Showing posts with label musical ability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label musical ability. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wat maakt ons muzikale dieren? [Dutch]

De 12e Van Foreest publiekslezing wordt
gehouden in de Grote Kerk in Alkmaar
[Uit het programmaboekje van de 12e Van Foreest Publiekslezing] 

Wat moet je weten, kunnen of waarderen om muzikaal te zijn? In de afgelopen jaren zijn we daar in het vakgebied muziekcognitie veel over te weten gekomen. En ik zal daar in deze lezing diverse voorbeelden van geven. Maar de lezing zal vooral gaan over een zoektocht die ik pas recentelijk begonnen ben: onderzoek met als doel niet alleen de vraag te beantwoorden wat muzikaliteit is, maar ook de vraag in hoeverre we muzikaliteit delen met andere dieren, om er zo achter te komen wat is er nodig is om muziek te laten ontstaan.

Na jaren lang met name de methoden en technieken uit de psychologie en de informatica gebruikt te hebben om muziek te bestuderen, heb ik de laatste tijd met regelmaat gegluurd tussen de gordijnen van de evolutionaire psychologie en de neurobiologie. Dit met de vraag: wat is er te zeggen over de oorsprong van muziek en muzikaliteit vanuit een biologisch en evolutionair perspectief?

In deze lezing zal ik verslag doen. Een bij tijd en wijle letterlijk verslag van een recent ingezet onderzoeksprogramma, een programma waarvan niet meer dan enkele contouren in zicht waren toen ik begon met schrijven. Ik hoop dan ook maar dat de aanwezigen het leuk vinden om mee te gluren. Maar ik hoop ook dat zij niet teleurgesteld zullen zijn als er aan het eind van de lezing geen sluitend antwoord is. Het blijft natuurlijk wetenschap. En dat gaat stapje voor stapje, en niet per definitie in de juiste richting.

Voor meer informatie zie hier.



Photos: Courtesy of Rien van Zuijlen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Does music matter?

The documentary "The Music Instinct" brings together scientists, scholars and musicians to explore the science of music:



Monday, February 27, 2012

Too old to learn how to play an instrument?

Are musicians born or made? What is the line between skill and talent in any domain, and can we acquire either later in life? Is it possible to learn an instrument at the age of forty? Those are the questions that Gary Marcus explores in Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning:
'If critical periods aren't quite so firm as people once believed, a world of possibility emerges for the many adults who harbor secret dreams—whether to learn a language, to become a pastry chef, or to pilot a small plane. And quests like these, no matter how quixotic they may seem, and whether they succeed in the end or not, could bring unanticipated benefits, not just for their ultimate goals but of the journey itself. Exercising our brains helps maintain them, by preserving plasticity (the capacity of the nervous system to learn new thing), warding off degeneration, and literally keeping the blood flowing. Beyond the potential benefits for our brains, there are benefits for our emotional well-being, too. There may be no better way to achieve lasting happiness—as opposed to mere fleeting pleasure—than pursuing a goal that helps us broaden our horizons.'
ResearchBlogging.org Marcus, G. (2012) Guitar Zero. The New Musician and the Science of Learning. New York: Penguin.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is muzikaliteit aangeboren of aangeleerd? [Dutch]

In de NTR-serie Pavlov stellen acht bekende Nederlanders een vraag aan de wetenschap. In deze uitzending test Fleur Bouwer (UvA) de muzikaliteit van Lavinia Meijer.



Zelf ook de luistertest doen? Hij duurt ongeveer twintig minuten. Klik hier.

Voor de volledige uitzending zie de website van Pavlov.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do music lessons make you smarter?

As a follow-up of an earlier entry, announcing a lecture from Glenn Schellenberg at CSCA in Amsterdam, see this link for a recording of that event (UvA streaming video; Sorry, only visible for UvA-students and employees).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does music make you smarter?

Since the publication of Music and spatial task performance in Nature in 1993, numerous researchers have tried to replicate the so-called ‘Mozart effect’: the idea that listening to Mozart's music would make you smarter.

