Showing posts with label music cognition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music cognition. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2012

Interested in a PhD fellowship in Amsterdam?

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) currently has a PhD fellowship available at the Faculty of Humanities starting on 1 September 2013. Applications are now invited from excellent candidates wishing to conduct research in an area in which either the Logic and Language group or the Language and Computation group at ILLC are active, such as the computational modeling of human information processing, especially natural language and music (LaCo) and/or foundational issues in mathematics and computer science (LoCo). For more information, see here. Deadline for applications is 14 January 2013.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's new in Music Cognition and Cognitive Science?

In the latest issue of Topics in Cognitive Science (edited by Martin Rohrmeier and Patrick Rebuschat) Marcus Pearce and Martin Rohrmeier write in the introduction:

"Why should music be of interest to cognitive scientists, and what role does it play in human cognition? We review three factors that make music an important topic for cognitive scientific research. First, music is a universal human trait fulfilling crucial roles in everyday life. Second, music has an important part to play in ontogenetic development and human evolution. Third, appreciating and producing music simultaneously engage many complex perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes, rendering music an ideal object for studying the mind. We propose an integrated status for music cognition in the Cognitive Sciences and conclude by reviewing challenges and big questions in the field and the way in which these reflect recent developments."

ResearchBlogging.orgPearce M, & Rohrmeier M (2012). Music cognition and the cognitive sciences. Topics in cognitive science, 4 (4), 468-84 PMID: 23060125

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interested in a PhD or Postdoc position?

As of today, Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, and the Meertens Institute are looking for several PhD and Postdoc candidates for an ambitious research project starting February 1, 2013.

(See links below on those related to music cognition.)

In various domains of cognitive science, a new paradigm holds that humans and non-human animals are born with a small set of hard-wired cognitive abilities that are task-specific, language-independent, and non-species-specific. These core knowledge systems are innate cognitive skills that have the capacity for building mental representations of objects, persons, spatial relationships, numerosity, and social interaction. In addition to core knowledge systems, humans possess species-specific, uniquely human abilities such as language and music.

The ‘core knowledge’ paradigm challenges scholars in the humanities to ask the question how nurture and culture build on nature. This project examines the way in which innate, non specifically human, core knowledge systems for object representation, number, and geometry constrain cultural expressions in music, language, and the visual arts. In this research program, four domains of the humanities will be investigated from the point of view of core knowledge:

Subproject 1:  Music Cognition        
PhD & Postdoc, teamleader: Prof.dr H. Honing

Subproject 2:  Language and Number              
PhD & Postdoc, teamleader: Prof.dr S. Barbiers

Subproject 3:  Visual Arts and Geometry
PhD & Postdoc, teamleaders: M. Delbeke & C. van Eck

Subproject 4:  Poetry, Rhythm, and Meter
PhD & Postdoc, teamleader: Prof.dr M. van Oostendorp

Deadline for applications: 23 November 2012.

For more information see research proposal.

See also related entries

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can the domains of Music Cognition and Music Information Retrieval inform each other?

In about a weeks time the 13th ISMIR (International Society for Music Information Retrieval) conference will be held. This is a conference on the processing, searching, organizing and accessing music-related data. It attracts a research community that is intrigued by the revolution in music distribution and storage brought about by digital technology which generated quite some research activity and interest in academia as well as in industry.

In this discipline, referred to as Music Information Retrieval (or MIR for short), the topic is not so much to understand and model music (like in the field of music cognition), but to design robust and effective methods to locate and retrieve musical information, including tasks like query-by-humming, music recommendation, music recognition, and genre classification.

A common approach in MIR research is to use information-theoretic models to extract information from the musical data, be it the audio recording itself or all kinds of meta-data, such as artist or genre classification. With advanced machine learning techniques, and the availability of so-called ‘ground truth’ data (i.e., annotations made by experts that the algorithm uses to decide on the relevance of the results for a certain query), a model of retrieving relevant musical information is constructed. Overall, this approach is based on the assumption that all relevant information is present in the data and that it can, in principle, be extracted from that data (data-oriented approach).

Several alternatives have been proposed, such as models based on perception-based signal processing or mimetic and gesture-based queries. However, with regard to the cognitive aspects of MIR (the perspective of the listener), some information might be implicit or not present at all in the data. Especially in the design of similarity measures (e.g., ‘search for songs that sound like X’) it becomes clear quite quickly that not all required information is present in the data. Elaborating state-of-the-art MIR techniques with recent findings from music cognition seems therefore a natural next step in improving (exploratory) search engines for music and audio (cognition-based approach) (cf. Honing, 2010).

