Perceiving and producing music involves complex processing. In the 2013 NeuroMusic Conference, three invited speakers will explore different aspects of modeling the musical experience. Dr. Edward Large will discuss how basic frequency, pitch and timing information is encoded in the nervous system. Dr. Stephen McAdams will discuss the complexities of multiple musical lines and orchestration, and Dr. Peter Keller will present models of how musicians interact when engaged in the complex task of making music together.
Science since antiquity has asked whether mathematical relationships among acoustic frequencies govern musical relationships. Psychophysics rejected frequency ratio theories, focusing on sensory phenomena predicted by linear analysis of sound. Cognitive psychologists have since focused on long-term exposure to the music of one’s culture and short-term sensitivity to statistical regularities. Today evidence is rapidly mounting that oscillatory neurodynamics is an important source of nonlinear auditory responses. This leads us to reevaluate the significance of frequency relationships in the perception of music. Here, we present a dynamical systems analysis of mode-locked neural oscillation that predicts substantive universals in music perception and cognition. We show that this theoretical framework combines with short and long-term learning to explain the perception of Hindustani raga, not only by encultured Indian listeners but also by Western listeners unfamiliar with the style. These findings demonstrate that intrinsic neurodynamics contribute significantly to the perception of musical structure and suggest that this approach may generalize to other communication systems.
"Toward a psychological foundation for a theory of orchestration"
Most of the music we enjoy uses the musical qualities of different instruments to create specific perceptual and emotional effects that composers sculpt over time. Timbre is the auditory attribute that distinguishes different instruments. Research on timbre perception has demonstrated that it is multifaceted and contributes in many ways to the perceptual organization of musical structures. The art of structuring music with timbre is orchestration. A survey of orchestration treatises reveals the dearth of underlying theory, in sharp contrast to other traditional areas such as harmony and counterpoint, which have long theoretical traditions. We seek to develop a theoretical ground for orchestration practice starting with the structuring role that timbre can play in music. Many aspects of musical structuring are achieved by auditory scene analysis, the perceptual processes that result in unified events, integrated streams of events, groups of events segmented into phrases and sections, and larger-scale units extended over time that we call orchestral gestures. Further, certain timbral qualities and the shaping of their evoluation over time give rise to particular emotional responses in music. The roles that timbre plays in the manifestation of these principles in orchestration practice will be considered as potential elements of a theory of orchestration.
"Interpersonal coordination in musical ensembles: Psychological processes and brain mechanisms"
Musical ensemble performance is a social art form that places exceptional demands upon the cognitive and motor capacities of co-performers. A remarkable feature of ensemble performance is the balance that individuals are able to achieve between precision and flexibility in interpersonal coordination. My talk will address the psychological processes and brain mechanisms that enable such coordination. I will give an overview of a theoretical framework and empirical approach for studying factors that determine an individual’s ability to coordinate with others in musical contexts. Select results will be presented from a research program targeting how this ability is affected by individual differences in relevant cognitive-motor skills assessed via behavioural and neuroscientific methods. The latter include the use of electroencephalography to study musical entrainment and transcranial magnetic stimulation to investigate the role of motor brain regions in temporal prediction.
There will be a poster session on all topics related to music perception and cognition
Poster Submission: The deadline for abstract submissions has passed. Maximum poster size is 4' x 4'.
2013 KEYNOTE CONCERT:
"A Mind for Singing"
8pm, Convocation Hall (2nd floor of University Hall)
Many of us experience the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude when observing the mishaps of poor-pitch singers on shows like American Idol. “How”, we wonder, “could anyone sing so poorly?” In this talk I will attempt to turn that question on its head. Given the complexity involved in vocal pitch matching, I will argue, one may rightly wonder how any of us can sing accurately! My talk will consider singing as a neuro-cognitive skill. I propose that you should be awestruck by singing skill based on (a) the indirect way in which singers match voice to pitch, (b) the considerable motor and cognitive flexibility required for singing, and (c) the complex interpersonal coordination required by singing along with other singers and/or musicians. Developmentally, it appears that singing abilities develop by practice rather than spontaneously, and may not be constrained by a critical period. So this incredible skill may in fact be accessible to almost anyone, even the poor souls on American Idol.