The broadcast, website, and outreach campaign have significantly contributed to information resources for the subject area. Scientists in the program represent neuroscience, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, physics, archaeology, ethnomusicology, music therapy, and bird brain research. In total, the scientists interviewed for this piece represent the leading minds across many scientific disciplines in regards to music and its connection to the body, brain, nature, and culture. The Music Instinct was honored with the Grand Prix award at Pariscience 2009, an international science film festival. Summative evaluations of the broadcast, website, and outreach campaign found that The Music Instinct helped viewers better understand existing connections between music and science, motivated them to seek out additional information about the topic, and helped them make personal connections between the content of the program and their own lives.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
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Valentine H. Kass
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Educational Broadcasting Corporation
New York
United States
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