Caste study: The “swing” ratio

One fairly active area of research on microtiming has been focused on the phenomenon of the jazz “swing”. Here is a small collection of articles on this topic. What are the main research questions tackled by these studies? What are some of the common findings? Are there conflicting experimental results? What might explain these differences?

Write a response to one or more of these prompts in reply to this post by Thursday, October 2, 9:00 AM.

Collier & Collier (2002), “A study of timing in two Louis Armstrong solos”

Friberg & Sundstrom (2002), “Swing ratios and ensemble timing in jazz performance: Evidence for a common rhythmic pattern”

Benadon (2006), “Slicing the beat: Jazz eighth-notes as expressive microrhythm”

Honing & de Haas (2008), “Swing once more: Relating timing and tempo in expert jazz drumming”

Butterfield (2011), “Why do jazz musicians swing their eighth notes”

Tapping to Carter

Listen to Elliott Carter’s 90+ for Piano (1994), as performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard:

90+ for Piano

Listen to the piece again, this time tapping along with the “underlying pulse” (or beat).

Is the piece unified by a single beat or does it have several different beats? Are there sections where there is no beat at all? Locate these beats (one or two is enough for this exercise) in the recordings with the chronometric time and use the online metronome to identify its speed (in beats per minute or bpm). What is the interonset interval (IOI) corresponding to each of your perceived beats (in milliseconds or ms)?

You may listen to the piece again, this time with the score (but not before you have completed the above task!). Can you follow along? What are some of the musical parameters that might have contributed to your hearing of these beats?

Post a short response (1-2 paragraphs) to these questions here by Thursday, September 18, 9:00 AM.

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

What is musical rhythm?

Listen to the three pieces we listened to in class on Thursday, August 28, using the guiding questions on the “What is Musical Rhythm” handout as a means to direct your attention. After each listening, write down your thoughts about this listening experience. When you have finished listening to the three pieces, write a short response on the Virtual Lab’s “Forum” page (one paragraph per piece; make sure to mention which piece you are discussing). To get full credit for this task, post your response here no later than Monday, September 1, 12:00 PM.

Music theory in the land of experimental psychology

The two readings I have assigned come from two different perspectives within the field of music cognition, the psychologist’s perspective (represented by Janata and colleagues) and the music theorist’s (represented by Martens). I consider both to be good examples of how experimental methods can enhance the study and theorizing of music.

At the same time, doing research at the boundary of two fields is not an easy task, and music cognition still faces many challenges, not the least of which is to find ways of bridging the methodological and conceptual gap between the different disciplines involved (psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience on one hand, and musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology on the other) while cultivating questions that are sophisticated and relevant to all involved.

In reviewing these studies, focus first on the question that is identified by the researchers and how this question is operationalized into a testable hypothesis (i.e., how each element of the question is mapped onto some observable and measurable feature related to the phenomenon that is being investigated). Is the operationalization reasonable? What are the findings? How do the authors relate the findings back to the original question? What are some of the limitations of the experimental study that are identified by the authors?

Then, reflect on the question, findings, and limitations of the study from the perspective of your home discipline. Is the question relevant to your research? How might you use its findings? How might these two studies benefit from knowledge and know-how from your field of study? Conversely, how might your research (and your home discipline) benefit from the methods exemplified by these studies?

You might summarize one of the two studies, compare the two studies, or respond to one or more of the guiding questions. You might also imagine how you might collaborate with one of these researchers for a follow-up study. What would your study look like? What might be discussed in a “lab” meeting with the authors? Finally, you might also use your experience as a participant in the online experiments from my course to illustrate your points.

Post a response to the readings on the Forum blog by Sunday, November 24, 11:59 PM; post a response to one or more of your colleagues’ posts soon thereafter.

EuroMAC Session Proposal Ideas

We are interested in what you think about a potential session proposal for the 2014 EuroMAC in Belgium. What might be a good umbrella concept for the event? What might be an attractive format? Who might be good speakers? What would you like to contribute, if it happens? What topics/methodologies might it include (think beyond rhythm)?

Please post a short pitch for an “umbrella” concept (and imagined format) as a reply to this post; each pitch should be posted as a separate reply so that replies to the pitch can be threaded. Also post individual contributions ideas for self as a separate reply. For optimal usefulness, initial postings should be done by Monday, November 11. There are no strings attached!

Asymmetrical Rhythms

Hi everyone.  I’m sorry about the delayed post, I’m still furiously catching up from Charlotte, as I’m sure are many of you.

Pleases read TOUISSANT, G et. al. 2011 “Computational models of symbolic rhythm similarity: Correlation with human Judgments” pages 380-402 & 418-424 only (pdf 1-23 & 39-45). (Feel free to skip experiments 2 and 3; I will summarize them in class).

In preparation for class, I would like everyone to ruminate on the relationships between different mathematical measures of rhythm similarity (symbolic) and human judgment of rhythms (heard) as similar. Specifically, what is the perceptual difference between swap and edit distances? Why do you believe edit distances performed better?  Are there any rhythmic circumstances in which you might expect swap distances to better correlate to perception than edit distances?  Do you have any thoughts on how to “change the edit distance so that it is impervious to counter examples” (421)?  Might it be beneficial to reconstruct “distance” in a different way than the minimum number of required mutations?  If so, how would we proceed?


My aim in these questions is to foster a discussion on: symbolic metrics, what different distances “mean,” experimental design, representation of results, and potential follow-up studies.


Tempo Perception

At the beginning of the semester, we discussed findings from experimental studies that were consistent with the existence of a preferred tempo or maximal pulse salience zone around 100 bpm (600 ms), i.e., a rate around which participants spontaneously tap and at which participants’ performance on tapping and detection tasks tends to be better. While some of the studies that reported these findings did involve “real” music as source materials for lab stimuli, most did not. Furthermore, most studies focus on a single pulse level (beat or tactus) and map this pulse level on a theoretical model that presuppose a metric hierachy.

Martens’s (2011) and London’s (2011) studies offer a somewhat contrasting account of pulse perception that, at the very least, calls for some qualification of these earlier findings. How do these two studies relate to one another? How do their findings converge or diverge? And what might be some of the implications of these findings for a theory of tempo perception (and meter)? And how does this week’s focus article on the “swing ratio” (Honing & de Haas, 2008) inform this issue?

If you will not be attending class on Thursday morning, please post a preliminary response by Tuesday, October 30, 11:59PM. If you will be attending class, you may still post a preliminary response, but it is optional.