A creative paper, discussing the differences and overlaps between the two fields in dialog form, is about to appear in the proceedings of the upcoming ISMIR conference. Emanuel Bigand –a well-known music cognition researcher–, and Jean-Julien Aucouturier –MIR researcher–, wrote a fictitious dialog:
“Mel is a MIR researcher (the audio type) who's always been convinced that his field of research had something to contribute to the study of music cognition. His feeling, however, hasn't been much shared by the reviewers of the many psychology journals he tried submitting his views to. Their critics, rejecting his data as irrelevant, have frustrated him - the more he tried to rebut, the more defensive both sides of the debate became. He was close to give up his hopes of interdisciplinary dialog when, in one final and desperate rejection letter, he sensed an unusual touch of interest in the editor's response. She, a cognitive psychologist named Ann, was clearly open to discussion. This was the opportunity that Mel had always hoped for: clarifying what psychologists really think of audio MIR, correcting misconceptions that he himself made about cognition, and maybe, developing a vision of how both fields could work together. The following is the imaginary dialog that ensued. Meet Dr Mel Cepstrum, the MIR researcher, and Prof. Ann Ova, the psychologist.”
ResearchBlogging.orgAucouturier, J., & Bigand, E. (2012). Mel Cepstrum & Ann Ova: The Difficult Dialog Between MIR and Music Cognition. Proceedings of the 13th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, 397-402. Honing, H. (2010). Lure(d) into listening: The potential of cognition-based music information retrieval. Empirical Musicology Review, 5(4), 121-126. Volk. A., & Honingh, A. (eds) (2012). Special Issue: Mathematical and Computational Approaches to Music: Three Methodological Reflections Journal of Mathematics and Music, 6 (2). 10.1080/17459737.2012.704154

Friday, July 06, 2012

If music isn’t a luxury, what is it?

The title of the newest and fourteenth book by science writer Philip Ball leaves no doubt: this is a counter-attack on claims made by Steven Pinker in his publications The Language Instinct (1994) and How the Mind Works (1997). Pinker characterised music as ‘auditory cheesecake’: a tasty bonus but, from an evolutionary point of view, no more than a by-product of much more important mental functions such as language (‘music could vanish from our species and the rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged’). In his books, Pinker also frequently reduces art to what – biologically speaking – is an irrelevant phenomenon, one that utilises functions that can be called ‘evolutionarily adaptive’, such as the experience of pleasure. The provocation these claims represented some fifteen years ago continues to resonate: countless books referring to Pinker have appeared since (among which The Art Instinct, The Belief Instinct and The Pleasure Instinct). And now, not entirely unexpectedly, here’s The Music Instinct. The aim is clear.

And so this book begins with a discussion of the importance of music, the possible role of music in evolution and the claim that music is not a luxury. It’s a topical discussion currently being pursued in numerous scientific journals and at symposia.

However, in The Music Instinct, Ball adopts a position that in fact declares the whole discussion a non-issue: music simply is (‘It might be genetically hard-wired, or it might not. Either way, we can’t suppress it, let alone meaningfully talk of taking it away’). This is an unfortunate and – given the book’s title – unusual strategy because there really is something to be said about the other views without dismissing them as irrelevant.

Nevertheless, I can only say how wholeheartedly I agree with Ball’s interpretation of the recent literature. I’m impressed by how easily a relative outsider – Ball has written nearly twenty books on topics related mostly to physics – has managed to grasp such a relatively new discipline as music cognition.

Ball passionately defends a number of very clear hypotheses, among which those that say music is more than just sound (‘Music does not somehow emerge from acoustic physics’), that it fundamentally differs from language (‘There is no language of music’) and that musicality is much more widespread than is commonly thought (‘Most of us are musical experts without knowing it’). These are insights each in their own right which only recently have been given an empirical basis and which offer alternative visions to the older, largely psycho-physically oriented research into the psychology of music.

On the whole, The Music Instinct is a convincing book. Ball clearly has a passion for music, as reflected in his detailed and often highly personal descriptions of his numerous music samples, taken primarily from the classical repertoire. But it remains regrettable that he places so much emphasis on the first half of the sub-title of the book – the architecture and effect of music – and thus focuses mainly on the music-theoretical aspects of music. The result is that much of what there is to be said today about the second half of the sub-title – the biological significance of music and why we can’t do without it – is neglected.