There is now quite some evidence indicating that indeed music listening leads to enhanced performance on a variety of cognitive tests, but also that such effects are short-term and stem from the impact of music on arousal level and mood, which, in turn, affect cognitive performance. However, this is not special to music: experiences other than music listening have similar effects.

However, music lessons in childhood tell a different story. They are associated with small but general and long-lasting intellectual benefits that cannot be attributed to obvious confounding variables such as family income and parents' education (Schellenberg, 2004). However, the mechanisms underlying this association have yet to be determined (Schellenberg & Peretz, 2008). Other controversial issues related to these findings are, for example, the direction of causation -does music influence cognitive skills or is it the other way around?- and the reason why "real musicians" often fail to exhibit enhanced performance on measures of intelligence -if music makes you smarter why aren't musicians generally smarter?

On Wednesday 15 June 2011 Glenn Schellenberg will give a lecture on this topic at the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam (CSCA) of the University of Amsterdam. See here for more information on the lecture and location.

ResearchBlogging.orgSchellenberg, E. G., & Peretz, I. (2008). Music, language and cognition: unresolved issues. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12 (2), 45-46 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2007.11.005

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How musical are you?

The BBC just launched a new experiment which aims to discover more about the science of musicality. How Musical Are You? was designed by BBC Lab UK in collaboration with academics from the Music, Mind and Brain group at Goldsmiths, University of London. The scientific data will be analyzed to establish whether people who are untrained but passionate about music can be just as musical as people who have been formally trained. The experiment includes questionnaires and musical tests that evaluate your ability to categorize musical styles, memorize tunes, and recognize the beat in pieces of music. The tests aim to assess general musical ability.

The initiative was recently covered on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme.
The actual website can be found here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's new on music and the brain?

The Mariani Foundation for Paediatric Neurology just announced The Neurosciences and Music - IV: Learning and Memory, to be held in Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) from 9th to 12th June 2011. The conference is conceived as a continuation of the previous meetings on the relation between Music and the Neurosciences in which our Foundation participated: "The Biological Foundations of Music" (New York, 2000), "The Neurosciences and Music - I , Mutual interactions and implications of developmental functions" (Venice, 2002), "The Neurosciences and Music - II, From perception to performance" (Leipzig, 2005) and "The Neurosciences and Music - III, Disorders and plasticity". These conferences have been highly successful and have generated enormous excitement, both among established and new researchers. By providing the opportunity to present new results and exchange information, the meetings have contributed substantially to the growth of new research and collaborations in the neuroscience of music and to its visibility within the broader scientific community.

The central theme of Music and Neurosciences IV will be Learning and Memory. The conference programme will also be divided into 4 subthemes: "Infants and Children", "Adults: musicians and non musicians", "Disabilities and aging-related issues" and "Therapy and Rehabilitation". The conference will include Keynote Lectures, Symposia, Poster Sessions and a Workshop on child-oriented research design and new data acquisition and analysis techniques, to be held in the afternoon on 9th June. The conference will be of interest not only to neuroscientists, psychologists and students but also to clinical neurologists, clinical psychologists, therapists, music performers and educators as well as musicologists.

Edinburgh has been selected as a most appropriate setting because of the IMHSD - Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, established in 2005, which brings together music research, theory and practice from a wide range of disciplines, with an emphasis on learning and rehabilitation. The selected dates are immediately prior to the "Edinburgh International Film Festival" (EIFF), so delegates will have the opportunity to stay on in Edinburgh to attend this event. The EIFF was one of the world's first international film festivals, born alongside the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, and places a longstanding emphasis upon new talent, discovery and innovation.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wederom de oppervlakkige luisteraar? [Dutch]








Bas van Puttens opiniestuk in NRC Handelsblad (‘Red de cultuur uit de handen van de toptokkies’) is een tragisch voorbeeld van het wij-zij denken in onze cultuur. Dat wij mensen dat klaarblijkelijk aantrekkelijk vinden, tot daaraan toe. Maar begrippen als 'toptokkies' afzetten tegen 'gestudeerde mensen' is nergens voor nodig.

