The pool is getting bigger: “A California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) can keep the beat: motor entrainment to rhythmic auditory stimuli in a non vocal mimic”

J Comp Psychol 2013 Apr 1
A California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) can keep the beat: motor entrainment to rhythmic auditory stimuli in a non vocal mimic

Cook P, Rouse A, Wilson M, Reichmuth C
University of California Santa Cruz, USA

Is the ability to entrain motor activity to a rhythmic auditory stimulus, that is “keep a beat,” dependent on neural adaptations supporting vocal mimicry? That is the premise of the vocal learning and synchronization hypothesis, recently advanced to explain the basis of this behavior (A. Patel, 2006, Musical Rhythm, Linguistic Rhythm, and Human Evolution, Music Perception, 24, 99-104). Prior to the current study, only vocal mimics, including humans, cockatoos, and budgerigars, have been shown to be capable of motoric entrainment. Here we demonstrate that a less vocally flexible animal, a California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), can learn to entrain head bobbing to an auditory rhythm meeting three criteria: a behavioral response that does not reproduce the stimulus; performance transfer to a range of novel tempos; and entrainment to complex, musical stimuli. These findings show that the capacity for entrainment of movement to rhythmic sounds does not depend on a capacity for vocal mimicry, and may be more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously hypothesized. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Music and Disability Studies

If you have never heard of disability studies, you might be interested to know that not only there is a field with that name, but that for the last ten years or so, there has been interdisciplinary work done at the cross-roads of music and disability studies.

Read an interview with Joe Straus, a music theorist (who happens to be my Ph.D. advisor) who has been instrumental in developing this interdisciplinary endeavor:


Hesselink (2013), Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song”: Ambiguity, Rhythm, and Participation

Link to article:

This article brings together several topics and issues we have discussed this term, including issues of beat perception, metric dissonance, and the influence of individual preferences and experience. Read the article, keeping the following questions in mind:

  • What is the author’s “research question” and how is it situated in the context of rhythm research?
  • How is “ambiguity” defined and how does the author’s definition compare to London’s?
  • How does the author approach his research question methodologically?
  • What are the main findings?
  • How might this question be further explored experimentally?

In preparation for class discussion on Tuesday, April 23, post a short  (1-2 paragraphs) response by Monday, April 22, 11:59PM. The goal of this post is not to answer the guiding questions, but to share your initial reaction to the contents of this article, including questions it raises about music perception, empirical methods, and any other issue relevant to our exploration of rhythm cognition. (Late posts will be downgraded; responses posted after 2:30PM on Tuesday, April 23 will not be credited.)

Online Experiments Demos

Survey at least one of the online experiments listed below. Write a short evaluation report about the goals and methods of the experiment (1-2 paragraphs). To the best of your knowledge, how well did the design fit the experimental goal? (These are not always provided; some present the goal(s) before, and some after.) Based on your exploration, what may be some of the limitations of the methods use? NOTE: Your project group will benefit most from assigning a different demo to explore to each group member. Please post your response here by April 11.

The Music Cognition Group at the University of Amsterdam has a few online experiments that you can test (click “Online Experiments” on left side menu):

Two of the online experiments are available in English:

– Rhythmic complexity:

– Timing and tempo in classical, jazz and rock music:

Both of these will require you fill a questionnaire before you start; you can fill those randomly. Once the questionnaire is submitted you should be able to proceed to the experiment proper.

How to Cite Using APA Style?

Good references for citing references in different formats, including print and online sources, no author to multiple authors, edited volumes, etc.

Neurodome: A flight through real 3D images of the brain in search of the biological basis for why we explore

A page created by Jonathan A. N. Fisher, physicist and researcher at Rockefeller University. Kickstarter writes:

“Ever wonder what it’d be like to fly through the human brain? Scientists and filmmakers have banded together to try and create that experience with NueroDome, a new film made especially for planetariums. It uses 3D images of the brain to create a Fantastic Voyage-like experience that’s more science than fiction.”

Spontaneous synchronized tapping to an auditory rhythm in a chimpanzee

Sci Rep 2013 Mar 28;3:1566
Hattori Y, Tomonaga M, Matsuzawa T
Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan

Humans actively use behavioral synchrony such as dancing and singing when they intend to make affiliative relationships. Such advanced synchronous movement occurs even unconsciously when we hear rhythmically complex music. A foundation for this tendency may be an evolutionary adaptation for group living but evolutionary origins of human synchronous activity is unclear. Here we show the first evidence that a member of our closest living relatives, a chimpanzee, spontaneously synchronizes her movement with an auditory rhythm: After a training to tap illuminated keys on an electric keyboard, one chimpanzee spontaneously aligned her tapping with the sound when she heard an isochronous distractor sound. This result indicates that sensitivity to, and tendency toward synchronous movement with an auditory rhythm exist in chimpanzees, although humans may have expanded it to unique forms of auditory and visual communication during the course of human evolution.

Individuality that is unheard of: Systematic temporal deviations in scale playing leave an inaudible pianistic fingerprint

Front Psychol 2013 Mar 21
Van Vugt FT1,2, Jabusch H3, Altenmüller E1
1 Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians’ Medicine, University of Music, Drama, and Media, Hanover, Germany; 2 Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, CNRS-UMR 5292, INSERM U1028, University Lyon-1, Lyon, France; 3 Institute of Musicians’ Medicine, University of Music “Carl Maria von Weber”, Dresden, Germany

Whatever we do, we do it in our own way, and we recognize master artists by small samples of their work. This study investigates individuality of temporal deviations in musical scales in pianists in the absence of deliberate expressive intention. Note-by-note timing deviations away from regularity form a remarkably consistent “pianistic fingerprint.” First, eight professional pianists played C-major scales in two sessions, separated by 15 min. Euclidian distances between deviation traces originating from different pianists were reliably larger than traces originating from the same pianist. As a result, a simple classifier that matched deviation traces by minimizing their distance was able to recognize each pianist with 100% accuracy. Furthermore, within each pianist, fingerprints produced by the same movements were more similar than fingerprints resulting in the same scale sound. This allowed us to conclude that the fingerprints are mostly neuromuscular rather than intentional or expressive in nature. However, human listeners were not able to distinguish the temporal fingerprints by ear. Next, 18 pianists played C-major scales on a normal or muted piano. Recognition rates ranged from 83 to 100%, further supporting the view that auditory feedback is not implicated in the creation of the temporal signature. Finally, 20 pianists were recognized 20 months later at above chance level, showing signature effects to be long lasting. Our results indicate that even non-expressive playing of scales reveals consistent, partially effector-unspecific, but inaudible inter-individual differences. We suggest that machine learning studies into individuality in performance will need to take into account unintentional but consistent variability below the perceptual threshold.

Beyonce and the Halo riff

As most of you know, I have been wanting to know how fast Beyonce can riff since we first read Chapter 2 in London’s book, Hearing in Time. Well, I have finally done the analysis using Sonic Visualizer, and the results are in…Beyonce really is superhuman. She breaks the 100 ms “barrier” in her riff on the song Halo, which can be found here:

Below is the link to the graph of the inter-onset intervals in her riff at 1:40 (wordpress said I exceeded my upload limit…).

Recall that 100ms is the fastest IOI at which we are able to hear a rhythm as a subdivision of the beat. Granted, London admits that though many studies confirm this temporal limit, there could be cases of faster subdivisions in context, and this serves as an excellent example. We can perceive grace notes at faster than 100ms IOI, but this riff is still “in time” and fits into the metrical structure at a very high level of subdivision. I’d be interested to see other examples of super-human ability! Some J-Hudd?