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Making of Modern World Lecture Series to Focus on What It Means to Be Musical

Lineup for “To Be Musical” Lecture Series

What makes music musical? Why is music such a potent form of expression? And how does the human brain respond to music? A series of talks by UC San Diego faculty will answer these questions and more in the free lectures series “The Making of the Modern World: To Be Musical,” to be held Jan. 9 to Feb. 27.

The first talk on Jan. 9 from UC San Diego music professor Steven Schick will focus on “The Beginnings of Contemporary Percussion Music.” The series will conclude Feb. 27 with a lecture on “Musical Illusions, Perfect Pitch, and Other Curiosities” by UC San Diego psychology professor Diana Deutsch.

The series of lectures is an extension of Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Making of the Modern World multi-course general education sequence. The academic program is designed to provide the college’s undergraduate students with a broad, global overview of the past, from the emergence of the human species to the contemporary world.

“The purpose of the series is to highlight some of UC San Diego’s greatest treasures: its extraordinary teachers, artists and scholars,” said Alan Houston, Eleanor Roosevelt College provost.  “This year we’re focusing on what it means to be musical because music is an exceptionally rich and powerful form of expression. How artists select and interpret music and how the audience listens are topics that help us better understand why music is such an important feature of human life.”

The presentations are a follow-up to last year’s “To Be Human” lecture series, which was held in the Great Hall of International House and was very popular among faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

“Public response has been extraordinary,” said Houston.  “We’re having the talks in the Conrad Prebys Music Center this year.  What better place for these discussions and performances than UC San Diego’s world-class, state-of-the-art music facility?”

Tickets for the “To Be Musical” series are free, but registration is required. Tickets for each of the six talks have already been reserved; however there is a waitlist on the events’ registration site at:


Lineup for “To Be Musical” Lecture Series

The “To Be Musical” lectures will begin at 7 p.m. and take place Jan. 9 through Feb. 27 in the Conrad Prebys Music Center. Speakers and their programs include:

  • January 9, music professor Steven Schick: “The Beginnings of Contemporary Percussion Music”
    Schick will take a look at the infancy of solo percussion music and will illuminate why it has great importance to contemporary musical practice and ideas that reach beyond music.
  • Jan. 16, music professor David Borgo: “Why Music?”
    Borgo will explore alternatives to contemporary views on music by looking at the role music has played for humans across time and across cultures.
  • Jan. 30, music professor Aleck Karis: “Craft and Tools in Late Beethoven”
    Karis will demonstrate how even a prominent composer such as Ludwig van Beethoven used the basic tools of music—melody, harmony, counterpoint and form—to create richly expressive compositions.
  • Feb. 6, literature professor Steven Cassedy: “How the West Rejected ‘Nice’ Music a Century Ago: Abandoning the Tonal System and Emancipating Dissonance”
    Cassedy will talk about how composers since the early 20th century have branched out of traditional use of harmony and sought out sound combinations that contemporary audiences are almost guaranteed to find painful to listen to.
  • Feb. 20, music professor Susan Narucki: “Utterance, Ritual, Expression: Why Singing Makes Us Human”
    Narucki will delve into how singing is an essential component of sophisticated musical form and expression and how for many, song is the way in which humans apprehend their own history.
  • Feb. 27, psychology professor Diana Deutsch: “Musical Illusions, Perfect Pitch, and Other Curiosities”
    Deutsch will demonstrate a number of musical illusions that she has discovered; and she will discuss perfect pitch—the reason why some people possess this ability, and why it is so rare.

The six-part “To Be Musical” series will be broadcast on UCSD-TV, which will air the series the first Monday of each month beginning Feb. 4 and concluding June 3.

For more information, go to