Category Archives: Listening

Music and Memory

Does a life of active involvement in music bestow enhanced memory – more able to withstand the ravages of age? Nina Kraus of the Audio Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois certainly believes so. Why not listen to a short conversation she had with Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM? Scroll forward to 27:50 of this?

The website of the Audio Neuroscience Laboratory is a treasure trove of interesting material.

There is an interesting paragraph about the effects of music on the brain here

Also – have a look at this slide show about the brain’s encoding of music and speech – or the slide show about speech in noise.

There are also three interesting videos on the site:

Free African Drumming Workshop

My colleague, Iain Bruce (East Lothian Strategic Music Partnership Co-ordinator) sent through the following information on a FREE  African Drumming Workshop,  delivered by renowned facilitator, Dougie Hudson.

  • For children & young people aged 10–18 years old
  • Saturday the 21st May, 11 a.m. – 1p.m. at the Haddington Bridge Centre, 11 Poldrate, Haddington, EH41 4DA
  • Call 01620 823 137 to book a place!
  • Workshops will be split according to age

Click this link to download poster (with details) and distribute to your pals: African Drumming Workshop

YouTube Guitar Videos

YouTube guitar videos vary enormously – from the teenage enthusiast who, having switched on the distant videocam, rushes over to the bed to play – to the more seasoned performer who has someone filming them and high post-production values.

Videos of the latter type are to be found on the channel of Roman Gurochkin. Three great videos feature the dynamic Asya Selyutina playing Preludes and Fugues by Nikita Koshkin, whom I once had the privilege of meeting when my friend, Mike McGeary, organised a recital and master classes by this maestro of guitar performance and composition.

Prelude and Fugue in F#m[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rnQJqAxQMiY?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Prelude and Fugue in Am[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0nUuvxGdLGk?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Prelude and Fugue in A[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/YDxYmhze5Do?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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I’m also very taken by this sensitive, wistful performance of a “Ground” by Henry Purcell by Nataly Makovskaya. I really can’t tell if she is reading music, or simply looking straight ahead and listening keenly. What do you think?[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rF1g7JimbKs?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Prosody

Having recently attended Music: An Explanation by a Guitar Hero, which concluded with some deliberations on prosody (the music of speech which amplifies meaning), I chanced upon an inspirational TED talk by film critic, Robert Ebert, who lost his lower jaw, and his speech, through cancer.

Exploring text-to-speech technology, he found that, unless he entered very time-consuming XML coding, the prosody was never quite right. Work is currently in progress with Edinburgh-based company, CereProc to refine his voice, using recorded material from Ebert’s television archive. Exploring their site, I was quite astonished at how far along the speech synthesis road things have travelled. You can hear some of their voices here or type in your own text and choose a voice here. While CereProc finish their refinements, Ebert is using Apple’s Alex voice.

It is very touching to see how Ebert responds during the talk. The words are his own but his wife and two other close friends help out with reading. Despite the fact that the oral delivery is at one remove, he gestures as though delivering the words personally.

Let me, once again, flag up some interesting lectures on prosody by Peter Roach.

The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory

Today I received formal acknowledgement of enrolment in a conference entitled: The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory,

Organised by the Fondazione Mariani in conjunction with Edinburgh University’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, the conference will take place in Edinburgh from 9 – 12 June. As part of what I see as payback for the investment in my attendance there, I intend to post write-ups of relevant content, for the benefit of pupils, colleagues and other interested parties.

Some of the highlights of the conference include:

Impact of musical experience on cerebral language processing – Mathias Oechslin (Chair), Geneva, Switzerland

Why would musical training benefit language functions? A neurobiological perspective? – Aniruddh Patel, San Diego, USA

Memory and learning in music performance – Caroline Palmer and Peter Pfordresher (Chairs)

Keynote lecture – Human memory – Alan Baddeley, York, UK

The functional architecture of Working Memory for tones and phonemes in non-musicians and musicians with and without absolute pitch – Stefan Koelsch, Berlin, Germany

Learning and memory in musical disorders – Psyche Loui and Isabelle Peretz (Chairs)

Leonard Bernstein

A post of John Connell‘s some time ago about polymaths encouraged me to wonder if I regarded anyone in such a light. I immediately thought of pianist, conductor, composer, linguist, educator, broadcaster Leonard Bernstein. Imagine my surprise when I chanced upon his appearance in Radio 4’s biographical programme Great Lives. He’d been chosen as this week’s subject by Charles Hazlewood – in many ways a similar character – who, within a few moments, described Bernstein as a polymath!

If you are interested in connections between music and language, I can think of no better place to explore than Bernstein’s Norton Lectures.

You can hear the programme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010626p.

The end of remembering

As revision classes kick off in East Lothian schools, I chanced upon an interesting talk, on LSE podcasts, about learning and memory by science journalist, Joshua Foer – author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Entitled The End of Remembering, this turned out not to be exactly the talk I was expecting. While the risks of outsourcing our memories and memorising skills to technology is certainly touched upon, there is more in the way of practical advice and theory of learning: Baker/baker paradox; spatial memory and mnemonics; cognitive/associative/autonomous phases of learning a skill (Fitts and Posner).

Although the mp3 of the talk lasts for 1:04:01, much of this is given over to questions. The talk lasts for 26 mins.
An interesting coining in the Q&A was artificial synaesthesia – choosing to summon up and make use of making use of the kind of associations about which synaesthetes have no choice.

You can download/listen to the talk here.

Sight-reading, rhythm, recording…

Coping with the abstractions of music, when teaching, often relies on analogy to help pupils grasp otherwise elusive ideas. Consequently, you end up with a bank of ideas of all the things to which music seems comparable. However, this doesn’t often run the other way round – and, in my experience, people using music as an analogy for something else often don’t quite hit the spot.

Listening to Radio 4’s Open Book the other day, I caught an article about a new, unabridged audio book version of George Eliot‘s Middlemarch. At nearly 36 hours on 28 CDs, recording this 800-page novel is a gargantuan task. The reader, Juliet Stevenson, completed it in 12 days – a feat of which many musical recording artists would be extremely proud. She talks here about the many features involved – notably rhythm (of character and also of writer), inhabiting character, and coping with paragraph-long sentences – scroll forward to 19′ 20”

p.s. if this doesn’t seem like a big deal, why not try recording yourself reading a few paragraphs?

Ghost Voices

Ever heard Bertolt Brecht sing? Visit 6:00 into this programme (while it lasts on iPlayer) to hear an extract from Mack The Knife, recorded in 1929.

If you’re interested in voices and can’t exactly place the face of the narrator in the photo (on iPlayer) – it’s Andy Serkis, who has played not only Ian Dury but Gollum (in Lord of the Rings).