Monday, March 02, 2015

Can one trace the origins of musicality?

Update: the complete issue on Musicality (12 papers) is free to download in March 2015. See website Phil Trans B for details.

[Press release of the UvA; Dutch|English]

Why do we have music? And what enables us to perceive, appreciate and make music? The search for a possible answer to these and other questions forms the backdrop to a soon-to-be released theme issue of Philosophical Transactions, which deals with the subject of musicality. An initiative of Henkjan Honing, professor of Music Cognition at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), this theme issue will see Honing and fellow researchers present their most important empirical results and offer a joint research agenda with which to identify the biological and cognitive basis of musicality.

Researchers have long been wary of the notion that music might have a biological basis. Music was originally viewed as a cultural artifact and as something that in evolutionary terms has existed for too short a period to have shaped human perception and cognition. The question is whether it is at all possible to gain insight into the evolution of cognition, and by extension music cognition. Sceptics argue that the necessary proof will never be found because cognition doesn't fossilise (i.e. it is impossible to obtain the requisite evidence).

Music or musicality?
Honing, who is the driving force behind the theme issue, argues that the origin of musicality can most definitely be discovered by using a bottom-up approach in which one looks for the basic mechanisms that combine into a complex trait – in this case musicality. Honing: 'Many studies on the biological origin of music are centred on the question of how to define music. This raises the question, for example, whether birdsong and the song structure of humpback whales can be considered music. To address such issues effectively, however, it is important to distinguish between the notions of music and musicality. Musicality in all its complexity can be defined as a natural, spontaneously developing set of traits based on and constrained by our cognitive and biological system. Music in all its variety can be defined as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality. This distinction allows us to search for the different constituent aspects that form the basis for the phenotype musicality.'

This bottom-up strategy serves as the starting point for a new research agenda that has been drawn up by Honing and a consortium of international experts from a wide range of disciplines, including musicology, computational cognition, anthropology and psychology. According to Honing, such a 'multicomponent' perspective on musicality will help to emphasise the latter's constituent capacities, development and neural cognitive specificity, and will throw light on the origins and evolution of musical behaviour.

Bringing together global expertise
The forthcoming theme issue of Philosophical Transactions is a direct result of a Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship that was awarded to Honing last year by the Lorentz Center and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS). This fellowship allowed Honing to bring together over twenty internationally renowned experts from the fields of cognition, biology and musicality. The theme issue will contain 11 articles on topics such as the biological basis for individual differences in musicality, the origins of musicality across species, and the principles of structure building in music, language and animal song.

The world's oldest scientific journal
As the world's longest-running scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society – which this year celebrates its 350th anniversary – publishes high-quality theme issues on topics of current importance and general interest within the life sciences. Some of its most notable contributors have included Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and, more recently, Stephen Hawking.

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., ten Cate, C., Peretz, I., & Trehub, S. (2015). Without it no music: cognition, biology and evolution of musicality Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664), 20140088-20140088 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0088

ResearchBlogging.orgGingras, B., Honing, H., Peretz, I., Trainor, L., & Fisher, S. (2015). Defining the biological bases of individual differences in musicality Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664), 20140092-20140092 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0092

ResearchBlogging.orgFitch, W. (2015). Four principles of bio-musicology Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664), 20140091-20140091 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0091 Hoeschele, M., Merchant, H., Kikuchi, Y., Hattori, Y., & ten Cate, C. (2015). Searching for the origins of musicality across species Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664), 20140094-20140094 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0094

The complete theme issue (12 papers) can be found here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Do an MA in Music Studies in Historic Amsterdam?

Do you want to become a Master in Music Studies at the University of Amsterdam? Find out more on our Music Studies website and go to the registration page. Deadline: 1 April 2015.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Can we borrow your ears?

The Music Cognition Group is continuously looking for participants in their experiments. See our website if you want to contribute.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Without it no music?

Cover picture of the March issue of  Philosophical Transactions B.

A short entry to announce a theme issue on Musicality in Philosophical Transactions B (celebrating this year its 350th anniversary). Online 2 February 2015 and in print on 19 March 2015.

