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BBC Radio 3 in partnership with Wellcome Collection this autumn

9 July 2015

Why does music make our spines tingle and manipulate our minds?

From brain scans to world classical music premieres, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast live from Wellcome Collection for the first time this September to explore the power of music with three days of live music, discussion and one-off programmes. Throughout the weekend, audiences and visitors to Wellcome Collection will be able to discover how music can manipulate our behaviour and even shape the human brain, affecting our physical and mental wellbeing, our language, literature and memory. Why Music? will be broadcast from Friday 25 September – Sunday 27 September on Radio 3 and available to catch-up for 30 days.

Asking the question Why Music?, leading musicians will be joined by authorities in the fields of neuroscience, music therapy and music psychology for the three-day programme of live and recorded broadcasts exploring what makes music a vital part of being human. Radio 3’s pop-up studio will appear in Wellcome Café on the ground floor of Wellcome Collection, providing a hub for live broadcasts from the venue and allowing visitors to see and share in the weekend’s programming. Broadcasts will also take place in the newly re-furbished Reading Room and the Henry Wellcome Auditorium.

Among the highlights, BBC Radio 3 Presenter Andrew McGregor will find out how and why the brain responds to different sorts of music by studying his own brain scan, and Tom Service will examine how music has influenced our evolutionary development; is music just “auditory cheesecake”? Concert pianist and psychiatrist Dr Richard Kogan will put composers on to the couch as he examines the influence their mental state has had on their work, and psychologist Lauren Stewart and composer and pianist Neil Brand will explore “The Tingle Factor”; what is it about music that sends a shiver down our spines?

Following their performance at the 2015 BBC Proms of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ and the world premiere of Anna Meredith’s ‘Smatter Hauler’, also performed from memory, members of the Aurora Orchestra will perform three world premieres from three young composers on the BBC Proms Inspire scheme, and a work written specially for Why Music? by New Zealander Antonia Barnett-McIntosh, resident composer with the Hubbub interdisciplinary research group at Wellcome Collection. They will also perform composer Anna Meredith’s ‘Chorale’ for MRI scanner and string quartet.

Two ‘trusted guides’ will also be on hand throughout the weekend to answer questions from listeners and audiences: researcher and lecturer at Sheffield University Victoria Williamson and popular science writer Philip Ball.

Leading minds from the fields of neuroscience, music therapy and music psychology, including Dr Richard Kogan, Professor Marcus du Sautoy, Professor Richard Hargreaves, Mary King, Lauren Stewart and Steven Mithen, will contribute to programmes and discussion exploring music’s relationship with nature, memory, mental illness and mathematics.

Throughout the weekend, comedian, actor, presenter and author Griff Rhys Jones, in conversation with Simon Chaplin (Director of Culture and Society at the Wellcome Trust), presents his choice of five extraordinary objects from Wellcome Collection in five programmes recorded specially for Why Music?. Radio 3 listeners will also have the chance to hear some of the music and sounds from the Golden Record, the disc placed on board the two Voyager spacecraft on their 1977 launch to help aliens understand human beings.

Visitors to Wellcome Collection over the weekend will have the opportunity to record their own accounts of significant musical moments in their lives in Radio 3’s pop-up studio, with a chance to hear some played on air.

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 said: “Music has inspired me my entire life; it has the ability to physically affect us in hard to define and mysterious ways. I’m delighted BBC Radio 3 will be working with Wellcome Collection for the first time to delve into why music has such an impact on humans. As a cultural institution BBC Radio 3 aims to bring classical music and culture to as many people as possible in an expert and engaging way. By working together in partnership with organisations like Wellcome Collection, we hope to bring this fusion of science and classical music to inquiring minds everywhere this September.”

Rosie Stanbury, Events Manager at Wellcome Collection said: ““Why Music?” is our first live radio broadcast residency and we’re thrilled to be working with BBC Radio 3 to fill our newly transformed galleries and spaces with sound, music and debate. Wellcome Collection’s events offer rich opportunities to indulge your curiosity and explore what it means to be human and this long weekend of extraordinary performances, new commissions and live broadcasts - from Radio’s 3’s pop up studio in our café and around our building - will give visitors and listeners alike a unique experience of the complex relationship between music and the human condition.”

BBC Radio 3's Tom Service, Andrew McGregor, Sarah Walker and All in the Mind presenter Claudia Hammond are amongst the presenters who will be broadcasting live on BBC Radio 3 from Wellcome Collection over the weekend, along with artists including pianist James Rhodes, pianist, arranger and composer Neil Brand, experimental pianist Sarah Nicolls, vocal group The Clerks, rapper Ghostpoet, and members of the innovative Aurora Orchestra will perform three live concerts at Wellcome Collection. The BBC Concert Orchestra will also perform at Maida Vale studios broadcast live on Radio 3.

All tickets are free and will be available from Friday 28 August. They can be booked via Wellcome Collection’s website, apart from tickets for the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Maida Vale performance which will be available from bbc.co.uk/tickets.

For further information check www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 and www.wellcomecollection.org for updates.

Why Music? follows a focus on music and memory as part of the 2015 BBC Proms, which starts on Friday 17 July. The focus begins with a Proms Lecture presented by Daniel Levitin entitled ‘Unlocking the Mysteries of Music in Your Brain’ on Saturday 18 July, 2:30pm at the Royal College of Music.


Kate Davis
Assistant Publicist
Radio 3
T 07730 194018

Holly Story
Assistant Media Officer
Wellcome Collection
T 07710 919241 / 020 7611 8248


Why Music? is a partnership between BBC Radio 3 and Wellcome Collection. Full listings of the weekend’s events and performances will be available soon on Wellcome Collection’s website. Tickets to all the performances are free and will be available from Friday 28 August via Wellcome Collection’s website.

Free tickets for the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Maida Vale performance will also be available from bbc.co.uk/tickets from 28 August.

About BBC Radio 3

Radio 3 broadcasts high-quality, distinctive classical music and cultural programming, alongside regular arts and ideas programmes, jazz and world music. The station features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms - broadcasting every Prom live and more than 600 complete concerts a year - alongside daily speech programming, 90 full-length operas, over 25 drama commissions and over 20 new BBC music commissions a year. Radio 3 is the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent, from composers to writers and new young performers, through schemes such as New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers. www.bbc.co.uk/radio3

About Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is the free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, it explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The venue offers visitors contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, lively public events, the world-renowned Wellcome Library, a café, a shop, a restaurant and conference facilities as well as publications, tours, a book prize, international and digital projects.

Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.