Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2024

Ancient origins of aspects of instrumental and song melodies distinctive from those of language.

 A global collaboration from many cultures shows that songs and instrumental melodies are slower and higher and use more stable pitches than speech, suggesting evolutionary origins universal to all humans that cannot simply be explained by culture. The numerous samples of music collected could be arranged in a musi-linguistic continuum from instrumental music to spoken language.

Both music and language are found in all known human societies, yet no studies have compared similarities and differences between song, speech, and instrumental music on a global scale. In this Registered Report, we analyzed two global datasets: (i) 300 annotated audio recordings representing matched sets of traditional songs, recited lyrics, conversational speech, and instrumental melodies from our 75 coauthors speaking 55 languages; and (ii) 418 previously published adult-directed song and speech recordings from 209 individuals speaking 16 languages. Of our six preregistered predictions, five were strongly supported: Relative to speech, songs use (i) higher pitch, (ii) slower temporal rate, and (iii) more stable pitches, while both songs and speech used similar (iv) pitch interval size and (v) timbral brightness. Exploratory analyses suggest that features vary along a “musi-linguistic” continuum when including instrumental melodies and recited lyrics. Our study provides strong empirical evidence of cross-cultural regularities in music and speech.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Bodily maps of musical sensations across cultures

Interesting work from Putkinen et al. (open source):  


Music is inherently linked with the body. Here, we investigated how music's emotional and structural aspects influence bodily sensations and whether these sensations are consistent across cultures. Bodily sensations evoked by music varied depending on its emotional qualities, and the music-induced bodily sensations and emotions were consistent across the tested cultures. Musical features also influenced the emotional experiences and bodily sensations consistently across cultures. These findings show that bodily feelings contribute to the elicitation and differentiation of music-induced emotions and suggest similar embodiment of music-induced emotions in geographically distant cultures. Music-induced emotions may transcend cultural boundaries due to cross-culturally shared links between musical features, bodily sensations, and emotions.
Emotions, bodily sensations and movement are integral parts of musical experiences. Yet, it remains unknown i) whether emotional connotations and structural features of music elicit discrete bodily sensations and ii) whether these sensations are culturally consistent. We addressed these questions in a cross-cultural study with Western (European and North American, n = 903) and East Asian (Chinese, n = 1035). We precented participants with silhouettes of human bodies and asked them to indicate the bodily regions whose activity they felt changing while listening to Western and Asian musical pieces with varying emotional and acoustic qualities. The resulting bodily sensation maps (BSMs) varied as a function of the emotional qualities of the songs, particularly in the limb, chest, and head regions. Music-induced emotions and corresponding BSMs were replicable across Western and East Asian subjects. The BSMs clustered similarly across cultures, and cluster structures were similar for BSMs and self-reports of emotional experience. The acoustic and structural features of music were consistently associated with the emotion ratings and music-induced bodily sensations across cultures. These results highlight the importance of subjective bodily experience in music-induced emotions and demonstrate consistent associations between musical features, music-induced emotions, and bodily sensations across distant cultures.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Why music training slows cognitive aging

