Dr. Gary Marcus attended band camp to see guitar learning in action, and he joined three 11-year-olds to form the band “Rush Hour.”
cognition literature and found that there’s
a lot we don’t know. For instance, we
don’t know how people make sense out
of music in real time. Even untrained
listeners can tell if a phrase has been
resolved, for example, or if a familiar song
has been transposed to a different key. But
how that happens in real time is largely
unknown. In psycholinguistics research,
we’re beginning to figure out what goes
on in someone’s mind on a moment-by-
moment basis, when they hear a sentence.
I hope that soon we will be able to
understand music in the same way.
You also believe that although
music comes so naturally to
us, humans are not inherently
musical. Why is that?
There are a couple of reasons to think
that, despite its naturalness, music is not
literally innate. For one thing, very early
in life, humans aren’t particularly adept
at music as compared to, say, songbirds.
It takes awhile for people to learn there
are discrete notes — most kids will slide
between notes when they sing.