Monday, March 28, 2005
The room is constructed with 1 foot thick concrete walls. Inside these walls, a smaller room floats on springs. This smaller room has fiberglass acoustic tiles 3.3 feet thick. The result is a reduction of 150 dB from the outside world to the chamber. (This fact is from the article, but I don't understand how this was determined. Outside ambient noise should not be in the 140 dB range, 10,000 times more intense than the pain threshold. Plus, intensity is inversely related to the square of the distance, so are we comparing the sound intensity at the source to the sound intensity within the chamber, or the sound intensity from an outside location equally distant from the source as the chamber?)
The chamber sits in the same location as the now-defunct Sound 80 Studios, who pioneered digital recording with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra ("Appalachian Spring"), Flim and the BB's, and Bob Dylan ("Blood on the Tracks"). The owner of Sound 80 Studios, Herb Pilhofer, composed the theme music for the Montreal Olympics.
Update: Owner Steve Orfield has sent me a link to the original article in the Star Tribune, and a brochure for the Lab. The brochure has a good picture of the anechoic chamber, showing the freakin' huge acoustic tiling. Many thanks to him. This interwebs thing provides some very cool interactions.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
The real question is, do I want to be burned, or try to be preserved? I'd want to seem innocent, but really be subversive. Thus I'd survive, but help change society so books are no longer being burned. Perhaps a Dr. Seuss book, like Horton Hears a Who. Or The Phantom Tollbooth.
(Gah, I now remember what happens in Fahrenheit 451. At the end, each person picks a book to memorize, becoming that book for the short-term future. I would pick a book of poetry, either by ee cummings or Edith Sitwell.)
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Crush, no. There have been characters that I would like to know or be, but none that I wanted to date.
The last book you bought is:
Issola, by Stephen Brust.
The last book you read:
Music, Cognition, and Computerized Sound, edited by Perry Cook.
What are you currently reading?Witch World, by André Norton. She passed away recently, and I haven't read any of her works.
Five books you would take to a deserted island:I agree with PZ that they should be long, though they could be shorter but encourage multiple readings.
The complete works of William Shakespeare
Beethoven's Symphonies 5, 6, and 7 (so I can replay them in my mind)
The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy (mine is an older edition, but same idea)
The Real Book (again, to sing them, replay them in my mind, and improvise from)
Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?
Friday, March 18, 2005
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Monday, March 14, 2005
First, Forrest's view: catchy tunes are very paradigmatically tonal-like (reduce easily in Schenkerian analysis) and related to the overtone series. Could be, though I can think of a few objections to the overtone idea. The overtone series is not based upon the composition of the air, but rather upon modes of vibration for any simple harmonic motion. A string, or air in an open-ended pipe or close-ended cone (length = L), will vibrate in ratios of L/2, L/3, L/4, L/5, etc, which creates frequencies along the overtone series. This fact can be used to support notions of concurrent interval and chord consonance and dissonance, but has little effect on melody construction (other than bugle calls).
Second, the article cited by both the BBC and NPR is horribly mischaracterized by both news outlets. The BBC says that the article tells us "how tunes get stuck in your head." NPR's print version is better, "The iPod of the Brain," but the intro on the radio program was similar to the BBC. Kraemer et al make no claims to explain how the tunes get stuck in the brain, they just provide proof of auditory imagery - the imagining of music in the mind without outside stimulus. They would play music to participants while scanning their brains. Activity noticed in the auditory association cortex continued during silent gaps in familiar tunes (and did not continue in unfamiliar tunes). Nothing is mentioned or discovered as to what makes a familiar tune catchy, or even why the auditory cortex does remember the tunes. One fascinating result from this study is that music with text limited activities to the auditory association cortex, whereas instrumental music produced activity that spread from the auditory association cortex to the left primary auditory cortex. The authors interpret this result as showing how text provides semantic knowledge to fill in gaps, the instrumental music required more brain power to recall the missing music. This relates closely to visual imagery, happy news to Gestalt music psychologists.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Either Door County, Wisconsin, or some southern locale on a private lake.
2. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTICLES OF CLOTHING?
Jeans and sweatshirts.
3. THE LAST CDs YOU BOUGHT?
The Ray Charles movie soundtrack (Ray’s music, not the original score music).
4. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?
6:30 on weekdays, 7-7:30 on weekends.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE?
It varies. I was recently enamored with my new iced tea maker, and I’m happy with anything that works well (i.e., not either microwave currently).
6. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I do play an instrument, several in fact. I’m happy enough with that.
7. FAVORITE COLOR?
I don’t have a favorite color.
8. WHICH VEHICLE DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR, MOTORCYCLE, OR SUV?
I guess the sports car, though I’m happiest on my bicycle.
9. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE AFTERLIFE?
I believe that no one knows what happens after death.
10. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK?
Olivia, Oliva Saves the Circus, and Olivia and the Missing Toy
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Narnia series
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?
I like all the seasons, though each can get wearying by the end.
12. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT?
No tattoo, no piercing, I’m rather dull that way.
13. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Superspeed, or longevity. Though I see problems arising from both.
14. CAN YOU JUGGLE?
15. ONE PERSON/PEOPLE FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO?
Myself at 16.
16. WHAT IS UNDER YOUR BED?
A cat, occasionally. Kids toys sometimes. Otherwise, nothing.
17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DAY?
18. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SUSHI OR HAMBURGER?
19. FROM THE PEOPLE WHO NORMALLY READ YOUR BLOG, WHO IS THE MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND FIRST?
No clue. Perhaps Patty or Ruth.
20. ON WHICH BLOG DID YOU FIND THIS MEME?
21. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER?
23. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL?
I don’t have favorite meals (notice a pattern?)
24. DESCRIBE YOUR PJS.
I sleep in my boxers.
25. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST?
I always need orange juice. Beyond that, I don’t have a favorite.
26. DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB?
Yes, very much. There are some definite frustrations, but I love my students.
27. WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB?
A research university with small class sizes, with TAs to grade homework. A 2+2 courseload, and plenty of funding for research.
28. WHAT AGE DO YOU PLAN TO RETIRE?
29. WHERE DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
The trumpet studio at the University of Akron (graduate school).
30. SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT YOU HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE.
Travel to Japan and Australia; solo with an orchestra.
Friday, March 11, 2005
When I lived in Fargo I became friends with some members of the White Earth nation in Minnesota. I went to one of their pow wows and took part in a grass dance. It was a fun experience, especially getting to see the pow wow from the native angle: I sat with the tribe members, and joined in one of the audience circles that gathered around the various drum circles as they performed. Native Americans, especially older ones, would hold up small tape recorders to capture the drum circle performances, which I was told was for both aesthetic enjoyment and religious use. I found the circles fascinating, especially the singing styles employed. The timbre was purposely very strained, some singers even grabbing their throats to create the proper sound. Hmm, I'll have to mention that in my lecture on singing today in Psychology of Music.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Following the baroque trumpet link is the Intrada from Telemann's Concerto No. 1 for three trumpets in D, in rondo form. This is followed by Brubeck playing "Blue Rondo a la Turk," and then Charlie Parker's "Parker's Mood." I'm not sure how to link from Parker to Tannhauser's "Gar viel und schön ward hier in dieser Halle", though. I suppose Parker does resound beautifully.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Barbara Goss Levi, "What's Making Earth Hum?" Physics Today (March 2005), 22-23.
K. Nawa et al, "Incessant excitation of the Earth's free oscillations," Earth Planet Space 50 (1998), 3-8.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Friday night Augusta was very nurturing with the five students in the composition masterclass. She is distinctly Modernist in her perspective, discouraging unvaried repetitions in the students' compositions. However, she did not try to limit the students voices, even the student who wrote a distinctly Beethovenesque piano piece.
Saturday afternoon was the student symposium. Three of my students presented analyses of Chopin mazurkas and the Brahms Romance in F, op. 118 no. 5. Then three students from the 20th Century Music Literature class presented analyses of Augusta's Magneticfireflies and Fruit of My Spirit. Professor Thomas was present as the respondent. As a composer, Augusta is concerned about the placement of each work within the composer's oeuvre. When and why the mazurkas and the Romance were written, that her pieces were written specifically for high school band and amateur church choir respectively, and what other experience she had in composing vocal music were all things she wanted included in the presentations.