A team of Chinese collaborators has reported experiments in the Oxford academic journal Cerebral Cortex titled "Functional gradients in prefrontal regions and somatomotor networks reflect the effect of music training experience on cognitive aging" which are stated to show that music training enhances the functional separation between regions across prefrontal and somatomotor networks, delaying deterioration in working memory performance and prefrontal suppression of prominant but irrelevant information. I'm passing on the abstract and a clip from the paper's conclusion, and can send interested readers the whole article. I think it is an important article but I find it is rendered almost unintelligble by Chinese to English translation issues. I'm surprised the journal let this article appear without further editing.
Studies showed that the top-down control of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) on sensory/motor cortices changes during cognitive aging. Although music training has demonstrated efficacy on cognitive aging, its brain mechanism is still far from clear. Current music intervention studies have paid insufficient attention to the relationship between PFC and sensory regions. Functional gradient provides a new perspective that allows researchers to understand network spatial relationships, which helps study the mechanism of music training that affects cognitive aging. In this work, we estimated the functional gradients in four groups, young musicians, young control, older musicians, and older control. We found that cognitive aging leads to gradient compression. Compared with young subjects, older subjects presented lower and higher principal gradient scores in the right dorsal and medial prefrontal and the bilateral somatomotor regions, respectively. Meanwhile, by comparing older control and musicians, we found a mitigating effect of music training on gradient compression. Furthermore, we revealed that the connectivity transitions between prefrontal and somatomotor regions at short functional distances are a potential mechanism for music to intervene in cognitive aging. This work contributes to understanding the neuroplasticity of music training on cognitive aging.
From the conclusion paragraph:
In a nutshell, we demonstrate the top-down control of prefrontal regions to the somatomotor network, which is associated with inhibitory function and represents a potential marker of cognitive aging, and reveal that music training may work by affecting the connectivity between the two regions. Although this work has investigated the neuroplasticity of music on cognitive aging by recruiting subjects of different age spans, the present study did not include the study of longitudinal changes of the same group. Further studies should include longitudinal follow-up of the same groups over time to more accurately evaluate the effect of music intervention on the process of cognitive aging.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Musical rhythm training improves short-term memory for faces

From Zanto et al:  


Musical training can improve numerous cognitive functions associated with musical performance. Yet, there is limited evidence that musical training may benefit nonmusical tasks and it is unclear how the brain may enable such a transfer of benefit. To address this, nonmusicians were randomized to receive 8 wk of either musical rhythm training or word search training. Memory for faces was assessed pre- and post-training while electroencephalography data were recorded to assess changes in brain activity. Results showed that only musical rhythm training improved face memory, which was associated with increased activity in the superior parietal region of the brain when encoding and maintaining faces. Thus, musical rhythm training can improve face memory by facilitating how the brain encodes and maintains memories.
Playing a musical instrument engages numerous cognitive abilities, including sensory perception, selective attention, and short-term memory. Mounting evidence indicates that engaging these cognitive functions during musical training will improve performance of these same functions. Yet, it remains unclear the extent these benefits may extend to nonmusical tasks, and what neural mechanisms may enable such transfer. Here, we conducted a preregistered randomized clinical trial where nonmusicians underwent 8 wk of either digital musical rhythm training or word search as control. Only musical rhythm training placed demands on short-term memory, as well as demands on visual perception and selective attention, which are known to facilitate short-term memory. As hypothesized, only the rhythm training group exhibited improved short-term memory on a face recognition task, thereby providing important evidence that musical rhythm training can benefit performance on a nonmusical task. Analysis of electroencephalography data showed that neural activity associated with sensory processing and selective attention were unchanged by training. Rather, rhythm training facilitated neural activity associated with short-term memory encoding, as indexed by an increased P3 of the event-related potential to face stimuli. Moreover, short-term memory maintenance was enhanced, as evidenced by increased two-class (face/scene) decoding accuracy. Activity from both the encoding and maintenance periods each highlight the right superior parietal lobule (SPL) as a source for training-related changes. Together, these results suggest musical rhythm training may improve memory for faces by facilitating activity within the SPL to promote how memories are encoded and maintained, which can be used in a domain-general manner to enhance performance on a nonmusical task.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Even novices intuit complex music theory,

Bridget Alex does a nice summary of work by Weis and Peretz showing that people without musical training naturally improvise melodies that have hallmarks of tunes composed by professionals. Most individuals follow the arcane rules of music composition, even those who are unaware those rules exist. Here is the research article abstract:
Humans spontaneously invent songs from an early age. Here, we exploit this natural inclination to probe implicit musical knowledge in 33 untrained and poor singers (amusia). Each sang 28 long improvisations as a response to a verbal prompt or a continuation of a melodic stem. To assess the extent to which each improvisation reflects tonality, which has been proposed to be a core organizational principle of musicality and which is present within most music traditions, we developed a new algorithm that compares a sung excerpt to a probability density function representing the tonal hierarchy of Western music. The results show signatures of tonality in both nonmusicians and individuals with congenital amusia, who have notorious difficulty performing musical tasks that require explicit responses and memory. The findings are a proof of concept that improvisation can serve as a novel, even enjoyable method for systematically measuring hidden aspects of musicality across the spectrum of musical ability.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Music training enhances auditory and linguistic processing.

