Friday, June 27, 2008

Is beat induction special? (Part 4)

Beat induction has been a recurring topic on this blog. The topic was also the focus at the opening symposium of the Neurosciences and Music Conference, currently being held in Montreal, Canada. Especially researchers like Jessica A. Grahn (Cognition and Brain Science Unit, Cambridge), Joel S. Snyder (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Ed W. Large (Florida Atlantic University) and John R. Iversen (Neursosciences Institute, San Diego) talked about different aspects of beat perception and synchonization in relation to the structure of the brain.

While there is quite some agreement that auditory rhythm processing is associated with movement and auditory brain areas, also some deeper brain areas were proposed as candidates. An elegant series of studies was presented by Joyce L. Chen (McGill University, Montreal) that went a step further in looking for patterns in how these brain areas might be interrelated. She could show (using a very nice design in which behavioral data informs and helps the analyses of brain imaging data) an intimate linkage between the auditory and premotor brain circuit, a link that was suggested to be “at the core of what links music, movement and language together”.

However, in how far beat induction is special –in the sense that it might be a uniquely human trait (see earlier blog)– is still under much discussion. Ed W. Large (Florida State University) mentioned in his talk yesterday that he is currently testing bonobo’s on having beat induction (Needless to say that he is optimistic on that, but the results will only be published later this year). This morning Aniruddh D. Patel (The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego) presented a poster with the first data of the ‘dancing cockatoo’ (mentioned in an earlier blog). Below a short compilation of some of the recordings that Patel’s group analyzed and presented here at the Neurosciences and Music conference (with the kind permission of Ani Patel):


The video is convincing in suggesting that the cockatoo seems to be really sensitive -at least in these fragments- to the tempo of the music and can be argued to really listen and able to pick up the induced beat. When looking at the actual measurements however, the story is less convincing. Five video’s where recorded, of which three had to be rejected because the experimenter might have moved along while the video was made. In the remaining two video’s ‘successful’ dancing on the beat was ranging between 2.5% to 20% of the trials (an episode of say one minute of dancing). Part of the problem, quite interesting from a methodological and statistical point of view, is how to show that all this is better than chance.

Patel, A.D., et al., . (2008). Investigating the human-specificity of synchronization to music. In: M. Adachi et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Music Perception and Cognition Conference (ICMPC10), Sapporo: Japan / Adelaide: Causal Productions.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Combining science and music in Montréal?

I’m about to leave for Montréal, Canada. Next week, at McGill University, the third Neurosciences and Music conference is held: four days of presentations on new research in music cognition and related fields, with presentations by well-known researchers like Steven Mithen, Isabelle Peretz, Sandra Trehub and others.

Ani Patel and colleagues will present their intriguing analyses of the ‘dancing cockatoo’ (see earlier blog), and our group will report on an exiting study we did on meter and syncopation with adults and newborns in collaboration with the Institute of Psychology in Budapest.

At about the same time there is the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal – a good second excuse to travel. I look forward to, for instance, the solo concert of Brad Melhdau. More next week in some extra blog entries.

P.S. See also discussion on Science and Music in Nature last month.

Patel, A.D. (2008). Science & Music: Talk of the tone. Nature, 453(7196), 726-727. DOI: 10.1038/453726a

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Mannen gevoeliger voor muziek': Populariserende wetenschap? [Dutch]

Vandaag verscheen er een persbericht (via ANP) met de titel 'Mannen gevoeliger voor muziek dan vrouwen' over (gesponsored) onderzoek naar de reactie van mannen en vrouwen op muziek. De geschreven pers pikte het bericht gretig op (zie overzicht; zo'n 900 hits als dit geschreven wordt).

Het onderzoek blijkt echter ‘vertrouwelijk’ en betaald door opdrachtgever Sony Ericsson: het onderzoeksrapport is niet in te zien (ik werd verwezen naar een PR medewerker van de telefoonfabrikant: "[dr Moxon] is not aloud [sic!] to give out all the research that has been done.").

Op de website is de missie van de onderzoeker te lezen: het verzorgen van "consultancy which gives you fast, highly-creative and psychologically-endorsed stories that grab the headlines". Met succes dus. ‘Free publicity’ voor een telefoonfabrikant die een nieuw mobieltje wil promoten. En de pers, de ANP voorop, loopt er met open ogen in.

Dr David Moxon kon mij evenmin vertellen of hij ooit eerder op dit gebied gepubliceerd had. Volgens hem bestaan er maar zeer weinig vergelijkbare studies. Er is echter legio literatuur over de cognitieve en fysiologische reacties op muziek te vinden. Google maar eens op namen als Krumhansl, Huron of Zatorre. Maar natuurlijk hebben zij niet het smeuïge resultaat dat Moxon vond.

Dit is populariserende wetenschap op z’n slechtst. Vandaar dat ik me verplicht voelde er een stukje over te schrijven.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Did the University of Amsterdam win?

No. Nevertheless, we had some great fun in preparing and presenting our ideas and plans. The University of Groningen and Maastricht won first and second prize in last night's finals of the Dutch Academic Year Prize. Congratulations to the teams of Peter Barthel and Eric Postma. Great work!

Below some fragments from our presentation and the jury response. We, unfortunately, did not get a prize, but nevertheless got many supportive reactions.*

A big thanks to Olivia Ladinig, Vivienne Aerts, Shane Burmania, and Leigh M. Smith for all their energy, and great ideas, they put in preparing for this event!

Jury response:

Impression of the finals (made by Bas Broertjes, Campus Tv):

Fragments of the presentation (part 1):

Fragments of the presentation (part 2):

For all video material of the finals, see here.

* I’m quite sure there will be alternative ways of realizing our plans promoting the field of music cognition (cf. AJP proposal)

Monday, June 09, 2008

In Amsterdam this week?

Today an unrelated, yet passionate plug for my brother Yuri, who presents his new album Meet Your Demons at De Melkweg in Amsterdam this week.

If you like some (con)fusion, you might want to check it out. However, note that subtlety was never his merit ;-)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Good vibrations at science festival?

Currently I am at the Cheltenham Science Festival in England, an annual five-day ‘feast of debate, delight and entertainment’, as the organizers promote it.

And indeed, it is quite an extraordinary initiative: a festival with an attendance that can easily be compared to a popular jazz or pop festival. Next to numerous one-hour lectures, there were several panels, debates, and presentations by scientists like Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Martin Rees.

Yesterday night I presented, together with neuroscientist Martin Coath (Plymouth University), the results of our European EmCAP research consortium on music cognition. All this under the, admittedly, somewhat smooth title ‘Good Vibrations’.

Martin Coath, a gifted speaker and FameLab finalist, got a large crowd enthusiastically doing a live experiment on relative pitch, and I presented our latest research on the similarities in listening skills between expert musicians and ‘ordinary’ listeners. Furthermore, we gave a preview of some of the preliminary results of collaborative work done with the research team of Istvan Winkler (Budapest) on, e.g., the sensitivity for rhythm and beat induction in babies of just one or two days old.
N.B. More on this at the end of this month when we will present the actual results at the Neuroscience & Music Conference in Montreal.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Want to join the finals?

Next week the final of the Academische Jaarpijs will be held in Leiden, The Netherlands. The UvA-team aims to show that we all have a talent for music, and that the listener actually plays an active role in what makes music special. AJPThis will be communicated to a larger audience by a website and a tv-show, made by the UvA-team in collaboration with five partners from the creative industry.
Below, a sneak preview of one of our rehearsals (the enthousiastic 'voice-over' is by group member Leigh M. Smith :-)