How do film-makers manipulate our emotions with music?

BBC Arts & Culture has an article with the above title which cites a couple of music cognition studies.  The BBC is currently airing a program called  Sound of Cinema:  The Music that Made the Movies which you can watch if you happen to live in the appropriate country (or if you use a VPN service–not advocating its use, just mentioning that it’s a possibility).

As for me, my usual approach to overwhelming movie music is to turn down the sound (or, if I’m in a theater, to plug my ears).

How do film-makers manipulate our emotions with music? by Helen Stewart  BBC Arts & Culture

Posted in sound | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Do informal musical activities shape auditory skill development in preschool-age children?

This article reviews the literature regarding the effect of “musically active” families on the musical development of children, and takes the position that based on the research, early music activities (including with infants) can affect children’s ability to learn, or, as they put it “everyday musical activities are a rich source of experiences that may have the potential to shape auditory skill development.”

Title: Do informal musical activities shape auditory skill development in preschool-age children?
Authors: Vesa Putkinen, Katri Saarikivi and Mari Tervaniemi
Journal: Frontiers in Psychology v. 4, 2013.
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00572
Free full text available online.

The influence of formal musical training on auditory cognition has been well established. For the majority of children, however, musical experience does not primarily consist of adult-guided training on a musical instrument. Instead, young children mostly engage in everyday musical activities such as singing and musical play. Here, we review recent electrophysiological and behavioral studies carried out in our laboratory and elsewhere which have begun to map how developing auditory skills are shaped by such informal musical activities both at home and in playschool-type settings. Although more research is still needed, the evidence emerging from these studies suggests that, in addition to formal musical training, informal musical activities can also influence the maturation of auditory discrimination and attention in preschool-aged children.

Posted in music education | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Two articles from the July 2013 issue of Psychology of Music

The July 2013 issue of Psychology of Music is available online (although it’s behind a paywall in most databases).  I summarized the abstracts of a couple of the more interesting-sounding articles below, but you can check out the full table of contents by clicking here.  

  • Exploring a rationale for choosing to listen to sad music when feeling sad Psychology of Music July 2013 41: 440-465, first published on December 21, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735611430433  This article asks why people choose to listen to sad music “after experiencing negative psychological circumstances.”  They studied “65 adults across five countries”  and conclude that “these findings present core insights into the dynamics and value of choosing to listen to self-identified sad music when coping with negative psychological circumstances.” I’m curious first about how they determined what constituted “sad music” and secondly how they determined that people choose to listen to sad music when they’re sad, but we’ll have to wait for the details until the paper emerges from behind the paywall.
  • Enhancing genre-based measures of music preference by user-defined liking and social tags Psychology of Music July 2013 41: 499-518, first published on May 22, 2012 doi:10.1177/0305735612440611  From the abstract:  “Musical preferences are typically determined by asking participants to indicate their favourite musical genres. These genre-based measures have some considerable pitfalls, since specific pieces of music in a genre might be liked more than the genre itself, and finding consensus to define a genre is often a challenging task. The aims of the present study were to (1) assess how effective genre-based measures are at identifying musical preferences, by comparing them to free responses; (2) demonstrate how the fit can be improved between the genre-based measures and sampled population; and (3) suggest and evaluate methods that use lists of liked and disliked artists to define musical preferences.”  They used two surveys which revealed “that for 29% of the individuals, the genre-based measures did not successfully account for their musical preferences” and they came up “the Artist-based Musical Preferences (AMP) as a more ecologically valid instrument to assess musical preferences.”


Posted in journals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A rundown on recent music news & blog posts

While I’m excited about the relatively new Music Cognition U: A Resource Center, it seems that just grabbing a news feed may not be the best way to ensure that you’re always providing relevant articles.  For example, a recent post on the news feed is this one:
McGuinty prorogued parliament to avoid ‘facing the music,’ opposition leaders … – National Post. 16 October, 2012  Nope, no music cognition there.  A more interesting article from the newsfeed is this one from Scientific American blogs:  The Power of Music:  Mind Control by Rhythmic Sound

Other recent blog posts which I found valuable are these from the Music and Brain Blog at University of Toronto:

One can never go wrong following Henkjan Honing’s Music Matters blog.  Recently, he addressed the question Is Birdsong Music?

