Musicality Explained

Chords of the Brain

December; that time of the year when you praise yourself with your amazing and unique music taste while unwrapping your Spotify or voting for the Top2000. Music plays an important role in many people’s lives. We enjoy listening to it on the radio or live at a concert, while many people also learn how to play instruments themselves. Why do we value music so much; are there biological or social explanations for this?

The ability to perceive rhythm, tones and beats, key components of musicality, seems to be universal across humans and manifests itself from a young age already; something that this BètaBreak edition’s guest endorses. Is there an underlying mechanism in our brain that makes this possible? Could our preferences in music have a biological explanation? Furthermore, is musicality also present in other species or is it a human trait?

In this BètaBreak we will discuss what musicality entails, what its biological underpinnings in the brain are, and why we all have musical abilities with professor of Music Cognition Henkjan Honing.

About the BètaBreak

The BètaBreak is a monthly science platform of the Faculty of Science of the UvA. Every month different experts are invited to speak about the latest developments in science. Former editions discussed themes such as cultured meat, nuclear energy and psychedelics. The BètaBreak seeks to analyse various scientific topics from an interdisciplinary perspective. The platform has had the honour to welcome guests as Robbert Dijkgraaf, Eric Verlinde and Nobel Prize laureate Ben Feringa. For more information, go to:

About the speaker

Henkjan Honing is professor of Music Cognition at both the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). As a founder of the Music Cognition Research group, he studies the cognitive mechanism underlying musicality. He wrote several books for the general audience on the subject, such as Iedereen is muzikaal and Aap slaat maat.

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