13 Nov 2014
Hearing Wagner in the Being Human Festival: Does Wagner mess with our minds?
Saturday 22 November 10:30 - 17:00
Birmingham Hippodrome Patrick Centre Theatre
The emotional impact of music is undeniable, and this is nowhere more obvious than in Romantic music such as the operas of Richard Wagner. But can the effects of music be measured? Is this even desirable? The Hearing Wagner event taking place at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November aims to air these and other questions and show how psychologists and musicologists are working together to understand better what is going on in these extraordinary works.
Researchers from Goldsmiths University of London and the University of Oxford in the AHRC's Transforming Musicology project have been finding out how a live audience responds to the sensations produced over the four operas of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Last week, the Mariinsky Opera from St Petersburg, under their charismatic conductor, Valery Gergiev, performed Wagner's epic Ring Cycle at the Birmingham Hippodrome. In the audience was a group of student volunteers whom we'd fitted with unobtrusive yet sensitive devices which monitored their responses to the music using a measure called galvanic skin response (GSR) as well as changes in their heart-rate (HR).
We'll be presenting some preliminary results from this intriguing experiment at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November as part of the national 'Being Human' Festival. This event, hosted by the eminent neuroscientist and Wagner fan, Sir Colin Blakemore, will include non-technical introductions to the ways in which Wagner used novel compositional techniques to manipulate the emotions of his listeners, and to what we have to do to interpret the bio-physical data from our audience members as emotional response to Wagner's music. Members of the public will be able to try out some of the state-of-the-art technology for themselves, and to discuss the experiment with the research team. Alongside Sir Colin Blakemore and the Transforming Musicology project team, the Wagner expert and editor of English National Opera's series of Opera Guides, Gary Kahn, will also be on hand to remind us of Wagner's dramatic career and his continual struggle to communicate as directly as possible with his audience.
To attend this free event at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November 2014, book via EventBrite http://beinghumanfestival.org/event/hearing-wagner/
Being Human, a festival of the humanities, takes place from the 15-23 November.