Research Questions – Updated Deadline!

Review Tan, Pfordresher, & Harré (2010), “Perception of musical time”. Are there “facts” or findings that pique your interest, ask for verification or prompt further questions (i.e., “What if….”)? For example, on the first page the authors state “the succession of notes in time clearly also matters – a scrambled version of a tune as simple as ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ would be unrecognizable.” Really? Has this been verified, and how? Such reaction might be fertile ground for a question on the recognizability of folk melodies under a set of different musical variables (e.g., degree of “scrambleness”, original location of pitches that are out of order and melodic variety, i.e., how many different pitches or patterns are contained in the melody), as well as between-subjects factors (level of familiarity with source materials, age, musical experience, etc.). Come up with at least 3 different research questions related to the materials presented in the survey. Each question should be as concise and clear as possible. You may begin with a statement specifying the finding that gave rise to the question, if necessary (e.g., “It has been show that… [Next sentence states your question]?”). Post your questions in reply to this posting, no later than Monday, September 15, 9:00 AM

5 thoughts on “Research Questions – Updated Deadline!

  1. When reading about the optimal temporal processing zone, and how they found it correlated to people’s walking speed, I began to wonder if it also correlated to things like speed of speech, and of reading. Is there a general speed of information processing that we prefer? Does it vary from person to person?

    Another idea that I’m interested in (semi-related to the one above) is the idea of time sense. I remember reading an article from the New Yorker for another class titled “Speed” and it talked about how patients with certain diseases seem to have slowed down time, such that scratching their head might take half an hour. Do all people perceive time the same way? Do these patients perceive themselves as moving slowly, or do they perceive themselves moving normally, and the world outside them is a blur?

    Another idea I’m interested in is how people go about segmenting and grouping musical pieces into a whole. What constitutes a full piece of music? Does it require a beginning, middle, and end? What does repetition do to this structure? Basically, what are the minimum requirements to have a full and completed musical piece? And are there any parallels to theories of story and narrative? (This question feels very western-music-centered right now, so any suggestions on how to make it more universal would be appreciated).

    A final question for right now would be, how quickly will people be able to notice a break/mistake in rhythm? Much like in grammar, I believe that we may have an unconcious “folk” knowledge of musical rhythm, and though it may be easy to detect a mistake, it might not be so easy to verbally explain why it’s wrong. I’m also generally interested in exploring the relationship between music and language, which is brought up several times in this article.

  2. It has been shown that listeners are better able to recognize the initial tone of a sequence when interfering tones occur in a regular tempo. Would ability to recognize an initial tone be affected by the speed at which the interfering tones were played? What is the maximum duration of intervening tones that could be played where most subjects could still recognize the initial tone?

    The article discusses how meter can persist even after rhythm has vanished. Is it possible for rhythm to continue without meter and still be considered a rhythm by listeners?

    How far can a rhythm ratio be from a simple ratio, such as 1:1 or 1:2, so that the listener still recognizes the rhythm as simple? In other words, what is the threshold of variance from a simple ratio that regularity is still placed on the rhythm?

  3. Tan et al. (2010) puts forward a claim that our interpretation of musical stimuli is not absolute, but rather based on the relationship of one note/beat to another within the piece. My first question asks if this relative nature of musical cognition is impacted by external factors. That is, we know that younger listeners and inexperienced musicians will hear faster beats than their older/more experienced counterparts but could something like the listener’s emotional state impact how they hear the beat? For example, would frightened individuals perceive a faster beat than their contented compatriots?

    The article also emphasizes that humans have a sense of musical rhythm that can adapt to external stimuli even while it affects our perception of that stimuli. In fact, this process of entrainment allows us to make predictions about the path that the music will take, leading to enjoyment when our expectations are validated and/or violated. However, I’m curious if musical rhythm can be used to focus our attentional to external temporal events as well. That is, if a steady beat is played as someone reads a mystery vignette, would they be more likely to pick up on clues and solve the case before the protagonist?

    Finally, I’m thinking back to the first day of class, when I asked why some songs were so catchy, even when I don’t necessarily enjoy them. After reading this article again, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps these catchier tunes share some sort of common rhythmic structure. Do their beats more naturally fall in line with the simple ratios that Tan et al. (2010) references? Are they close to the 600ms measurement? Or is it perhaps a combination of factors? I think analyzing songs rated as catchy and then using that information to create a predictive “catchiness model” could make for an interesting research project.

  4. “An unexpected secondary finding was that doctors who played a musical instrument were more accurate at identifying cardiac events” – just at the outset of this article, I find myself wondering what the authors’ preconceptions about music, and its affect on perception, were. How was this finding unexpected?

    I agree with Tan et al that music is multifaceted, but not necessarily that the diversity is what makes music so compelling; first of all, what do you mean by diversity, (here I am thinking of non-Western musical and the lack of rhythmic diversity that many have, such a meditative drone music), and secondly I do not think that qualitative statements like that should be made so strongly.

    If it is the onsets that define rhythm, what about pieces where each note that was started never ended? And how do you know that a serial ratio the authors may not find rhythmic may be perfectly rhythmic somewhere else in the world?

    The article states, “people are inherently rhythmic, with internal rhythms that adapt to the rhythms of music.” I found this interesting and was not quite able to grasp the concept at a level I would have liked, and also found myself wondering about people who seem to have a form of amusia, without the ability to keep a beat.

    By the way, I really enjoyed your questions Jordan, and also am curious now about what ‘defines’ music (i.e. its length, or subsections) cross-culturally

  5. Hey everyone — my sincere apologies for the delay with my questions, I got confused thinking that they were to be presented tomorrow morning!

    1) The authors state that “when sung in the same key, each melody has the same succession of pitches, it is only the timing of the pitches that differentiates them” (referencing Mary Had A Little Lamb vs. The First Noel). Do you think that listeners would still easily recognize this pitch succession similarity if the two tunes were played in different keys? I am very interested in the “personality” of each musical key (ex: C Major vs D Major) and am curious if others react differently to the same tune in different keys.

    2) Is categorical perception perhaps only the result of untrained ears? Is it possible that complex musical ratios can indeed be consistently and correctly interpreted by different people, provided they receive adequate ear training?

    3) The authors reference certain brain injuries that have interfered with pitch discrimination but not time perception (and vice versa). As a musician, when hearing a tune, I find the relationship between melody and rhythm to be intricately linked in giving a tune its character and shape. Do you feel that one of these aspects, between melody and rhythm, is structurally more important in recognizing a tune?

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