(For the complete review, see the reference below]

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2012). If music isn’t a luxury, what is it? Journal of Music, Technology and Education,, 5 (1), 114-117 : 10.1386/jmte.5.1.109_5

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's new in neuroscience and music?

Neurosciences and Music
The conference entitled The Neurosciences and Music-IV: Learning and Memory was held at the University of Edinburgh from June 9–12, 2011, jointly hosted by the Mariani Foundation and the Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, and involving nearly 500 international delegates. Two opening workshops, three large and vibrant poster sessions, and nine invited symposia introduced a diverse range of recent research findings and discussed current research directions. In the reference below (Altenmüller et al., 2012), the proceedings are introduced by the workshop and symposia leaders on topics including working with children, rhythm perception, language processing, cultural learning, memory, musical imagery, neural plasticity, stroke rehabilitation, autism, and amusia. The rich diversity of the interdisciplinary research presented suggests that the future of music neuroscience looks both exciting and promising, and that important implications for music rehabilitation and therapy are being discovered.

ResearchBlogging.orgAltenmüller, E., Demorest, S., Fujioka, T., Halpern, A., Hannon, E., Loui, P., Majno, M., Oechslin, M., Osborne, N., Overy, K., Palmer, C., Peretz, I., Pfordresher, P., Särkämö, T., Wan, C., & Zatorre, R. (2012). Introduction to The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1252 (1), 1-16 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06474.x

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2012). Without it no music: beat induction as a fundamental musical trait Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1252 (1), 85-91 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06402.x

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interested in doing research in cognitive and computational musicology?

A postdoc and PhD position are currently vacant in two collaborative research projects that cut across the boundaries between music cognition, musicology and computer science.

For more information, see here. Deadline for applications is 14 October 2011.

(For related vacancies at the e-Laboratory, see here.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What makes us musical animals?

This week a plug for my new book that just came out: Musical Cognition: A Science of Listening (Read fragments of it online at Google Books; currently available with more than 30% discount on the hardcover at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

From the cover:
"Musical Cognition suggests that music is a game (or 'benificial play'). In music, our cognitive functions such as perception, memory, attention, and expectation are challenged; yet as listeners we often do not realize that the listener plays an active role in reaching the awareness that makes music so exhilarating, soothing, and inspiring. In reality, the author contends, listening does not happen in the outer world of audible sound but in the inner world of our minds and brains.

Recent research in the areas of psychology and neuro-cognition allows Honing to be explicit in a way that many of his predecessors could not. His lucid, evocative writing style guides the reader through what is known about listening to music while avoiding jargon and technical diagrams. With clear examples, the book concentrates on underappreciated musical skills — “sense of rhythm” and “relative pitch” — skills that make us musical creatures. Research on how living creatures respond to music supports the conviction that all humans have a unique, instinctive attraction to music.

Musical Cognition includes a selection of intriguing examples from recent literature exploring the role that an implicit or explicit knowledge of music plays when one listens to it. The scope of the topics discussed ranges from the ability of newborns to perceive the beat, to the unexpected musical expertise of ordinary listeners. The evidence shows that music is second nature to most human beings — biologically and socially."

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2011) Musical Cognition. A Science of Listening. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4128-4228-0.

ResearchBlogging.orgWinkler, I., Haden, G., Ladinig, O., Sziller, I., & Honing, H. (2009). Newborn infants detect the beat in music Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (7), 2468-2471 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0809035106

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why would anyone listen to sad music?


See also the San Francisco Classical Voice.

ResearchBlogging.orgHuron, D. (2011). Why is sad music pleasurable? A possible role for prolactin Musicae Scientiae, 15 (2), 146-158 DOI: 10.1177/1029864911401171

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Interested in doing a postdoc in music cognition?

The University of Amsterdam offers three new postdoc positions, one of which is in the field of music cognition.

Detailed information on the project, and instructions on how to apply, can be found here. Deadline for applications: 23 June 2011.

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., Ladinig, O., Háden, G., & Winkler, I. (2009). Is Beat Induction Innate or Learned? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169 (1), 93-96 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04761.x

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interested in doing a PhD at the UvA?

