null ArtsEqual researcher's profile - Albi Odendaal

Photo: Heikki Tuuli

Albi Odendaal is the Acting Director of the research niche Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications at the North-West University in South Africa. He also holds a position as a postdoctoral researcher as part of the ArtsEqual project at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, where he also completed his doctoral training. He has previously held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch. His research interests include psychology of music, educational psychology, doctoral education, and music teacher education, and he has published in Psychology of Music, Research Studies in Music Education, Music Education Research, Ethnomusicology Forum, Innovations in Education and Training International, and the Finnish Journal of Music Education.

Contact:, tel. + 27 78 470 2673

What is your ArtsEqual research about?

We (Myself, Heidi Westerlund and Sari Levänen) have a small project where we are writing about several topics related to neuroscientific research, educational psychology and arts education. Recently we have been thinking about the impact of brain imaging research on Music Education, specifically investigating the ways that this research gets used in advocacy for Music Education. We plan to be investigating topics in the fields of memory, learning and forgetting in the near future.

What are the (current) problems which your research will solve?

The problem we are addressing is that there is a disciplinary chasm between education and neuroscience. Sometimes researchers in these fields use the same words but they often mean something completely different to each. This is ripe ground for misunderstandings and is part of the reason for the existence of “neuromyths” (like that we only use 10% of our brains or the “Mozart effect”). We are collaborating across these disciplines in the hope of pointing to the places where misunderstandings happen and giving a language to avoid these.

How does your research relate to the main purpose of ArtsEqual?

We want to present an understanding of what neuroscience and educational psychology can contribute to artistic action, and the education of people into artistic creation. However, so much of the thinking around artistic action and neuroscience either misunderstands artistic action or misunderstands neuroscience. We are hoping our interdisciplinary collaboration will help us not to be blind to our own assumptions, and therefore give a more balanced account of the interrelationship between these domains. Having such a balanced account will hopefully aid thinking about the ways that artistic action can serve the public, without making exaggerated claims about the possible benefits of such actions.

Who will benefit from your research and how?

Principally we hope to influence the way that neuroscience and music education interface, and thus hope to inspire researchers to collaborate in fruitful ways that benefits both music education and neuroscience. This will hopefully impact on the ways the music educators think about the brain and its relationship to learning, and the ways that neuroscientists think about the arts.

What is your vision or dream about Finland in the future from the perspective of arts, equality and well-being?

My dream would be that Finland does not go the way that so many other European countries seem to be going – the way of xenophobia, racism and facism – but that Finland would be a place of justice and freedom, and that somehow the arts could contribute to that.

Do you have any advice or wish for all of us from the perspective of your research or otherwise as an artist or human being?

I am continually struck by the amazing complexity of the human body (which includes the brain) and its capacity to learn and relate to the world. I would love people to be amazed with me, without reducing human beings to brains in bodies. I would love people to have a full understanding of what it means to be human and of what it means to relate humanely.