Friday, February 17, 2012

Do musicians listen better?

Today, Makiko Sadakata (Donders Center, Nijmegen) gave a presentation at our monthly meeting on music cognition and computational musicology [1]. She presented a study in which the question was whether musicians do better in perceiving pitch, duration or other timbral deviations in their own and/or unfamiliar languages.

A striking example was the difference in pronunciation between the Japanese words ‘kanyo’ and ‘kannyo’. To my ears, and most of the audience, identical. However, to Japanese ears two very different meanings.

Using discrimination and identification tasks, Sadakata investigated in how far musicians do better in picking up these nuances. It turns out that in some, specific situations musicians indeed do better than non-musicians.

I personally got very interested in the idea in how far ‘listening mode’, i.e. listening to the sound as if it is ‘language’ or ‘music’, might actually explain these differences. Are the differences a result of musicians attending to the sound (e.g., the intonation or timing pattern) instead of to the semantics, the meaning of the linguistic utterance? Future research will tell…

ResearchBlogging.orgSadakata, M., and Sekiyama, K. (2011). Enhanced perception of various linguistic features by musicians: A cross-linguistic study Acta Psychologica, 138 (1), 1-10 DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.03.007

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