Category Archives: Listening

Music, language and hearing (or not)

There’s really much, much more to this video by Charles Limb than the couple of points I’m about to select but here goes….

There is a very clear depiction, at 06:15, of the difference of range of frequencies (Hz) and level (dB) in music and language.

There is also an interesting demonstration, at 07:07, of how those of us with normal hearing take pitch perception for granted – compared to cochlear implant patients, whose perception can be out by as much as two octaves[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bTE0MRRXNzs?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

There is also a very interesting talk on neuroscience and musical improvisation by the same author here – look out for great demo of piano improvisation by Keith Jarret at 01:15 – including some nice ‘outside playing‘ at 02:08 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BomNG5N_E_0?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 

 

Musical Terms

There was a time when many used to feel that it was fine to question Wikipedia’s accuracy. I never really felt this and can’t recall spotting an error – perhaps I know less than those critics.

I’m impressed by their glossary of musical terms – particularly the iPhone version, the alphabetical arrangement of which is elegant and user friendly. A nervous pupil, en route to a grade exam, could do worse than to look check up a few of these in the car. At home on PC it is a great resource – particularly when used in conjunction with Windows search function – Ctrl+F then the first few letters of the term in question.

Of course, when it comes to SQA concepts, there is no better site than LTS’ one – where audio illustrations of the concepts are included.

The Science of Sound

If you like the mix of music/sound and science – plus a bit of comedy – why not listen to this episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage?

The programme features Professor Brian Cox; Robin Ince; University of Salford’s acoustic expert Professor Trevor Cox; neuroscientist Professor Chris Plack; violinist Julian Gregory; comedian and former acoustics student Tom Wrigglesworth.

Topics covered include major/minor-happy/sad correlation; why some sounds fill us with horror; acoustics of concert halls; musical intervals and maths/ratios – including the tritone also known as Diabolus in Musica (The Devil in Music).

The Latest Scores

 It’s hardly surprising that, in a culture of written music such as the western classical tradition, the look of the music has become more complicated throughout its centuries-old develpment. If you’ve not had the opportunity to see some more out there scores, there is a great collection on the YouTube channel of the enigmatically named ch252525.

Here is an example (click the link above for more):[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/XpCfdRVXG1E?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

p.s. the Google Ad on screen is not part of the score 🙂

Neuroscience and Education

I was pleased to see the topic of neuroscience and education make an appearance in Radio 4’s Brain Season. Tuesday’s crepuscular drive home was brightened up by the second of Matthew Taylor‘s 3-part series Brain Culture: Neuroscience & Society.

This particular episode touched on such topics as early years (stimulation – or lack thereof) and use of games in the classroom. What grabbed my attention the most, however, was when the conversation turned to praise and self-esteem. There was the suggestion that praising young people for being clever may not help them when they hit a wall as much as praising them for effort. *

You can hear the programme here (and there seems to be no suggestion of the usual removal date).

* ps the day after posting this I came across the following quote from @greatestquotes on Twitter

“It’s not that I’m so smart , it’s just that I stay with problems longer .” – Albert Einstein

Conference 1

I recently experienced four days which I would have to sum up as amongst the most stimulating but toughest days I can recall. They were spent at a conference (organised by the Mariani Foundation and hosted by Edinburgh University – specifically Katie Overy of the IMHSD) entitled: The Neurosciences and Music: Learning & Memory

 Stimulating for the following reasons: 

  • dedicated, uninterrupted time to devote to an area of fascination which often only pops up intermittently – namely the intersection of music, language, memory, learning, science (of various sorts)
  • the world’s leading thinkers – many of whose names I had already come across – were presenting recent research
  • the questions/comments often added another dimension to the talks – I noted that resonant, thought-provoking questions were equally likely from delegates in identical or contrasting fields to the speaker

 Tough for the following reasons: 

  • although I am now very interested in science, I do not have a scientific background – my last formal contact was failing Higher Chemistry and Physics in 1977
  • speed – all speakers were keen to run to time and presentations were necessarily quick – this meant that slides containing acronyms, data, graphs, brain scans etc. seemed to be racing by*
  • concentration – not my own (although this was no doubt challenged) but more the concentration of 18 hours of listening and a further 6 hours of poster viewing/chat to authors over four days was quite dense 

I would equate the content of those four days with at least a year’s reading, TV/radio documentaries, on-line exploration. For that reason, I was glad to have my Zoom H2 mp3 recorder with me and intend to re-visit many of the talks in order to write things up over time. Until then, though, here is an outline of content to give some broad overview of the content. 

*One of the delegates seated next to me, using an iPad, switched seamlessly between – typing, photographing, videoing. That’s the way to go! Other devices are available 🙂

Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning & Memory

 DAY 1  – Thu 9 June

 

  Registration

 “Working with Infants and Children”

 Workshop 1Experimental Methods  – 4 x 30 minute presentations

 Workshop 2 – Social / Real World Methods – 4 x 20 minute presentations

 Day 2 – Fri 10 June

 

 Keynote lecture Human memory – 45 minutes

Symposium IMechanisms of Rhythm and Meter Learning over the Life Span – 3 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 2Impact of Musical Experience on Cerebral Language Processing – 4 x 30 minute presentations

Symposium 3Cultural Neuroscience of Music – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session I – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 3 – Saturday 11 June


Symposium 4 Memory and Learning in Music Performance 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 5Mind and Brain in Musical Imagery – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 6 Plasticity and Malplasticity in Health and Disease – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session II – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 4 – Sunday 12 June

Symposium 7The Role of Music in Stroke Rehabilitation: neural mechanisms and therapeutic techniques – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 8Music: A Window into the World of Autism – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Symposium 9Learning and Memory in Musical disorders – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Edinburgh International Film Festival previews – neuroscience is a theme this year – 15 min presentation

Conclusions and thanks.

Poster session III – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 18 hours of talks – 6 hours of poster sessions

45 Speakers

300+ delegates

Prosody Revisited

Tidying up at the end of a primary school day, I was delighted when two P5 girls helped out without being asked. For some reason, best known to themselves, they burst into an animated version of Two Little Dickie Birds. Then one suggested, “why don’t we play that song?” I replied,  “we could, but I’m wondering if it’s more of a poem than a song. If we took the words away, would there be any tune left for us to play?”  After a moment’s reflection, one said:

Da dada dada da,  dada dada da  –

Da da dada – ,  da da da 

Dada da dada – ,  dada da da

Da da dada – ,  da da da  –

The inflections in the voice were identical to the version with words.

So, what is the prosodic equivalent of the popular line, “I’m a poet and didn’t know it?”

Your Brain on Improv

Many musicians are in awe of the ability to improvise in others and nervous at the prospect of being called upon to do it themselves. Many non-musicians find it bewildering that anyone can create on the hoof in solo or ensemble situations. Dr. Charles Limb, takes a look at the workings of the brain, comparing particularly memorised and improvised content in this TED video At the beginning of the talk, he stresses how he will be asking more questions than providing answers – the science is in its infancy, after all. But these are good questions:

  • What is creative genius?
  • Why does the brain seek creativity?
  • How do we acquire creativity?
  • What factors disrupt creativity?
  • Can creative behaviour be learned?

The title of the talk, Your Brain on Improv is, I feel certain, a nod to Daniel Levitin‘s great book, This is Your Brain on Music (look inside it here).

If you’ve ever wondered what jazzers are referring to by the expression playing outside, then pay particular attention to what Keith Jarret does at 2:12 in the video within the video. As you lead up to this moment, try to focus on the key – the centre of gravity of the piece – and see if the outside playing threatens it. Then imagine how he feels!