The closing concert was held Sunday afternoon. After another performance of her fanfare (Ring Flourish Blaze) three of the main ensembles performed works by Augusta and others. The orchestra was quite challenged by Galaxy Dances, A Ballet for Orchestra, composed for the National Symphony Orchestra, but they acquited themselves nicely. The work depicts timeless space (low strings and contrabassoon) bookending five different galaxies dancing through the cosmos. The chamber choir sang Fruit of My Spirit, a fairly short setting of John 15:5 and Galatians 5:22-23. It had some very evocative yet subtle text painting, including some clever passing of syllables from one voice to another. The band performed Magneticfireflies, which it also recorded last spring. Both Galaxy Dances and Magneticfireflies end with loud crashing chords that give way to decaying percussion, though in the first case both pitched percussion and piano is included, whereas Magneticfireflies was only cymbals. It was fascinating to listen to the changes in timbre as the pitched and unpitched sounds decayed. The combination of piano and non-pitched percussion provides a whole slew of inharmonic partials to clash and shift around in, even when using a consonant fundamental chord as Augusta did. Not only did some partials die away, but other partials became louder when their "big bully" masking partials lost energy. It was almost a melody rather than a timbre change, perhaps the closest thing to a true Klangfarbenmelodie that I've ever heard.
Friday, March 04, 2005
When E.S. hears tone intervals, the difference in pitch between two tones, she not only can see the musical notes as different colors but can taste the sounds.
"This is a special case of a musician who, when she hears tone intervals, she has a perception of a taste of a tone," said psychologist Michaela Esslen, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
"She doesn't imagine the taste, she really tastes it."
The case of E.S. reported in Nature is exceptional because seeing letters or digits in a certain color is more common in synaesthesia. It may also involve seeing a musical tone as a color.
But E.S. sees the colors and depending on the tone intervals a symphony could be bittersweet, salty, sour or creamy.
Psychologists Gian Beeli, Michaela Esslen and Lutz Jäncke tested "E.S.'s" synesthetic abilities by asking her to identify intervals while they stimulated her taste buds with four solutions (sweet, sour, salty, bitter). E.S. identified all the intervals correctly, but was faster in identification when the taste/interval configuration corresponded to her synaesthetic associations.
Figure 1 Mean reaction times in a gustatory Stroop task linking perception of tone intervals with different tastes for congruent-taste (grey), incongruent-taste (red) and no-taste (blue) conditions for synaesthete E.S. and for five non-synaesthetic musicians (controls). In the 'Taste' condition, musical intervals were presented while solutions of different taste (citric acid, 20 g litre-1; quinine, 60 mg litre-1; salt, 10 g litre-1; sucrose, 120 g litre-1) were delivered to the subject's tongue. The 'Conceptual' condition followed the same procedure, except that words describing the tastes, instead of the tastes themselves, were visually presented 2 s before the tone interval. Non-parametric randomization tests were used for statistical comparison. For E.S., all statistical comparisons in the taste condition were associated with P values of less than 0.01 (*P<0.05,>**P<0.01,>***P<0.001).>
What I would find interesting is what E.S.'s instrument is. Does she have reeds in her mouth, or a metal mouthpiece pressed to her lips, or is her instrument oral-free?
G. Beeli, M. Esslen & L. Jäncke. "Synaesthesia: When coloured sounds taste sweet." Nature 434, 38 (March 2005); doi:10.1038/434038a
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
* The sounds that animals make are in almost all cases sounds that serve a communicative function.
* Human music is a super-stimulus for the perception of musicality in speech, and speech is a system of human-generated sounds with a communicative function.
* If some species of animal had an ability to perceive "musicality" similar to how humans perceive it, then there could exist some form of music for that animal such that the relationship between the animal's music and the animal's normal communication sounds was analogous to the relationship between human music and human speech.
* Since no animal has a language that sounds like human language, any form of animal music would not be expected to sound like human music.
* Given that human music is difficult to compose, quite likely animal music would also be difficult to compose, and, in particular, the animals themselves would not be clever enough to know how to compose their own music.
* Some day, when we understand enough about music, we may be able to apply rational rules of musical composition to compose music for other animals. But for now, the ability of composers to compose music depends on their intuition derived from their own subjective experience of appreciating music, and, since there is no easy way to subjectively experience what non-human animals experience, there is no way to develop an intuition about how to compose music for those animals.
* Therefore, animal music exists as a possibility, but not as something that animals themselves can currently create and appreciate in the way that humans do.
It's an interesting idea, though I think he is quite incorrect that "human music is difficult to compose." It is very easy to improvise or compose music. It is difficult to compose really good music. Also, if music is an outgrowth of the language of a particular species, shouldn't the creation of said music be within the cognitive abilities of that species? (Damn, there's my tendency toward Socratic dialogue again. Sorry, Chad.)