Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Do infants prefer music over speech?

In this weeks online edition of PNAS Marcel Zentner and Tuomas Eerola report on a study in which they carried out two experiments with a total of 120 infants, aged between 5 and 24 months. The infants were exposed to various musical and rhythmic stimuli, including isochronous drumbeats. Control stimuli consisted of adult- and infant-directed speech. The researchers could show that infants engage significantly more in rhythmic movement to music, and other rhythmically regular sounds, than to speech. The findings are suggestive of a predisposition for rhythmic movement in response to music and other metrically regular sounds. The study also adds to the existing evidence that infants have a liking and preference for rhythmical music from day one, a predisposition that preceeds language.

ResearchBlogging.orgZentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010). Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000121107

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Music Matters blog moved to new location

Since Blogger no longer supports ftp publishing, this blog has moved to a new location at http://musiccognition.blogspot.com/. However, all links to olders posts stay in place (after thirty seconds one will be redirected to the new blog).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are emotions in music universal?

While there are plenty of theories on how music and emotion might be related (see reference below -Juslin & Västfjäll (2008)- for an overview), there is still little empirical evidence to decide on how far music and specific associated emotions - such as happiness, fear, sadness or anger - are merely a result of association and/or culturally determined, or in fact shared and a result of brain mechanisms that we all share.

Last year Current Biology published an interesting study on the recognition of three basic emotions using Western music and that of the Mafa (an ethnic group living in the mountains of Cameroon, and that are claimed never to have been exposed to Western music). Both Mafa and Western listeners listened to short Western piano pieces and Mafa flute music and had to decide which of the three faces (from the often used Ekman archive) fitted best with the perceived music.

The study could show that the basic emotions happiness, sadness and fear could be picked up (above chance level) by both listener groups from each others music.

Below a video fragment reporting on the study from Deutsche Welle:

ResearchBlogging.org Fritz, T., Jentschke, S., Gosselin, N., Sammler, D., Peretz, I., Turner, R., Friederici, A., & Koelsch, S. (2009). Universal Recognition of Three Basic Emotions in Music Current Biology, 19 (7), 573-576 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.058

ResearchBlogging.org Juslin, P., & Västfjäll, D. (2008). Emotional responses to music: The need to consider underlying mechanisms Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31 (05) DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X08005293

Monday, March 01, 2010

What is urban in us, and what is wild?

This week a video of an event that was moderated by Faith Salie and features author Jonathan Rosen; neurobiologist Erich Jarvis; scientist and noted bird researcher Irene Pepperberg; professor of comparative cognition at Cambridge University, Nicola Clayton; Head of the Laboratory of Animal Behavior at CUNY, Ofer Tchernichovski; and David Rothenberg, professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

This event took place on June 13, 2009 in the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University. This is the first of eleven segments (See