Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Music in our genes?

© ILLC Blog, Illustration by Marianne de Heer Kloots


"In 1984, a curious study on musicality in animals was published. The researchers from Portland, Oregon trained pigeons to distinguish two pieces of music – one by Bach, the other by Stravinsky. If the birds got it right, they were rewarded with food. Afterwards, the same pigeons were exposed to new pieces of music from the same composers. Surprisingly, they were still able to determine which piece was composed by which composer.

This finding confronted researchers with a new set of questions. To what extent are animals musical? What does it even mean for an animal to be musical? And what can this teach us about musicality in humans?" 

(From Music in our genes, ILLC Blog).

The interview is based on an episode of the podcast “Talk that Science” – an initiative started by students from the University of Amsterdam.

• Listen to the episode here (in Dutch);
• Link to the English transcript can be found here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Interested in becoming an SA at MCG?

The Music Cognition Group (MCG) searches for an enthusiastic and well-organized student assistant / P.A. acting as a first point of contact with people from both inside and outside MCG, starting 1 September 2020 (0.2 fte). Deadline for applications is 15 July 2020.

N.B. You have to be registered as a bachelor or master student at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

For more information, and detailed instructions on how to apply, see here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Interested in doing a postdoc in Amsterdam?

Interested in doing a postdoc at the Music Cognition Group in Amsterdam? See [1] for a European (and a Dutch, outgoing) grant opportunity for promising researchers of any nationality.


Friday, March 06, 2020

Musical IQ?

Several people send me a link to this video in the last week. In it Adam Neely addresses some real issues and, in fact, shows how difficult it is to design an unbiased test that probes musicality - our capacity for music (see [1] for some cross-cultural concerns).

Although I’m not too fond of the title of the test (I'm doubting whether IQ or g research is a good role model for this kind of enterprise)*, it is an important attempt to probe our capacity for music. And despite all the foreseen and unforeseen criticism, I continue to believe this is a project worth working on ánd thinking about.

Recently, an international consortium started to work on relatively unbiased and scalable tests that can reveal individual differences within and across societies. However, this research program is still in its early stages [2,3].

Samuel Mehr, Daniel Müllensiefen and colleagues –who made the test [4])– are also members of the consortium and currently running web-based tests on a large scale. The first progress will be reported at two symposia at the NMVII in Aarhus, DK coming June.

And lastly, this is a research project that, I suspect, will take quite a few years to come to a result: slow science!


*See, e.g., Maas et al. for a potential way out.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Is our capacity for music special?

In this conversation, Christopher Sutton of Musical U talks about: The crucial research study with newborn infants that changed Henkjan Honing's thinking about musicality research; Two surprising facts about absolute pitch (or perfect pitch) that might completely change how you think about this seemingly-magical skill; And what the state-of-the-art scientific research tells us about how much musicality is an innate part of us versus a purely-learned skill.

More information at the website of Musical U. Check it out!

Sunday, February 09, 2020

What is musicality?

Are we the only musical species? What do you need to know in order to be musical? Is our musical predisposition unique, like our linguistic ability?

Below a video registration of a lively evening at Paradiso in Amsterdam on Monday 27 January 2020, organised by Science & Cocktails Amsterdam: in search of what makes us musical !

Honing, H. (2019). The evolving animal orchestra. In search of what makes us musical. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Interested in doing a PhD?

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) currently has two PhD positions available. Applications are now invited from excellent candidates wishing to conduct research in an area within ILLC (i.e. mathematics, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, or music cognition) that fits naturally in the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Humanities.

See webpage for more information on the Faculty of Science position, and webpage for the Faculty of Humanities position.

Deadlines: 17 February and 31 March 2020 respectively.


Monday, February 03, 2020

Gaat muzikaliteit aan muziek én taal vooraf? [Dutch]

Foto: Iris Vette
Hoe het brein van onze verre voorouders eruitzag, is niet meer na te gaan. Toch is er via een omweg misschien iets te zeggen over het ontstaan van taal, en de rol die muziek daarbij speelde.

Veel taalkundigen geloven —vreemd genoeg— dat onze liefde voor muziek meelift op ons taalvermogen (zie bijvoorbeeld NRC uit 2016 en Steven Pinker's invloedrijke boek How the mind works). Maar zou het niet, en even waarschijnlijk, precies andersom kunnen zijn?

Voor een overzicht van de recente ontwikkelingen op het gebied van de neurowetenschappen van taal en muziek, zie bijv. Peretz et al. (2015), Norman-Haignere et al. (2015) en de video hieronder: een registratie van de lezing Voor de muziek uit die ik in 2016 gaf op het tweejaarlijkse congres Onze Taal in het Chassé Theater in Breda.

N.B. Een samenvatting van de tekst verscheen in het tijdschrift Onze Taal. De integrale tekst verscheen in het interdisciplinaire tijdschrift Blind.

ResearchBlogging.orgNorman-Haignere, S., Kanwisher, N., & McDermott, J. (2015). Distinct Cortical Pathways for Music and Speech Revealed by Hypothesis-Free Voxel Decomposition Neuron, 88 (6), 1281-1296 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.11.035

ResearchBlogging.orgPeretz, I., Vuvan, D., Lagrois, M., & Armony, J. (2015). Neural overlap in processing music and speech Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1664), 20140090-20140090 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0090

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Interested in a research masters course on musicality?

How Music Works: Music Cognition (MSc course Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 6 EC) | Prof. dr H. Honing and guest lecturers | Start 2020 semester 2, block 2.

The aim of the course is to identify the cognitive, biological and mechanistic underpinnings for music cognition as key ingredients of musicality, to assess to what extent these are unique to humans, and by doing so providing insight in their potential biological origins. As such this course has the aspiration to lay a new, interdisciplinary and comparative foundation for the study of musicality (Honing, 2018).

In addition this course will discuss recent developments in the research field of music cognition. Topics include a) the origins and evolution of musicality, b) the cognition of rhythm and melody, c) musical competence, d) relation between music and nonmusical abilities, and e) the similarities and differences between music and language. The topics might change due to recent developments.

For detailed information, and how to register as a secondary subject, see UvA Studiegids 2019/20.

Honing, H. (ed.) (2018). The Origins of Musicality. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.