Monday, December 31, 2007

Is beat induction special? (Part 3)

The Dutch TV program Boeken introduced the Cockatoo-video as the most fun and intriguing video of the year. Tijs Goldschmidt (a biologist and writer known from, e.g., Darwin's Dreampond) tells about the phenomenon of beat induction and why it is so relevant to cognitive scientists (see also an earlier blog).

In his upcoming book called Music, Language and the Brain, Ani Patel chose beat induction — referring to it as ‘beat-based rhythm processing’— as a key area in music-language research. He proposes it an important candidate in demonstrating "that there is a fundamental aspect of music cognition that is not a byproduct of cognitive mechanisms that also serve other, more clearly adaptive, domains (e.g. auditory scene analysis or language)." (Patel, 2008).

I couldn't agree more: beat induction could well turn out to be a key cognitive process in the evolution of music, and arguably central to the origins of music.*

With regard to the video mentioned above: Patel’s group is currently systematically filming the Cockatoo for analyses.

P.S. Yet another item from Dutch TV on beat induction:

*1994 demo on beat induction.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Amsterdam at the end of the year?

As an unrelated yet musical blog entry, today a plug for my brother. Since I will be spending time, like most of you, with friends and family, I might well share the event that I look forward to. In the pop-temple Paradiso —on December 29— three groups will perform a wide variety of music ranging from electro (Wired Paradise), Schubert (Mulder & Honing) to Orient (Rima Khcheich Group). You might like it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Too catchy a tune? (earworm)

It’s a well-known phenomenon in media land that once you contributed to a TV item on a compelling —general interest— question, people will return to you with the same question over and over again, and, basically, wanting you to redo the same answer :-)

It happened to me a few years ago when I was asked to contribute to a Dutch TV item on the question why some melodies stick in your mind. My first answer was: we do not know. Since, if we knew, an ‘earworm’-generating computer program would exist that can generate melodies that are guaranteed to stick in people’s mind for days. In this particular case however, I’m sure nobody would mind. Unfortunately, now —four years later— still little is understood of the phenomenon. [And yes, again on Dutch TV]

What we do know —mainly from questionnaire-style research— is that most people suffer from the ‘earworm’ phenomenon (also referred to as brainworm, cognitive itch, or musical imagery repetition), females slightly more than males. And that the tunes that spontaneously pop-up in one’s mind are generally not the most striking compositions. Actually, they are commonly reported as being simply irritating (see examples on link below).

Why does this happen? And what does it tells us about our cognition? And why does it happen with music, and significantly less with text or images? What is in the musical structure of that particular fragment that makes it spontaneously pop-up from memory? PhD-students in cognitive science looking for an exciting relatively unexplored topic in music (neuro)cognition, jump on it!

Dutch webpage on this topic.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

[Dutch] Doe je mee?

[This item is in Dutch. Next week it will be in English again.]

Muziekcognitie krijgt de laatste jaren meer en meer aandacht in wetenschappelijk onderzoek. In dit vakgebied staan vragen centraal als: Waarom raakt muziek ons zo direct? Wat maakt een ritme spannend, sloom of saai? Waarom blijven sommige liedjes in je hoofd steken? Of, kan je een machine leren luisteren? Kortom: muziek bekeken vanuit het gezichtspunt van de luisteraar.

Half januari wordt bekend of MCG door mag naar de tweede ronde van de Academische Jaarprijs, onder het motto 'zonder luisteraar geen muziek'.

Gezocht: twee master, of gevorderde bachelor studenten die ons team willen versterken.

Ben je ge├»nteresseerd? Stuur dan voor 10 januari a.s. een e-mail naar met een korte motivatie en een prikkelende onderzoeksvraag die volgens jou iets duidelijk maakt over het luisteren naar muziek. Je wordt dan in ieder geval uitgenodigd voor de kick-off bijeenkomst in de laatste week van januari. De twee geselecteerde studenten krijgen —behalve eeuwige roem— een deel van het vrij te besteden prijzengeld.

We kijken uit naar jullie reactie!

Henkjan Honing & Olivia Ladinig