Music and sound

Cognitive Daily

Category archives for Music and sound

As a child (and like most children, I imagine) I used to think conducting an orchestra entailed something like what Bugs Bunny does in this video: Waving the hands, as conductors frequently do, seemed largely for show. The conductor appeared to me to be more dancing along with the music than actually leading the musicians…

One of the first things I did after my 90-mile hike with Nora in the North Cascades was play some music on the car stereo. We’d been in the wilderness for seven days, and other than birdsong, we hadn’t heard so much as a note for the entire time. Matching our intuitions about music, researchers…

Several recent large-scale studies have confirmed a curious finding: Asians are much more likely to have “perfect pitch” than non-Asians. Perfect pitch, more properly called “Absolute pitch,” is an extremely rare phenomenon, but it’s several times more likely to occur in Asians than in others. Studies have found that only 1 in 1,500 to 10,000…

Does music help us learn language?

One of the first steps to learning a language is figuring out where one word ends and the next one begins. Since fluent speakers don’t generally pause between words, it can be a daunting task. We’ve discussed one of the ways people do it in this post — they focus in on consonant sounds. Other…

Listen to this short audio clip: The clip plays two notes that are two full octaves apart. That’s a greater range than many people can produce vocally. It should be easy for anyone to tell the difference between these two notes, even when heard in isolation, right? Not necessarily. A team led by Ulrich Weger…

If you’ve had a lot of musical training, you can probably tell the difference between a major and minor key. If you haven’t had much training, even after having the difference explained to you, you’re still not likely to be able to make that determination. Listen the following clip. It plays the same melody in…

Imagine yourself walking on a treadmill that starts at a reasonable pace: say, two and a half miles per hour. Every two minutes, the treadmill increases its speed by 0.2 mph: 2.7 mph, 2.9 mph, 3.1 mph, and so on. If you’re in good physical condition, at some point — usually between about 3.0 and…

Point-light displays are an amazing demonstration of how the visual system creates order out of what initially seems to be a random pattern. Take a look at this short movie (QuickTime required). Just looking at the first frame, it might be difficult to tell what’s being displayed, but after watching for just a second, it…

One of the most common “icebreaker” conversation topics is music preferences. We ask friends what they’re listening to on their iPods, bloggers post playlists on their sidebars, and one of the most popular websites on the planet (MySpace) is built around sharing music. The assumption is that musical preferences can tell us something beyond what…

Listen to the following three short audio samples. Your job is to say whether the tempo (the rate at which the notes are played) is speeding up or slowing down. Even if it sounds like it’s maintaining the same tempo, make your best guess as to whether it’s speeding up or slowing down. [Update: There’s…