Thursday, December 15, 2011

Semester Overveiw

Over the course of the semester these are the topics that we have discussed that stick out in my mind.

Early on we established that music is more than organized sound and using that definition results in difficulties. Through Q&As, class discussions, and readings on and about Adorno we learned that the social aspect of music is essential. Not too long after that, in order to distinguish sounds of nature from composed pieces we added the condition of intentionality. This condition lead us to talk about musak, and we decided that since there was no intention in computer programs that we could not define it as music but it could be sound art. Musique concrete and John Cages piece 4'33'' are not music but sound art. In Hamilton's book we discussed how rhythm is interfused with everything, and rhythm is a necessary condition for music. Imperfection is a part of performing and the fact that we interpret music makes it "abstract in form and humane in utterance." Music is not a language despite Cooke's opinions because music does not tell us anything semantically. Music is considered to display "the emotional life of humans" according to Langer, yet that is culturally specific. According to Woods music is its own revelation and its own truth because music does not have to refer to anything beyond itself.

So in conclusion we have established that: music is beyond organized sound, intention and rhythm are needed, and the social impact of music is essential. Computer generated music, musique concrete, and 4' 33'' are not music, but sound art. Music is not language and music does not need to refer to anything beyond itself.

Question: What were some of the other important discussion topics that we have had in class?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Music Definition

We didn't really get to talk about everybody's definition of music today, and I'm kind of disappointed about it. I know that there is never really a definite answer when it comes to any realm of philosophy, but the fact that there are multiple answers and differences in opinions are a part of why it is so great. I was hoping to hear more opinions and arrive at a little bit more of a resolution. Even though only a small portion of the class does blog postings I think it would be beneficial if everyone who does to post their definitions and we can offer alterations or comments to each other.

My definition of music is:

A perceived aural art that involves intention and a practiced skill whose end drives to be aesthetically pleasing, enriching, and emotionally arousing. The content must contain rhythm. Melody, harmony, and linguistics do not need to be included, but when they are melody, harmony, lyrics, and rhythm, work together holistically and the tones are organized.

Question: What do you think of this definition? Does anything need to change? What is your definition of music?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RE: Wesley's "Album that changed my life"

Earlier this week Wes wrote a post about how Justice For All changed his life and asked me and the other bloggers to join him in writing a post about how a specific piece or an album of music changed our lives. Now, I don't mean to be the odd man out, but I cannot think of one song, album, soundtrack, or even a specific composer who has changed my life. If there was one, the name would have come to be instantly. I don't want to choose one and lie about it just to be a part of the group. Yet, I will attest that music as a whole has definitely changed my life.

I read in a book recently, that the evolution of music makes no sense from a Darwinian perspective, because music has no means of survival. Darwin himself claimed music to be an "evolutionary accident". It's a sad fact that if there was no music, the world as a whole would be basically the same. We would still have power plants, electricity, water pressure, desk jobs, criminals -- all of the good and bads of life. Despite this, a world without music seems to be empty, similar to like a world without poetry. Yet, perhaps music is a part of every culture because it brings us together and no one, not even Darwin can rid music of that.
Music may serve the purpose of bringing us together as a society, but what about at the individual level? What purpose does music serve to us individually? How has music changed your life?

For me, music has changed my life because my future career choice would be completely different, and the musical experiences I have been through have changed me as a person.
It seems as though most musicians have played the same instruments their wholes lives, that's not the case for me. I went from clarinet to singing to keyboard to singing to keyboard to singing (seriously I made the switch that many times) to Mallet percussion to saxophone to piano and then to trumpet. It took me a while to find the instrument that was right for me and even though I changed around quiet a bit, never was there any part of my life where I wasn't involved with music at all.

It took me until I was a sophomore in high school to really become dedicated to music and not until my freshman/sophomore year in college until I decided that I wanted music to play a large role in my life. Around this time I realized my love of psychology and music and that I wasn't going to part with either of the two. Music has changed my life because without it I would not have chosen to go into music perception. I would still go for a PhD in psychology and aim to being a psychology professor, but I honestly do not know what I would study. I can't see myself doing anything else.

Music has also changed my life because of the musical experiences I have been through. I was in Drum and Bugle Corp for two years. (Basically the major leagues of marching band). Drum and Bugle Corp stresses the military mentality to their members, you have to push yourself beyond your limits and you have to sacrifice everything down to breathing (literally) for the whole. Even outside of Drum Corp this mentality makes it way into everyday situations, and makes the push to the finish a little easier.

