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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

VPR Classical's 'Timeline' Explores How Music Shapes The Mind

Explore the connections between music and the mind in this special Timeline presentation.
Vermont Public Radio
Explore the connections between music and the mind in this special Timeline presentation.

VPR Classical host James Stewart brings a special Timeline podcast presentation to Vermont Edition entitled "Music and the Mind." The show explores the validity of "The Mozart Effect," traces the use of music in advertising and political campaigns, looks at auditory illusions and experiments and follows the history of music therapy.

VPR Classical has been airing Timeline since 2015, explorating the development and history of Western music. Created and by VPR Classical host James Stewart, this special collects a series of Timeline episodes focusing on the music brings thoughts into focus and shapes our minds.

Stewart says there's real power in music, and with this power comes the responsibility to use it well and carefully. There is an undercurrent in our culture, in philosophy and education, to see music as unimportant. Over and over again, music’s role in society has been questioned and its importance diminished. Some even go so far as to call music “auditory cheesecake” meaning that it’s trivial, fluff and of no “nutritional” value.

Stewart argues music does have a role to play in society. In this program, he explores how music has the power to influence, unite and heal. How individuals use, create and practice music tells us a great deal about the society they inhabit. As Confucius stated many years ago (and this is an English paraphrase)...

"If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well-governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer."

Stewart says we’ve been operating under the assumption that music has no survival or evolutionary benefit. Yet, our biology is telling a different story. We might not understand all the ways that musical expression has shaped us, but evidence is mounting that we are musical creatures, seeking organized sound much in the same way that we seek out other physical pleasures and experiences. Our brains are wired for music.

Broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Timeline is an exploration into the development of Western music.


Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
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