Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's up?

This will be mostly a collection of mini-points, with minimal commentary on my part. One of my former students has started her own blog, called "Ugh!!!! Not another Arts Marketing Blog." She only has two posts up, but it should be interesting. And if you know of anyone who needs a kick ass arts administrator, I can put you in touch with her.

On Wednesday my Psych of Music class had an interesting discussion about the scientific investigation of creativity, specifically composition. It started with concerns on many students' parts that it would ruin the magic. This led to speculations on why scientists try to determine how people are creative, with one possible answer being the hope to create a magic creativity pill. Last week all of the students had thought it was fine to take any sort of drugs that might help performances, especially beta blockers or other means of combating stage fright. Yet yesterday those same students felt that a drug that boosted creativity would be wrong. We explored why they made that split, a very animated and far-ranging discussion.

In that same class, several of the students are always concerned that studies we read only involve Western music. A new article in Current Biology addresses that concern with regards to music and emotion. The team of researchers did a cross-cultural study with a native African population and a Western population. Both groups were able to recognize three basic emotions in Western music: happy, sad, and scared/fearful. This suggests that the emotional content in Western music is includes universally-shared signs. The same team also tried manipulating both Western and Mafa (the African culture) music, increasing the amount of sensory dissonance (intervals of pitches that interfere with each other). Both cultural groups preferred the original versions of both the Western and Mafa musics. The second part sounds questionable, but the fact that the Mafa listeners could identify emotional content in a type of music that they had never experienced, that is pretty amazing.

Fritz, T, et al (2009). "Universal recognition of three basic emotions in music." Current Biology 19/7, 573-576.

I was interviewed today for a news piece on the potential embarrassment of revealing music listening habits, and how iTunes may have affected this. It was an interesting discussion, ranging from social signals and the origins of music to the economic features of online music and Brittany Spears. I'll be curious to see how the piece turns out.

Finally, I recently discovered another online comic (I already follow XKCD), which had one punchline that was too perfect.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Online Experiment

Do you have Absolute Pitch*? Then the Brazilians want you! To take part in an online experiment, that is. They are testing the effects of specific timbres on the ability to label pitches, and want only those who either know or suspect they have absolute pitch. Here is the link, in English and Portugese.

* Known outside of cognitive science as Perfect Pitch.

Friday, April 10, 2009

FriPod: Good Friday

First, this Youtube video:

1. "Good Day Sunshine" by the Beatles on Revolver.
2. "The Good Earth" by N. Hefti, performed by Woody Herman on The Thundering Herds 1945-1947.
3. "Good King Wenceslas" performed by Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, Indianapolis.
4. "Good Lovin'" composed by Rudy Clark, Arthur Resnick; performed by Bobby McFerrin on Simple Pleasures.
5. "Good Morning Good Morning" by the Beatles on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
6. "Good Night" by the Beatles on the White album.
7. "Good-bye" composed by Bobby McFerrin, performed by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma on Hush.
8. The Greater Good composed by Stephen Hartke, performed by the Glimmerglass Opera.
9. "Hey Good Lookin'" by Hank Williams.
10. "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" performed by Duke Ellington on The Best Of Duke Ellington: Centennial Edition.
11. "I've Seen All Good People" by Yes on The Ultimate Yes - 35th Anniversary Collection.
12. "Lady, Be Good" composed by George Gershwin, performed by (a) Stanley Irwin on Irwin Sings Gershwin, (b) Count Basie on The Essential Count Basie Vol.1.
13. "Let the Good Times Roll" composed by Sam Theard, Fleecie Moore; performed by Ray Charles.
14. "Good Friday Spell" from Parsifal composed by Richard Wagner, performed by Gerard Schwarz; Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
15. "She's Too Good for Me" by Sting on Ten Summoner's Tales.
16. "Too Good to Be True" composed by C. Boland, performed by Teddy Wilson on Little Jazz.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What shape is your brain in?

Those wacky Canadians have been looking at our brains again, and found more proof that musicians really are different. KL Hyde and others (why do we still use Latin?) found structural brain changes in young children after 15 months of musical training (compared to children who did not receive the training). They believe that these changes through increased brain plasticity suggest that music training in general increases brain plasticity, leading to the structural differences of adult experts (known from other studies). Are these changes a good thing? I'd be inclined to say yes, but I may be a bit biased. Now I have to decide whether my kids' increased brain plasticity is worth driving to Indianapolis five days a week for choir practice. Maybe I should just let their brains go mushy from TV. That's a type of plasticity, right?

Hyde KL, Lerch J, Norton A, Forgeard M, Winner E, Evans AC, and Schlaug G (2009). "Musical training shapes structural brain development," Journal of Neuroscience 29 (10), 3019-3025.

Friday, April 03, 2009


I'm rather surprised to find that some startling and potentially negative news has actually made me more communicative than I had been for many months. Now, I was primed by good things happening right before this news, but my response to the news also shows me how much personal growth I've made. What does this mean to you? I'm very likely to start blogging more frequently again, with more of my imitable brand of "humor." You are warned.

FriPod: Morgen

1. Act III - Scene 2 - 'Morgen Ich Leuchte In Rosigem Schien' (Beckmesser) from Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner, performed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra And Chorus.

2. Act III - Scene 2 - 'Morgenlich Leuchtend Im Rosegen Schein' from Die Meistersinger by Wagner, performed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra And Chorus.

3. Choral: Brich an, oh schönes Morgenlicht from Weihnachtsoratorium by J.S. Bach, performed by Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Wiener Sängerknaben & Hans Gillesberger.

4. Dichterliebe -- Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen by Robert Schumann, performed by Thomas Quasthoff.

5. Gute Morgen, 's ist St. Valentinstag (3 Lieder der Ophelia Op 67) by Richard Strauss, performed by Lucia Popp / Irwin Cage.

6. Morgenblätter by Johann Strauss, performed by Orchestre Philharmonique De Vienne, Willi Boskovsky.

7. Morgengruss from Die schöne Müllerin by Franz Schubert, performed by Ian Bostridge.

8. Morgentau (From an Old Song Book) by Hugo Wolf, performed by Leontyne Price.

9. Recit - Und bald am Morgen from St. Mark’s Passion by J.S. Bach, performed by The Choir Of Gonville And Caius College, Cambridge.

10. Winterreise, Op. 89, D 911 - Der Stürmische Morgen by Franz Schubert, performed by Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten.

11. St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 - Des Morgens Aber Hielten Alle Hohepriester by J.S. Bach, performed by Mark Padmore, Deborah York, Etc., Paul Mccreesh; Gabrieli Consort & Players.