I can't see a life absent of music because music has always been a part of my life. Creating and playing music is a skill that one can always get better at and because of this it never gets old. Composing and playing is a hobby that I intend on sustaining through the rest of my existence.

Question: What purpose does music serve to us individually? What purpose does music serve for you? How has music changed your life? How have you become the musician (if you are one) that you are today? What is your musical history?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Re: Wesley "Emotions in Music"

Wesley has been talking about metaphorical and physical emotions in music. Physical emotions being from the lyrics and metaphorical being from the tones. This is a switch from our usual talk of absolute music. When lyrics come into play the emotional distinction becomes blurred, perhaps that is why philosophers tend to be drawn towards absolute music, so the the lyrics do not get in the way of any distinctions. So we have to be careful when making any judgment claims between the lyrical and tonal roles of a piece.

Although parodies offer a good example of contrast between the emotions elicited by the lyrics of a song, its kind of like looking at identical twin studies in psychology to tell you how much genes play a role in personality. In these songs we have to also look at the metaphorical emotions in the piece, and in the twin studies we also have to look at the role of the environment too. Wesley gave an example of Coolio and Weird Al's "Gangster Paradise" and "Amish Paradise" to show the effect of lyrics on emotional responses. Yet, If the lyrics stayed the same in these two pieces and the form of the song changed there would be a difference in emotional response too.
Take Johnny Cash's and Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt." Even though there is only slight differences in the two pieces, mainly timbrel (Cash just plays it on an acoustic guitar and piano, and NIN use drums, keyboard, and an electric guitar) these little differences still have an impact on the emotional responses to the two pieces. Both of them still accentuate the same rises and falls, have similar dynamic contrasts, and are about the same tempo.
Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

Nine Inch Nails "Hurt"

This shows that both of the physical and metaphorical emotions play a role in our reaction to music. This kind of gets back to an earlier post of mine talking about Hanslick's and Kivy's distinctions on where the emotion in music is, although these two philosophers never talked about (at least in my readings from them) non-absolute music, I think that Hanslick would deny lyrics to have an impact and Kivy would consider them equal because they both relate back to human behaviors.

Question: Do you think that physical and metaphorical emotions expressed by a piece have an equal effect on our emotional responses to them?

Creativity Hierarchy

Last week the Q&A question was "What do you think the relations are between imagination, creativity, improvisational, and music composition"? I used my voucher for not turning in this Q&A, because I was very busy that week, but I still think that it is a good question and would like to answer it briefly in this blog post.

From chapter IV in "Bridges in Autonomy: Paradoxes in Teaching and Learning," the hierarchy between Imagination, creativity and improvisation is described like this:

When incorporating Music composition I think the hierarchy should be altered to look like this:

I propose that composing Music is a form of critical thinking. Also, Problem solving should be a subcategory of both improvisation and critical thinking because critical thinking is essential in problem solving, and not all problems are solved on a whim.

Question: What do you think of problem solving being a subcategory of both critical thinking and improvisation? Should it be under both? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Music and Language

The current article we are reading for class, is all about music and language. I'm going to bring up some more research on the correlations between music and Language. (Sorry, I can't help myself I'll try to tone down the Psycholingo).

Jackendoff (2009) mentions seven cognitive similarities between the learning and course of understanding music and language. Music and language necessarily involve memory, both bring together units in working memory with methodical regulations and arranged schemata, they both involve making predictions, music and language involve controlled muscle movement of the mouth or hands (mouth for talking, singing, and wind instruments; and hands for sign language, percussion instruments, and string instruments), acquisition involves the aural reproduction of what other’s sing, say, or do, we have the capability to create new words and songs, the potential to do the action of speaking and playing with other people. Jackendoff mentions that these capacities are not singularly related music and language.

One cognitive ability that is just applied to music and language that he mentions is that they both entail a pattern of time-based sounds. Yet, language relies on syllables and music relies on notes which can vary widely in length over time. Intonation in speaking, is comparably invariable because it tends to move between two secure pitches. Yet, these two pitches are not set like the first and fifth scale degree in music. Furthermore, two separate areas of the brain are in charge of prosodic intonation and musical pitch (Jackendoff 2009). Yet, contrary evidence supports that prosodic grouping involves related brain regions as music grouping-- the mental gathering and condensing of components into separate hierarchy levels (Patel, 2006).
Jackendoff claims the process of music processing does not match that of prosodic processing because music does not have syntax which is the basis of mental hierarchy. Music has no conceptual meaning so it does not have a match to this mental organization (Jackendoff 2009).

