Monday, May 22, 2017

Want to know how music works?

www.mcg.uva.nl/howmusicworks
The University of Amsterdam now offers two Master-level courses grouped under the name “How Music Works”. Several members of the Music Cognition Group contribute their various backgrounds to these courses, ranging from music theory and cognitive science to psychology and computer science. Next to outlining the theoretical underpinnings and presenting an up-to-date view of the field of music cognition, it provides practical hands-on classes presenting a variety of computational techniques and experimental designs.

See for more information: www.mcg.uva.nl/howmusicworks

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Is muziek een luxe? [Dutch]

Deze week een fragment van een interview door Joris Janssen in de NewScientist over de mogelijke biologische basis van muzikaliteit:

'Muziek is te lang een luxe geweest. Ieder mens heeft gevoel voor muziek, zoals iedereen dat ook heeft voor taal. Maar waar dat gevoel precies vandaan komt, is een wetenschappelijk raadsel.'

Is muzikaliteit  aangeboren?
'Het is eerder aanleg. Het is een combinatie tussen wat je via de genen meekrijgt en de omgeving. Uit onderzoek blijkt dat gevoel voor intonatie en ritme al heel vroeg actief is. Zelfs al in de baarmoeder. In de laatste drie maanden van de zwangerschap kan een baby al horen en melodietjes onthouden. Met ons EEG-onderzoek hebben we laten zien dat baby’s daarnaast ook maatgevoel hebben: ze horen de regelmaat in de muziek.’

Hoe onderzoek je de evolutionaire oorsprong van muziek?
‘Daarvoor vergelijken we dit soort resultaten met die van andere diersoorten. Zo proberen we de vraag te beantwoorden of muzikaliteit een oude, met meerdere dieren gedeelde vaardigheid is. Dat lijkt vooralsnog niet zo te zijn. De mens blijkt namelijk de enige apensoort met maatgevoel. Dit delen we, voor zover we nu weten, met slechts twee andere soorten: kaketoes en zeeleeuwen. Kaketoe Snowball en zeeleeuw Ronan zijn beroemd in ons vakgebied vanwege hun maatgevoel. Dat alleen zij maatgevoel met ons delen, is curieus. We weten nog niet waarom dat zo is.’

Zie het volledige interview hier.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Can birds perceive rhythmic patterns?

The specific question whether animals can detect regularity in a stimulus and synchronize their own behavior to arbitrary rhythmic patterns got sudden attention with the discovery of Snowball, a sulphur-crested cockatoo that could synchronize head and body movements with the beat in several popular songs (see earlier entry). Parrots, such as Snowball, are vocal learners and vocal learning is associated with evolutionary modifications to the basal ganglia, which play a key role in mediating a link between auditory input and motor output during learning. As such linkage between auditory and motor areas in the brain is also required for beat induction, Patel suggested that only vocal learning species might be able to show beat induction. However, further studies have shown the picture to be more complicated (see earlier entry) and this calls for a re-examination of the link between vocal learning and beat perception and induction. While zebra finches (vocal learners) are able to discriminate a regular isochronous from an irregular stimulus (Van der Aa et al., 2015), this discrimination was strongly reduced with tempo transformations (changing rate, but not the regularity of the stimulus). Zebra finches seem to attend strongly to specific local features of the individual stimuli (e.g. the exact duration of time intervals) rather than the overall regularity of the stimuli, which was the main feature human listeners attended to (Van der Aa et al., 2015).

Figure 3 from Ten Cate et al. (2016)
In a recent paper (Ten Cate et al., 2016) we review the available experimental evidence for the perception of regularity and rhythms by birds, like the ability to distinguish regular from irregular stimuli over tempo transformations and report data from new experiments. While some species show a limited ability to detect regularity, most evidence suggests that birds attend primarily to absolute and not relative timing of patterns and to local features of stimuli. We conclude that, apart from some large parrot species, there is limited evidence for beat and regularity perception among birds and that the link to vocal learning is unclear. We next report experiments in which zebra finches and budgerigars (both vocal learners) were first trained to distinguish a regular from an irregular pattern of beats and then tested on various tempo transformations of these stimuli. The results showed that both species reduced the discrimination after tempo transformations. This suggests that, as was found in earlier studies, they attended mainly to local temporal features of the stimuli, and not to their overall regularity. However, some individuals of both species showed an additional sensitivity to the more global pattern if some local features were left unchanged. Altogether our study indicates both between and within species variation, in which birds attend to a mixture of local and global rhythmic features.

ResearchBlogging.org van der Aa, J., Honing, H., & ten Cate, C. (2015). The perception of regularity in an isochronous stimulus in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) and humans Behavioural Processes, 115, 37-45 DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2015.02.018

ResearchBlogging.org ten Cate, C., Spierings, M., Hubert, J., & Honing, H. (2016). Can Birds Perceive Rhythmic Patterns? A Review and Experiments on a Songbird and a Parrot Species Frontiers in Psychology, 7 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00730

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Degelijk stemadvies? [Dutch]


In het partijprogramma van de Vrijzinnige Partij staat de volgende curieuze zin:
"Een vrijzinnig geluid is een zuiver geluid. [..] Muziek is goed voor de gezondheid van de mens, maar dan wel met de goede natuurlijke grondtoon van 432 Hz."
Wat klopt daar van? Kan een stemtoon natuurlijk zijn? Wanneer is muziek vals? En waarom vinden mensen dat zo belangrijk?

Waar de één het verschil tussen 10 trillingen per seconden weet te relativeren, heeft het voor een ander een genadeloze impact. (For a discussion in English, see here and here.)

Zie website Kostgangers en iTunes.

Update: 2 maart 2017
Hilarisch verslag in de Volkskrant: "Vrijzinnige Partij: verlaag de grondtoon, deze wekt verdeeldheid en agressie op"


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Want to know more about human musicality?

Cover of The Scientist, Vol. 31, Issue 3 on Music
Some quotes from the March issue of The Scientist dedicated to the topic of music and musicality:
Music’s universality in humans, combined with its fundamental social and cultural roles, is convincing evidence to some that our musicality is adaptive.
Are musical tendencies the prod­uct of culture, or have they evolved along with our abilities to produce and process music?
If these properties are absent in some cultures, they can’t be strictly determined by something in the biology
See the full issue here.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interested in music, language and cognition?

Lake Como School of Advanced Study
In recent years, the relationships and interactions between language, music and the brain have stimulated substantial interest in the scientific community; the study of these relationships is emerging as a new interdisciplinary field, involving psychology, linguistics, music and neuroscience. An interesting aspect of these studies is how they focuses attention on an often neglected area of human behavior, namely its temporal dimension. Bio-musicological and neuro-linguistic studies have produced significant findings for our understanding of cognitive and social processes, of evolution, and for the role that music may have in education and in rehabilitation of language and, more generally, of cognitive disorders.

The Summer School “Music, Language and Cognition” offers an extended overview of complex behavioral events whose existence is time dependent, including language, music and body movement. We focus on how sounds, melodies, rhythm and syntactic information in music and language may afford the extraction of regularities, the generation of expectations, the coordination of perception and action, the directing of attention, and the priming of interactive social behavior. Lecturers will be integrated by brain storming and students presentations.

See the website more information.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Interested in a PhD in music cognition at the University of Amsterdam?


The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) currently has a PhD position available at the Faculty of Science starting on 1 September 2017 (or as soon after that as possible). Applications are now invited from excellent candidates wishing to conduct research in an area within ILLC (i.e. mathematics, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, or music cognition) that fits naturally in the Faculty of Science. See website for more information.

N.B. The deadline for applications is 15 February 2017