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning H, ten Cate C, Peretz I, & Trehub SE (2015, in press). Without it no music: cognition, biology and evolution of musicality Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 370 (1664). 10.1098/rstb.2014.0088

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

SMART Cognitive Science: the Amsterdam Conference

The SMART Cognitive Science Conference will be hosted by the University of Amsterdam from March 25-28th, 2015. It will consist of 6 exciting workshops (each 2 full days, with 3 in parallel) on the cognitive science of music, language, communication and art, and a common evening program with debates and plenaries, and will be free to attend.

For more information and free registration see 

N.B. There are also some interesting pre-conference events, such as an ABC lecture by Tecumseh Fitch (Vienna) on The Syntax of Mind: Dendrophilia and Human Cognition.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Difference between the GAE and VL hypothesis?

Summary diagrams of vocal systems in songbirds, humans, monkeys, and mice. 
(Figure 1 from Petkov & Jarvis in Ackermann et al., 2014).

Today a commentary was published in BBS in which the gradual audiomotor evolution (GAE) hypothesis (Honing & Merchant, 2014) is proposed as an alternative interpretation to the auditory timing mechanisms discussed in the target article by Ackermann et al. (2014).

While often a link is made between vocal learning (VL) and a species' auditory timing skills (e.g., 'entrainment'), the GAE and VL hypotheses show the following crucial differences.

First, the GAE hypothesis does not claim that the neural circuit that is engaged in rhythmic entrainment is deeply linked to vocal perception, production, and learning, even if some overlap between the circuits exists.

Second, the GAE hypothesis suggests that rhythmic entrainment could have developed through a gradient of anatomofunctional changes on the interval-based mechanism to generate an additional beat-based mechanism, instead of claiming a categorical jump from non-rhythmic/single-interval to rhythmic entrainment/multiple-interval abilities.

Third, since the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic (CBGT) circuit has been involved in beat-based mechanisms in imaging studies, we suggest that the reverberant flow of audiomotor information that loops across the anterior pre-frontal CBGT circuits may be the underpinning of human rhythmic entrainment.

Finally, the GAE hypothesis suggests that the integration of sensorimotor information throughout the mCBGT circuit and other brain areas during the perception or execution of single intervals is similar in human and nonhuman primates.

ResearchBlogging.orgAckermann, H., Hage, S., & Ziegler, W. (2014). Brain mechanisms of acoustic communication in humans and nonhuman primates: An evolutionary perspective Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1-84 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X13003099
ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., & Merchant, H. (2014). Differences in auditory timing between human and non-human primates. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27(6), 557-558 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X13004056. [Alternative link: ]
ResearchBlogging.orgMerchant, H., & Honing, H. (2014). Are non-human primates capable of rhythmic entrainment? Evidence for the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7 (274) 1-8. doi 10.3389/fnins.2013.00274 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interested in a PhD position at the University of Amsterdam?

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) can nominate two candidates for a pre-selection procedure for the 2015 edition of NWO's PhDs in the Humanities programme. These could be internal UvA candidates from the MSc Brain and Cognitive Science, MA Musicology or any other relevant Master Programme, but excellent outside candidates will be considered as well. See our website for a detailed description of the (elaborate) procedure.

N.B. Deadline for pre-applications is 1 January 2015.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Hebben dieren ook muzikaal gevoel? (5/5) [Dutch]

Ken je Snowball al? De witte kakatoe dansend op de Backstreet Boys? Of Ronan, de headbangende zeeleeuw? Deze dieren lijken zeker maatgevoel te hebben. Is muzikaliteit dan niet alleen uniek bij de mens? Wat zegt dat over muziek in relatie tot onze evolutionaire ontwikkeling?Een college over het belang van onderzoek naar muziekcognitie in biologie.

Voor de andere lezingen zie hier.


