Exploratorium: Home

Circles of Engagement: Why Does Music Move Us?

Circles of Engagement: Why Does Music Move Us?

Have you ever sat down with a group of strangers and had an amazing conversation? Do you love wide-ranging discussions about science, philosophy, art, and culture? In collaboration with the upcoming radio program The Really Big Questions, the Exploratorium is launching Circles of Engagement, a unique facilitated conversation, during After Dark: Freestyle on August 1, 2013.

Studies show that music can make us run faster, learn better, buy more, recover from surgery sooner, and even live longer. But what is music, anyway? Is it fundamentally different from other sounds we hear? Why does it evoke such strong emotions? How might biologists, neurologists, ethnographers, and musicians answer these questions? How might you answer them and what other questions would you ask?

What's going on?

There won’t be any experts lecturing from a podium; instead, you and your fellow museum goers—talking with one another in person and via Twitter—will be the featured speakers. No experience or past knowledge is required; all you need is a sense of wonder, openness, curiosity, and an interest in exploring fundamental questions about the human experience.

The central focus of this event will be a 90-minute public conversation between a small group of participants and a facilitator seated around a table. Following St. John’s College seminar guidelines, the conversation will be a focused, yet open-ended dialogue about the question, "Why does music move us?"

Surrounding the dialogue circle, chairs will be available for After Dark visitors to listen and observe, and to participate by posting “backchannel” comments and questions to Twitter using #explocircles. Large monitors in the room will display a live Twitter feed, so everyone in and outside the circle (as well as beyond the walls of the museum) can see and respond to the backchannel discussion, and the two conversations can bleed into, influence, and build on one another.

The 14 participants at the dialogue table have been chosen in advance through an online application process. (Sorry, the application process is now closed.) Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds: musician, physicist, lawyer, tech and digital media, radio and represent a variety of ages and nationalities.

To join the discussion, come to the Black Box space in the West Gallery at 8:00 p.m. (admission to After Dark is required) or participate on Twitter by following #explocircles.


For more information on The Really Big Questions radio program, visit www.trbq.org. The Really Big Questions is funded by the National Science Foundation.