Saturday, August 07, 2004

Something about Psycho music?

I’m back from ICMPC8. My attendance at this conference rates as the second-most skipped sessions, after the Acoustical Society of America conference I presented at in 2001. The ASA is a huge conference, ranging from biomedical ultrasonics to psychoacoustics, submarine sonar to speech perception. I only attended the sessions specific to music, which was about 1/100th of the conference. This time, the whole conference was in my specific field of music psychology, but I had to arrive very late due to teaching obligations, and leave a little early due to family obligations. It is a shame, because I really enjoyed the sessions I saw and the people I met.

I arrived Thursday at 11:30, in time to register and see three papers before chairing my own session. I really enjoyed Ana Volk’s talk on finding inherent periodicities in syncopated music, though I think there are problems with her weighting of different levels of periodicity, as those at higher levels can be weighted less, even if they have strong perceptual salience due to heirarchic support from lower levels. My chaired session went well, not heavily attended but with enthusiastic questions. The presenter was somewhat nervous during her talk, but she explained herself clearly, and handled questions very well afterward. She didn’t go long, so I didn’t have to be a time bully. The paper was on the affect of performers’ attractiveness on judgements of musical quality. Children ranging from grades 2 to 8 rated the quality of student cellists performances. Females that were also judged as attractive were scored higher than those that were not as physically attractive, when adjusted for other factors. This is related to a study I saw about the affect of dress upon teaching evaluations by students.

The Thursday afternoon session was short (naturally), so attendees could spend the evening and night enjoying Chicago. Unfortunately, not many musical events were scheduled for Thursday night, but it was a good thought. I went out to dinner in Evanston with my family and mother-in-law (she came down to visit and help my wife with the kids while I was at the conference), and then drove around campus, stopping to gaze upon Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. This is where my wife would like to go for her priestly training. We had planned to walk around campus, but gale-force winds kept us in the mini-van.

Friday I was late for the morning sessions, due to the chaotic nature of getting 2- and 4-year-olds ready to go out for breakfast. I saw one truly gawdawful paper by a Ph.D. student at Boston University, who did his research supported by Massachussetts General Hospital (Steve, have Orhun check this guy out, I’ll email you the name). The research topic was fine, but he had not done any adequate literature searches, so he missed the last twenty-five years of relevant articles that already covered everything he tried to do. He also made the very bad assumption that the psychologist-majority in the audience was ignorant about statistical methods, including ANOVAs: “it’s sort of like a t-test.” So this raised the hackles of everyone, who slammed him afterwards with the lack of literature and the fact that he misused the very ANOVA that he was so smug about. He had two factors to his design, yet he chose a one-way ANOVA for some reason, ignoring any possibility of interaction between these two factors even though that was supposed to be the purpose of the study. Oops.

Friday afternoon was spent at a great session on timbre, where I got to chat with Roger Kendall afterwards. He is very big in the field, plus he chaired the session I presented in today, so it was good to be on his good side. Somehow I managed to impress him with my knowledge of the literature, so maybe writing a timbre book isn’t such a farfetched idea. Friday evening consisted of swimming with the kids, and another family dinner. The rest of that day was spent agonizing over the realization that I had forgotten the power cord to my laptop. So? you may ask. Said laptop, with a battery charge of 1 minute, has my PowerPoint presentation on it (I like PowerPoint, so sue me.) If it was just visuals, it wouldn’t be a big deal, I could draw on the chalkboard. But I had sound files imbedded in the presentation, which were planned to take up about 8 minutes of my presentation. If I didn’t have those, much of the point of the presentation would be lost and I would have a very short paper.

Fortunately Macs rule supreme in the music world, even among engineers and psychologists. The next morning I was able to borrow a cord, recharge my battery, and give the presentation without a hitch (except for Microsoft’s insistance on quitting whenever I hook up the computer to a projector.) The session was very enjoyable, with two other great papers and good questions all around. Afterwards I got offers of help in data crunching and acoustical analysis from David Wessel and Jim Beauchamp, who were among the trumpet playing fans in the audience. I will definitely take them up on those offers.

We are now home, all rather stressed from broken eating and sleeping schedules. Crashing for nine hours will soon commence.

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