Based on the title, I find this the strangest article of the week (and no, I haven’t read it yet):

The effect of background music on the taste of wine. by Adrian C. North  British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953), Vol. 103, No. 3. (August 2012), pp. 293-301, doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02072.x

This blog post isn’t about music cognition, but it’s exceptionally well-written by Elaine Fine, who talks about finding musical truth in Fish Story  My favorite excerpts from her post are My problem is that I do worry about the purity of my sound, the quality of my sound, the the accuracy of my intonation, and I have been kind of obsessed with this way of making music for a long time, and on many different instruments. and When I was young I used to think that I could help to make the world a better place through music. I believed it with all my heart and soul, because I felt that music was singular. I felt that music was the clearest way to communicate truth and authenticity, and I have dedicated my life to trying to play in a way that communicates truth.

What is a musician?  As I plug away at the guitar, at which I am not only an amateur, but also, after three years, still a beginner, I appreciated the sentiments in Valerie Kampmeier‘s post on The Music Teacher’s Blog Call me an amateur, please!

If you need performance tips, The Musician’s Way Blog published a recent post called Excelling Under Pressure.  And, although I question the advice to Eat a Banana!, this post on Performance Tips from the Music Teacher’s Blog has other useful advice, including the idea of memorizing using all your senses.

I hope to make this overview of other blog’s posts a frequent feature of our blog.  If you’ve run across any fascinating music-related blog posts or articles in the last few weeks, feel free to add them to the comments.

Posted in blog posts, journals | Leave a comment

Psychology of Music November 2012

The major articles published in the latest Psychology of Music are listed below.  You can see the complete table of contents here:

Authors:  Marion Long, Susan Hallam, Andrea Creech, Helena Gaunt, and Linnhe Robertson
Title:  Do prior experience, gender, or level of study influence music students’ perspectives on master classes?
Pages:  683-699, first published on April 13, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735610394709

Authors:  William Forde Thompson, E. Glenn Schellenberg, and Adriana Katharine Letnic
Title:  Fast and loud background music disrupts reading comprehension
Pages: 700-708, first published on May 20, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735611400173
From the abstract:  “…listening to background instrumental music is most likely to disrupt reading comprehension when the music is fast and loud.”

Authors:  Joanne P. S. Yeoh and  Adrian C. North
Title:  The effect of musical fit on consumers’ preferences between competing alternate petrols
Pages:  709-719, first published on October 12, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735611408994
From the abstract:  “…musical ‘fit’ can influence product choice when consumers do not have a clear existing preference for one product over another, but is otherwise of limited commercial value.”

Author:  Diana Blom
Title:  Inside the collaborative inter-arts improvisatory process: Tertiary music students’ perspectives
Pages:  720-737, first published on May 9, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735611401127

Authors:  Naomi Ziv, Moran Hoftman, and Mor Geyer
Title:  Music and moral judgment: The effect of background music on the evaluation of ads promoting unethical behavior
Pages:  738-760, first published on July 4, 2011 doi:10.1177/0305735611406579
From the abstract: “…In all the studies, background music led to reduced recall of information. Positive-valence music reduced awareness of the unethical message, and increased acceptance of the product. The results demonstrate the power of music to manipulate and bias moral judgment.”

Posted in journals | Leave a comment

Music Cognition Table of Contents for Topics in Cognitive Science

One-third of the October 2012 issue of Topics in Cognitive Science is devoted to the question “Why should music be of interest to cognitive scientists?”  (as blogged by Henkjan Honing at Music Matters.  While I read the abstracts of several of these articles back in August, it’s nice to be able to read the full text now.  I will make an attempt to write about as many of these articles as possible during the next week, but to start with, here’s the table of contents, along with links to my citeulike page.

