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Making Connections Between Music and Meth

Recently, Southwestern students, faculty, staff and Trustees came together with members of the Georgetown community for a unique intellectual experience on the Southwestern campus.

youtube_paideiaconnections_recapThe second Paideia Connections: Engaging Scholarly Conversations event featured short presentations by Professor of Psychology Fay Guarraci and Professor of Music Kiyoshi Tamagawa, who connected different classes and departments in unimaginable ways and invited students and the general public to engage in discussion, further linking the intricate subjects.

Guarraci spoke about her areas of expertise: drug abuse, sexual motivation, and fertility. Specifically, her presentation focused on the complexity of sexual behavior in rats and how different drugs affected these behaviors. She concluded that caffeine, D-amphetamine, and crystal methamphetamine all actively increase dopamine levels and enhance sexual behavior.

Tamagawa presented on his own areas of expertise: music and the keyboard. He focused on musical authenticity and musical forgery, and how “hip” – historically informed performances – often try to give the impression of legitimacy by using musical elements from original composers.

Although the themes in these presentations seemed to have nothing in common, there were many thought-provoking connections made by the audience, who filled Olin 105 (the largest lecture hall on campus) to standing-room-only capacity. Thanks to Southwestern’s Paideia curriculum, which encourages and helps make connections often between disparate topics, students were able to explore new ideas, make interdisciplinary ties, and enrich their knowledge on the subjects presented.

“The presentations supported the idea that patterns allow us to make sense of our world, patterns affect us through both music and medicine.”Southwestern Student

“Both the presentations centered around the idea of natural reward or joy, the first with sexual pleasure and the second with musical pleasure,” said one student. “The presentations supported the idea that patterns allow us to make sense of our world, patterns affect us through both music and medicine,” said another. Interestingly, a third student observed, “The presentations contrasted in that the rat model has evolved to become more accurate over time while music often focuses on historical representation for authenticity.”

Guarraci and Tamagawa also made personal connections after listening to each other’s presentations.

“When Kioshi played his musical piece, I felt a warm positive feeling and I thought to myself, ‘That is dopamine.’ Sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” said Guarraci.

“I saw connections on a more moral angle,” said Tamagawa. “Music forgery is a crime just as drugs are. People are driven to do things that they otherwise would not when committing both.”

Paideia, Southwestern’s signature educational experience, represents a holistic educational approach that prepares students to be productive citizens. The Paideia Connections series provides students an innovative gateway to compare two subjects which otherwise would not be relevant. Both Guarraci’s and Tamagawa’s presentations served as food for thought, triggering students to take the knowledge acquired from the lectures and make further comparisons between their courses and their daily lives. The scholarly conversation served to expand the Southwestern Paideia experience even outside the classroom.


Story by Daniella A. Barrera

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