In eerste instantie dacht ik: wat een aardig vormgegeven journalistiek stuk dat de toon van de (populaire) media overneemt om een punt te maken, zoals 'drempelverlagers', 'doelgroepverbreders', 'de populistentrein' of ‘elitetokkies’. Maar even daarna gaat deze toon over in zinssnedes als 'hoogopgeleide autochtone muziekliefhebbers' (HAMs) en heimwee naar de tijd waarin de je 'de amateur een doodschop [kon] geven'.

Dat was het moment waarop ik me, in eerste instantie, te vervreemd achtte om te reageren. Maar in tweede instantie besloot ik om dit juist te doen. Deze schrijver, in zijn naïeve boosheid, spreekt een sentiment aan waar ik, als aangewezen deel van de genoemde (doel)groep van HAMs, niet in mee wens te gaan. Over populisme gesproken...

Toch begrijp ik van Puttens lobby voor een kwaliteitszender voor klassieke muziek; een programmering waar niet zomaar Bach, Beethoven of Boulez wordt ‘gedraaid’, maar juist een zorgvuldig uitgekozen en soms zelfs aangeprezen uitvoering. Daar sta ik helemaal achter. Maar zelfs voor HAMs zou het advies in het luisteren moeten zijn: niet minder, maar meer. En vooral gevarieerder én diverser.

P.S. De veelzeggende illustratie is van Cyprian Koscielniak.

P.S. 2 Discussie op Internet samengevat in het NRC van 2 december 2009:


Saturday, May 30, 2009

A gene for music?

Last week a paper was published in PLoS-ONE suggesting a relation between AVPR1A-Haplotypes and musical creativity. A group of Finish researchers analyzed 19 families with a total of 343 family members on their musical aptitude —using the Seashore test and a test developed by one of the authors— and their DNA profiles. They were able to show an association between these and related genes and levels of musical creativity. The research contrasts earlier research with twins that suggested no such relation (e.g., Coon & Carey, 1989). The authors propose the interesting hypothesis that music perception and creativity in music are linked to the same phenotypic spectrum of human cognitive social skills, like human bonding and altruism, both associated with AVPR1A. Music as a form of ‘extreme’ bonding behavior...

It was just a matter of time for such a study to emerge. Still, the results of this study are merely correlational. I like to think of the capacity for music as shared instead of being special, and a result of complex nature and nurture interactions.

ResearchBlogging.orgUkkola, L., Onkamo, P., Raijas, P., Karma, K., & Järvelä, I. (2009). Musical Aptitude Is Associated with AVPR1A-Haplotypes PLoS ONE, 4 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005534

ResearchBlogging.orgCoon, H., & Carey, G. (1989). Genetic and environmental determinants of musical ability in twins Behavior Genetics, 19 (2), 183-193 DOI: 10.1007/BF01065903

Thursday, July 26, 2007

'Why do people sing so shamelessly out of tune?'

This week a national newspaper called me with this peculiar question. It reminded me immediately of a lecture that Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal) gave this spring in the UK on amusia or tone deafness. In that she showed recent video material of a lab member who sang very much out of tune, but who was not aware of it. Surprising, because he has a degree in music education.

The reason I mention the example is that we often equal a talent for music to performance, such as being able to sing or play an instrument, and not so much to perception, for instance, being sensitive to subtle differences in pitch and timing when listening to music. When somebody sings out of tune, we might infer that he or she has no talent for music.

That is of course a misunderstanding. We can not simply judge someone’s musicality through the acrobatics of performance (Besides it needs years of training; see an earlier posting). More and more research is showing that mere exposure —not musical expertise as a result of formal training— has an influence on making sophisticated musical judgments.

With regard to performance, an intriguing study was done by Simone Dalla Bella and colleagues (just published in JASA). They asked occasional singers, recruited in a public park, to sing a well-known Quebecan birthday song. It was no surprise to find the professional musicians to reproduce the song much more precise than the ‘non-musicians’. However, when the ‘non-musicians’ were invited in the lab, and were asked to sing it again at a slightly slower pace, most sang it just as accurately as the professional singers. Another example that shows that musical skills are more common than we might think.

ResearchBlogging.orgDalla Bella, S., Giguère, J., & Peretz, I. (2007). Singing proficiency in the general population The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 121 (2) DOI: 10.1121/1.2427111