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Knowledge Transfer and the Arts: A Worthwhile Pursuit?

In my current role I frequently read research on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and the methodological approach taken in these disciplines has got me thinking. While it may seem obvious how the findings of academic research on science and engineering can be transferred to the public and private sectors, can academic research on the arts have a similar impact on business and society? In short, how useful is academic research in the arts to the general public?

In my view, the arts and humanities significantly lag behind the sciences in this respect, but I do think much could be achieved by making academic research on the arts more widely available and through projects that actively engage with the general public. Indeed, couldn’t research on the arts help theatres and galleries with their programming schedules, bring new audiences to works, and help inform audiences about the art works they enjoy.

Last year I attended a lecture by the Raj Academy (http://www.rajacademy.com ) at the Kala Sangam in Bradford (http://www.kalasangam.org/ ) which explored ancient Sikh ideas concerning music and meditation. It opened a new world for me, and got me thinking about music in a new way. Having studied mainly classical and predominantly European music, the lecture provided me with a new way in which to listen and think about music, as I was asked to understand music not solely as an art object, but also a a medicinal and meditative activity, as a way of life, rather than as a luxury.

This way of thinking and listening about music could also be true of much early church music of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, music similarly intended not as entertainment, but as – to use a phrase taken from the lecture at the Kala Sangam – ‘innertainment’. Indeed, the motets of composers such as Josquin des Prez have an almost meditative quality, the uniform choral textures, expansive progressions, and subtle changes in harmony create a soundworld significantly different from that of operas, piano sonatas, or symphonies.

Research on the arts, then, can impact on our understanding and perception of the world around us, and the above is just one, small example. Surely there is a case for businesses looking more closely at the merits and function of the arts to help them perceive the world in new ways and to help expand the knowledge of consumers. Indeed, research and new ideas on the arts and humanities can bring new audiences as well new revitalise the way more familiar audiences think about and understand the arts.

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