00:30 Mampe et al. (2009)
04:00 Honing (2012); Honing et al.(2014)
05:30 Winkler et al. (2009)
06:30 Honing et al. (2012)
11:00 Patel et al. (2009)
12:30 Cook et al. (2013)
15:00 Honing et al. (2015, in press)

 ResearchBlogging.orgMampe B, Friederici AD, Christophe A, & Wermke K (2009). Newborns' cry melody is shaped by their native language. Current biology : CB, 19 (23), 1994-7 PMID: 19896378
ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2012). Without it no music: beat induction as a fundamental musical trait Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1252 (1), 85-91 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06402.x
ResearchBlogging.orgHoning H, Bouwer FL, & Háden GP (2014). Perceiving Temporal Regularity in Music: The Role of Auditory Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) in Probing Beat Perception. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 829, 305-23 PMID: 25358717
ResearchBlogging.orgWinkler I, Háden GP, Ladinig O, Sziller I, & Honing H (2009). Newborn infants detect the beat in music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106 (7), 2468-71 PMID: 19171894
ResearchBlogging.orgPatel AD, Iversen JR, Bregman MR, & Schulz I (2009). Experimental evidence for synchronization to a musical beat in a nonhuman animal. Current biology : CB, 19 (10), 827-30 PMID: 19409790
ResearchBlogging.orgCook, P., Rouse, A., Wilson, M., & Reichmuth, C. (2013). A California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) can keep the beat: Motor entrainment to rhythmic auditory stimuli in a non vocal mimic. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 127 (4), 412-427 DOI: 10.1037/a0032345 Honing, H., ten Cate, C., Peretz, I., & Trehub, S. (February 2015, in press). Without it no music: Cognition, biology, and evolution of musicality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Theme Issue on Musicality.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hoe komt het dat een liedje in je hoofd blijft hangen? (4/5) [Dutch]

De hele dag dat ene hitje in je hoofd: een oorwurm! Muziekproducenten kunnen het zich niet beter wensen. Wat maakt dat liedje nou zo makkelijk te onthouden? En hoe kan het dat je dat ene nummer zo snel herkent? een ceollege over de ingrediënten voor het maken van een ware muziekhit en waardoor luisteraars zo ‘Hooked on Music’ zijn…

Voor de andere lezingen zie hier.


01:30 Gjergdingen & Perrott (2008)
02:30 Margulis (2014)
04:00 Burgoyne, Balen, Bountouridis, & Honing (2013).
08:00 ;
09:00 Salimpoor & Zatorre (2013)

ResearchBlogging.orgGjerdingen, R., & Perrott, D. (2008). Scanning the Dial: The Rapid Recognition of Music Genres Journal of New Music Research, 37 (2), 93-100 DOI: 10.1080/09298210802479268

ResearchBlogging.orgDunsby, J. (2014). On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind. By Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis Music and Letters, 95 (3), 497-499 DOI: 10.1093/ml/gcu055

ResearchBlogging.orgJ.A. Burgoyne, D. Bountouridis, J. van Balen, & H. Honing (2013). Hooked: A Game for Discovering What Makes Music Catchy. Proceedings of the 14th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, 245-250. Curitiba, Brazil.

ResearchBlogging.orgSalimpoor, V., van den Bosch, I., Kovacevic, N., McIntosh, A., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. (2013). Interactions Between the Nucleus Accumbens and Auditory Cortices Predict Music Reward Value Science, 340 (6129), 216-219 DOI: 10.1126/science.1231059

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Word je slimmer van luisteren naar Mozart? (3/5) [Dutch]

Het Mozarteffect. Studenten halen gegarandeerd hun tentamens, koeien zullen meer melk produceren en zelfs tomaten gaan beter smaken wanneer ze ‘luisteren’ naar klassieke muziek. Is dat zo? Waar heeft dit mee te maken?

Voor de andere lezingen zie hier.


02:00 Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky (1993)
08:30 Thompson, Schellenberg, & Husain, G. (2001)
10:30 Schellenberg (2004); Jaschke, Eggermont, Honing, & Scherder (2013)

ResearchBlogging.orgRauscher, F., Shaw, G., & Ky, C. (1993). Music and spatial task performance Nature, 365 (6447), 611-611 DOI: 10.1038/365611a0

ResearchBlogging.orgThompson, W., Schellenberg, E., & Husain, G. (2001). Arousal, Mood, and The Mozart Effect Psychological Science, 12 (3), 248-251 DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.00345

ResearchBlogging.orgGlenn Schellenberg, E. (2004). Music Lessons Enhance IQ Psychological Science, 15 (8), 511-514 DOI: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00711.x

ResearchBlogging.orgJaschke AC, Eggermont LH, Honing H, & Scherder EJ (2013). Music education and its effect on intellectual abilities in children: a systematic review. Reviews in the neurosciences, 24 (6), 665-75 PMID: 24169311