October 2012  volume 4, issue 4  pages 467-684

Music Cognition and the Cognitive Sciences

Music Cognition and the Cognitive Sciences (pages 468–484)
Marcus Pearce and Martin Rohrmeier
Article first published online: 11 OCT 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01226.x

Development and Evolution

Music Cognition: A Developmental Perspective (pages 485–497)
Stephanie M. Stalinski and E. Glenn Schellenberg
Article first published online: 18 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01217.x

Musicality: Instinct or Acquired Skill? (pages 498–512)
Gary F. Marcus
Article first published online: 7 SEP 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01220.x

Cognition and the Evolution of Music: Pitfalls and Prospects (pages 513–524)
Henkjan Honing and Annemie Ploeger
Article first published online: 3 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01210.x

Learning and Processing

Implicit Learning and Acquisition of Music (pages 525–553)
Martin Rohrmeier and Patrick Rebuschat
Article first published online: 11 OCT 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01223.x

Learning and Liking of Melody and Harmony: Further Studies in Artificial Grammar Learning (pages 554–567)
Psyche Loui
Article first published online: 3 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01208.x

Music and Language Perception: Expectations, Structural Integration, and Cognitive Sequencing (pages 568–584)
Barbara Tillmann
Article first published online: 3 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01209.x

Neural Mechanisms of Rhythm Perception: Current Findings and Future Perspectives (pages 585–606)
Jessica A. Grahn
Article first published online: 18 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01213.x

Computational Modeling

Modeling Listeners’ Emotional Response to Music (pages 607–624)
Tuomas Eerola
Article first published online: 2 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01188.x

Auditory Expectation: The Information Dynamics of Music Perception and Cognition(pages 625–652)
Marcus T. Pearce and Geraint A. Wiggins
Article first published online: 30 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01214.x

Cross-cultural Perspectives

Music Perception and Cognition: A Review of Recent Cross-Cultural Research(pages 653–667)
Catherine J. Stevens
Article first published online: 18 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01215.x

Cognitive Science and the Cultural Nature of Music (pages 668–677)
Ian Cross
Article first published online: 18 JUL 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01216.x


Two Challenges in Cognitive Musicology (pages 678–684)
David Huron
Article first published online: 11 OCT 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01224.x

Posted in journals | Tagged | Leave a comment

Music and Early Language Acquisition

Authors:  Anthony Brandt, Molly Gebrian and L. Robert Slevc
Publication:  Frontiers in Psychology
Publication volume & issue:  vol 3 no. 00327 Year:  2012
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327
From the abstract:  “…we argue that it is more productive from a developmental perspective to describe spoken language as a special type of music. A review of existing studies presents a compelling case that musical hearing and ability is essential to language acquisition. In addition, we challenge the prevailing view that music cognition matures more slowly than language and is more difficult; instead, we argue that music learning matches the speed and effort of language acquisition. We conclude that music merits a central place in our understanding of human development.”

The full text of this article is available online.  (via Anthropologist in the Attic

As I read this article, I kept thinking what Bernstein would have made of it, and thus I give you lecture 2 from his 1973 Harvard lectures, The Unanswered Question.

Posted in literature review | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Composing by Listening: A Computer-Assisted System for Creating Emotional Music

Authors: Quinto, Lena and William Forde Thompson.
Publication: International Journal of Synthetic Emotions (IJSE)
Publication volume & issue: vol. 3 issue 2 (2012) pages 48-67.
DOI: 10.4018/jse.2012070103 ( doesn’t recognize this DOI).
Abstract: Most people communicate emotion through their voice, facial expressions, and gestures. However, it is assumed that only “experts” can communicate emotions in music. The authors have developed a computer-based system that enables musically untrained users to select relevant acoustic attributes to compose emotional melodies. Nonmusicians (Experiment 1) and musicians (Experiment 3) were progressively presented with pairs of melodies that each differed in an acoustic attribute (e.g., intensity – loud vs. soft). For each pair, participants chose the melody that most strongly conveyed a target emotion (anger, fear, happiness, sadness or tenderness). Once all decisions were made, a final melody containing all choices was generated. The system allowed both untrained and trained participants to compose a range of emotional melodies. New listeners successfully decoded the emotional melodies of nonmusicians (Experiment 2) and musicians (Experiment 4). Results indicate that human-computer interaction can facilitate the composition of emotional music by musically untrained and trained individuals.

The first two pages of the article are available online.  I was unable to access the full text version, but this is an article I’d like to read, especially to examine the methodology.

Posted in research | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Now for the Weird Al perspective…

Weird Al answers the question “Why is music so powerful?f”

Posted in meaning | Leave a comment

Hearing and the Mind

The Brian Lehrer Show has an interview with Seth Horowitz about his book, The Universal Sense:  How Hearing Shapes the Mind.  The podcast is online here:


Posted in sound | Leave a comment