Daniel Levitin: Why Music Moves Us

Daniel Levitin tweeted about the interview below, conducted by Steve Paikin.

Posted in music cognition, sound | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Music Perception December 2011

Here’s the Table of Contents from the December issue of Music Perception.  If you click on a title, it will take you to the first page & citation in JSTOR.  I’ve included excerpts from some of the abstracts.  This issue should be of interest to any music educator.

  •  Music Training and Nonmusical Abilities: Introduction  From the abstract:   The objective of this special issue of Music perception…is to present the best new research on associations between music training and nonmusical abilities. . .
  • Playing Music for a Smarter Ear: Cognitive, Perceptual and Neurobiological Evidence  From the abstract:  In this review we argue not only that common neural mechanisms for speech and music exist, but that experience in music leads to enhancements in sensory and cognitive contributors to speech processing.
  • Associations Between Length of Music Training and Reading Skills in Children
  • Music Training and Reading Readiness
  • Effect of Music Training on Promoting Preliteracy Skills: Preliminary Causal Evidence
  • The Effect of Background Music on Cognitive Performance in Musicians and Nonmusicians  From the abstract:  There is debate about the extent of overlap between music and language processing in the brain and whether these processes are functionally independent in expert musicians.  A language comprehension task and a visuospatial search task were administered to 36 expert musicians and 36 matched nonmusicians in conditions of silence and piano music played correctly and incorrectly.  Musicians performed more poorly on the language comprehension task in the presence of background music compared to silence, but there was no effect of background music on the musicians’ performance on the visuospatial task.  In contrast, the performance of the nonmusicians was not affected by music on either task. . . Additionally, musicians outperformed nonmusicians on both tasks . . .
  • Music Lessons, Emotional Intelligence, and IQ
  • Music Lessons and Intelligence: A Relation Mediated by Executive Functions  From the abstract:  . . . Intelligence and five different executive functions (set shifting, selective attention, planning, inhibition, and fluency) were assessed in 9- to 12-year-old children with varying amounts of music lessons. Significant associations emerged between music lessons and all of the measures of executive function. . . . Our results suggest that at least part of the association between music lessons and intelligence is explained by the positive influence music lessons have on executive functions, which in turn improve performance on intelligence tests.
  • Do Mathematicians Have Above Average Musical Skill?  From the abstract:  . . . We examined the popular conception that mathematicians have better music abilities than nonmathematicians. We administered a self-report questionnaire via the internet to assess musicality (music perception and music memory) and musicianship (music performance and music creation). Respondents were doctoral-level members of the American Mathematical Association or the Modern Language Association (i.e., literature and language scholars). The mathematics group did not exhibit higher levels of either musicality or musicianship. Among those reporting high music-performance ability (facility in playing an instrument and/or sight-reading ability), mathematicians did not report significantly greater musicality than did the literature/language scholars. . . .
  • Music Instruction and its Diverse Extra-Musical Benefits  From the abstract:  This article provides an overview of our research, including studies yet unpublished, on the effects of music on cognition. Music instruction can enhance children’s spatial-temporal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and phonemic awareness. Longitudinal studies of middle-income and economically disadvantaged preschoolers reveal that children who receive music instruction prior to age 7 show improved performance on spatial-temporal and numerical reasoning tasks compared to children in control groups—effects that persist for two years after the intervention ends. . . . Our studies also show improved perceptual discrimination as a function of music training: adult string players have lower than average pitch discrimination thresholds, whereas adult percussionists have lower than average temporal discrimination thresholds.
Posted in journals, music education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cool stuff

The latest edition of Music Perception is out, and JSTOR is finally including some abstracts instead of just links to the first page of the article.  I’ll be posting the table of contents soon.

@DanLevitin tweeted about this article from BBC News:
How can musicians keep playing despite amnesia?  When British conductor and musician Clive Wearing contracted a brain infection in 1985 he was left with a memory span of only 10 seconds.

Henkjan Honing posted his TedxAmsterdam talk, What makes us musical animals?  on his blog, Music Matters.


Posted in music cognition | Leave a comment

Chicks like consonant music.

Jason G. Goldman, writing in Scientific American, discusses the research by Giorgio Vallortigara and Cinzia Chiandetti about chicks’ preference for consonant over dissonant music.

Chiandetti, C., & Vallortigara, G. (2011). Chicks like consonant music. Psychological science 22 (10), 1270-1273.  URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797611418244

From the abstract:  The question of whether preference for consonance is rooted in acoustic properties important to the auditory system or is acquired through enculturation has not yet been resolved.  Two-month-old infants prefer consonant over dissonant intervals, but it is possible that this preference is rapidly acquired through exposure to music soon after birth or in utero. . . In the research reported here, we found that newly hatched domestic chicks show a spontaneous preference for a visual imprinting object associated with consonant sound intervals over an identical object associated with dissonant sound intervals…

Public Domain photograph from Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in sound | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mapping the brain

Ted posted a relatively new talk today about a project to create a detailed map of the brain.  To quote the Ted website, In this visually stunning talk, Allan Jones shows how his team is mapping which genes are turned on in each tiny region, and how it all connects up.  While the applications he mentions are medical, not musical, I wonder about music cognition when he states that …we all have different genetic backgrounds; we all have lived separate lives, but the fact is our genomes are greater than 99% similar, we’re very, very similar at the genetic level, and what we’re finding is actually even at the brain biochemical level, we are quite similar…it’s not 99%, but it’s roughly 90% correspondence at a reasonable cutoff…We find some outliers…and those genes are interesting, but they’re very subtle.  Does musical aptitude reside in the subtle outliers?  We still have much to learn about the role of genetics in absolute pitch, congenital amusia,  and other aspects of music cognition.

The Allen Brain Atlas is online here.

Posted in brain research | Leave a comment

Music and Grief

Here’s another fascinating podcast from the Library of Congress:


Posted in music education | Leave a comment

Music Perception September 2011

The September issue of Music Perception is now available in JSTOR.

The table of contents is available here.  Even without access to JSTOR, you can view the first page of each article online.

The articles in this issue are listed below.

  • Our Varying Histories and Future Potential: Models and Maps in Science, the Humanities, and in Music Theory by Eugene Narmour.
  • Music perception and Cognition Research from 1893 to 2010: A  Categorical and Bibliometric Analysis of Empirical Articles in Music Perception by Anna K. Tiorvolas and Daniel J. Levitin
  • Does the Body Move the Soul?  The Impact of Arousal on Music Preference by Thomas Schafer and Peter Sedlmeier
  • Music-Language Correlations and the “Scotch Snap” by Nicholas & David Temperley
  • The Effects of Stimulus Rate and Tapping Rate on Tapping Performance by Benjamin Rich Zendel, Bernhard Ross, and Takako Fujioka
  • Rhythmic Abilities of Adolescents and Adults with Williams Syndrome by Pastora Martínez-Castilla, María Sotillo,  and Ruth Campos
  • Beyond Demand:  Investigating Spontaneous Evaluation of Chord Progressions with the Affective Priming Paradigm by Mira Müller, Julian Klein, and Thomas Jacobsen
  • Practice Makes Too Perfect:  Fluctuations in Loudness Indicate Spontaneity in Musical Improvisation by Peter E. Keller, Andreas Weber, and Annerose Engel
  • Rhythmic Refinements to the nPVI Measure: A Reanalysis of Patel & Daniele (2003a) by Justin London and Katherine Jones
Posted in journals | Leave a comment