Converse to Jackendoff’s claim, Patel, Peretz, Tramo, & Labreque (1998) measured syntactic commonalities between music and language and found that music and language both have syntax.

Slevec, Rosenberg, & Patel (2009) found that musical syntax and linguistic syntax use the same cognitive resources and musical syntax and linguistic semantics do not occupy the same mental resources.

Yet, even though semantics do not occupy the same cognitive resources as musical syntax, listening to music still primes semantically related words. Koelsch, Kasper, Sammler, Schulze, Gunter, & Friederici (2004) found that words that the composers used to describe their pieces semantically primed words in a lexical decision task. (A lexical decision task is when either words on non-words are presented and participants have to quickly judge "yes" or "no" to whether it is a word or not. For example a non word would be manty. Both related and non-related words were used). So when participants listened to pieces that the composers labeled as happy, they were quicker to respond "yes" to the word happy than to sad. This shows that listening to sad music on some level makes us think of the word sad -- it semantically primes it.

I hope I didn't confuse anyone and hopefully you learned a little bit about Music perception!

Question: Jackendoff mentions eight simillarities between language and music (seven that do not only pertain to music and one that does) Can you think of any other correlations/similarities between music and language?


Jackendoff, R. (2009). Parallels and nonparallels between language and music. Music Perception 26(3), 195-204.

Koelsch, S. D., Kasper E., Sammler D., Schulze K., Gunter T., & Friederici A. (2004). Music, language and meaning: brain signatures of semantic processing. Nature Neuroscience, 7 (3), 302-307.

Patel A.D. (2006). Musical rhythm, linguistic rhythm, and human evolution. Music Perception, 24(1), 99-104.

Patel, A. D., Peretz, I., Tramo, M., & Labreque, R. (1998). Processing prosodic and musical patterns: A neuropsychological investigation. Brain And Language, 61(1), 123-144.

Slevc, L., Rosenberg, J. C., & Patel, A. D. (2009). Making psycholinguistics musical: Self-paced reading time evidence for shared processing of linguistic and musical syntax. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16(2), 374-381.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RE: Peter's "Vamp's rhythmic patterns, and musical definitions"

In Pete's blog post "Vamp's, Rhythmic Pattern's and Musical Definition's" he ends with the question: "Does strange rhythmic variety detract from the piece and make it sound art?"

I do not know too much about Vamps, but I do know about uneven rhythmic patterns and the way that western brains respond to them. Uneven rhythmic patterns sound bad to us because they go against our Musical schemata (plural of schema), schemata are stored structures that we have about a body of knowledge, it is an organization of past experiences and reactions. Schemata are the frameworks in memory that shape how we think that a given story, situation, and even musical piece should go. Our tonal schemata in western countries are I-V-IV chord progressions and V-I cadences. When we encounter a new situation we retrieve our related past schemata to know how to behave in that situation. We compare the new material with our old material and if it does not fit we alter the given information to match our prior knowledge.
In music our rhythmic schemata is very stubborn, western ears do not like uneven rhythmic patterns because they do not fit in with our prior knowledge an how we expect rhythms to sound like. In a study by Hannon & Trebhub (2005) western and European participants were exposed to meters with asymmetrically spaced beats (which is found in eastern music) for two weeks. At the end of the trial they still had trouble recognizing and comprehending these culturally unfamiliar meters (Creel 2011).

Yet, in an other study it was found that our tonal systems give a little more leeway when it comes to new musical experiences. This is why we can little to Turkish pop and Bollywood music, because they have a different tonal system, yet they follow the western rhythmic schemata. If the music has an eastern culturally specific rhythmic pattern that is uneven and our tonal system on top of it, we will not find it aesthetically pleasing. Take this Turkish pop song as as an example (of a western rhythmic and eastern tonal song)
So to answer Peter's question, no uneven rhythms do not make pieces less musical or sound art, westerns just perceive them as less aesthetically pleasing because they do not fit our schemata.

Question: How do expectations in music shape how we perceive it?