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam currently has two four-year PhD positions available at the Faculty of Humanities (FGw) and one at the Faculty of Science (FNWI) all starting September 2011. Applications from excellent candidates wishing to conduct research in any of the areas in which ILLC is active are now invited (see description and example projects). N.B. Deadline: 1 February 2011.

See for more information on how to apply here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whats new in music cognition?

New Course on Music Cognition, elective of the Research Master Brain and Cognitive Sciences; See here for more information.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Waarom kan muziek zulke sterke herinneringen oproepen? [Dutch]

'Muziek raakt onze allerdiepste emoties en blijkt een spoor te trekken in de hersenen. Muziek is ook een drager van herinneringen. Hoe werkt dat? En waarom houdt de één van Bach en de ander van The Beatles?'
De Ncrv-tv zendt vandaag een aflevering uit over muziek, emotie en herinneringen. Zie de trailer. Voor de volledige aflevering, zie uitzending gemist. Zie tevens gerelateerd artikel in de Volkskrant bijlage van 13.12.2008 (met levendige reacties).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can music (cognition) save your life?

To explore the research finding I’m about to present, I asked my girlfriend this afternoon to think of the film Saturday Night Fever and the song Stayin’ Alive. Being of the generation that grew-up in the late seventies, she could sing it immediately. I tapped along on my computer spacebar (using MusicMath software) which indicated an average of 105 BPM. And, surprisingly, the original was recorded at 103 BPM (well within the just noticeable difference for tempo perception)!

Dan Levitin and Perry Cook did a similar, but more systematic experiment in the late nineties and found that most people can actually do this quite easily —roughly within a 4-8% tempo difference range—, and especially for songs they are quite familiar with. The results were interpreted as evidence for an (iconic) long term memory for tempo, especially for popsongs that are often heard in one single version.

I was reminded of this research because of a recent e-mail by Lauren Stewart (see earlier blog) pointing me at a news clipping from with the title Stayin' Alive' has near-perfect rhythm to help jump-start heart, stating:
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- "Stayin' Alive" might be more true to its name than the Bee Gees ever could have guessed: At 103 beats per minute, the old disco song has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart. In a small but intriguing study from the University of Illinois medical school, doctors and students maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions doing CPR while listening to the catchy, sung-in-falsetto tune from the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever."
Well, I cannot oversee the impact of this for the medical world (it was published as a pilot study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine), yet it is an another interesting example of the fact that we can easily remember the tempo of a familiar or ‘sticky’ song. The pilot-experiment showed that the participants (ten doctors and five medical students, to be precise) when asked think of Stayin’ Alive could easily reproduce the tempo of the original (in this study an average of 108 BPM). Apparently the ‘stickiness’ of the song proves very useful as a kind of mental metronome in applying cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

This might well be the first, potential lifesaving application of music and music cognition research :-)

ResearchBlogging.orgLevitin, D. J., Cook, P. R. (1996). Memory for musical tempo: Additional evidence that auditory memory is absolute. Perception & Psychophysics, 58, 927-935

ResearchBlogging.orgD. Matlock, J.W. Hafner, E.G. Bockewitz, L.T. Barker, J.D. Dewar (2008). “Stayin' Alive”: A Pilot Study to Test the Effectiveness of a Novel Mental Metronome in Maintaining Appropriate Compression Rates in Simulated Cardiac Arrest Scenarios Annals of Emergency Medicine, 52 (4), S67-S68

ResearchBlogging.orgE. Glenn Schellenberg, Sandra E. Trehub (2003). Good pitch memory is widespread Psychological Science, 14 (3), 262-266 DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.03432

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How did music evolve?

This week a podcast from the Guardian on music, the brain, and evolutionary psychology (by James Randerson, Francesca Panetta and Marcus Pearce | guardian). How did music evolve, how is it linked to language, and how is it understood by the brain.

Ian Cross (Cambridge University) talks about how music acts as a social tool. Eric Clarke (Oxford University) talks about musical meaning and why dance music has such a profound effect on a club full of revellers. Adena Schachner (Harvard University) talks about her analyses of birds in relation to beat induction. In addition, snippets of Stefan Koelsch (Sussex University), Ani Patel (Neuroscience Institute, San Diego), Andrea Norton (Harvard Medical School), Geraint Wiggins (Goldsmiths College London) and Paul Robertson (founder and leader of the Medici String Quartet) can be heard.