Email Print Share

News Release 09-208

"The Music Instinct" Wins International Recognition

Documentary on the science of music collects top prize at science film festival in Paris

Photo of musician Bobby McFerrin.

Renowned musician Bobby McFerrin co-hosted "The Music Instinct: Science and Song."

October 26, 2009

View a video about the "The Music Instinct."

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The Music Instinct: Science and Song, is a television documentary that brings together researchers and musicians to investigate the biological, emotional and psychological impact of music. Elena Mannes and Margaret Smilow, director and producer (respectively), of the two-hour documentary--developed with major funding from the National Science Foundation--were awarded the Grand Prix at Pariscience 2009, an international science film festival.

A group of researchers led by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin joined musicians Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley to explore the connections between music and the human mind, the body and the universe.

Pariscience is among the activities organized by France's Association Science & Télévision, which seeks to promote the role of science on television and promote co-productions between international producers, institutions, researchers, filmmakers and television. Mannes and Smilow split a prize of 10,000 euros as part of being awarded the best film in competition.

More information about "The Music Instinct," along with video, a contest, lesson plans, a blog and other resources are available at


Media Contacts
Maria C. Zacharias, NSF, (703) 292-8454, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Connect with us online
NSF website:
NSF News:
For News Media:
Awards database:

Follow us on social
Twitter: and