From Neves et al.:  


• Systematic review and meta-analysis of neurobehavioral effects of music training. 
• We ask whether music training shapes auditory-perceptual and linguistic skills. 
• Multivariate meta-analytic models are combined with narrative synthesis. 
• Music training has a positive effect on auditory and linguistic processing. 
• Our work informs research on plasticity, transfer, and music-based interventions.
It is often claimed that music training improves auditory and linguistic skills. Results of individual studies are mixed, however, and most evidence is correlational, precluding inferences of causation. Here, we evaluated data from 62 longitudinal studies that examined whether music training programs affect behavioral and brain measures of auditory and linguistic processing (N = 3928). For the behavioral data, a multivariate meta-analysis revealed a small positive effect of music training on both auditory and linguistic measures, regardless of the type of assignment (random vs. non-random), training (instrumental vs. non-instrumental), and control group (active vs. passive). The trim-and-fill method provided suggestive evidence of publication bias, but meta-regression methods (PET-PEESE) did not. For the brain data, a narrative synthesis also documented benefits of music training, namely for measures of auditory processing and for measures of speech and prosody processing. Thus, the available literature provides evidence that music training produces small neurobehavioral enhancements in auditory and linguistic processing, although future studies are needed to confirm that such enhancements are not due to publication bias.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Neurons in the brain that respond mainly to singing

New work from Norman-Haignere et al. describes a population of cells in our auditory cortex, located between the music and speech-selective areas, that is responsive to singing, but not to instrumental music or speech. (Their experiments were done on patients who were in hospital with electrodes implanted into their heads for epilepsy treatment, allowing more precise location data than can be obtained from fMRI scans.) Their result is consonant with a popular theory that singing has an important role in the evolution of music and language. Their abstract:  


• Neural population responsive to singing, but not instrumental music or speech 
• New statistical method infers neural populations from human intracranial responses 
• fMRI used to map the spatial distribution of intracranial responses 
• Intracranial responses replicate distinct music- and speech-selective populations
How is music represented in the brain? While neuroimaging has revealed some spatial segregation between responses to music versus other sounds, little is known about the neural code for music itself. To address this question, we developed a method to infer canonical response components of human auditory cortex using intracranial responses to natural sounds, and further used the superior coverage of fMRI to map their spatial distribution. The inferred components replicated many prior findings, including distinct neural selectivity for speech and music, but also revealed a novel component that responded nearly exclusively to music with singing. Song selectivity was not explainable by standard acoustic features, was located near speech- and music-selective responses, and was also evident in individual electrodes. These results suggest that representations of music are fractionated into subpopulations selective for different types of music, one of which is specialized for the analysis of song.

Friday, January 28, 2022

The stories we imagine while listening to music depends on our culture.

Margulis et al. (text from their introduction)
....compared quantitative measures of narrativity (the likelihood that an excerpt of music triggers a story in listeners minds) and narrative engagement (how vivid and clear the events of the story are in listeners minds) for a large set of musical excerpts from Western and Chinese musical traditions for listeners in the same three distinct geographical locations as the present investigation—two suburban college towns in the US Midwest and one rural village in the Chinese province of Guizhou. Results showed that people in all three locations readily narrativize to excerpts (i.e., narrativity scores were quite high) with varying levels of narrative engagement for both Western and Chinese instrumental music; moreover, people do so with about the same degree regardless of location. Notably, however, although both excerpt narrativity and narrative engagement scores were highly correlated across the two US locations, they were not correlated (not predictive) for cross-cultural comparisons between listeners in both of the US locations and the remote rural village in Guizhou.
Here is the article's abstsract:
The scientific literature sometimes considers music an abstract stimulus, devoid of explicit meaning, and at other times considers it a universal language. Here, individuals in three geographically distinct locations spanning two cultures performed a highly unconstrained task: they provided free-response descriptions of stories they imagined while listening to instrumental music. Tools from natural language processing revealed that listeners provide highly similar stories to the same musical excerpts when they share an underlying culture, but when they do not, the generated stories show limited overlap. These results paint a more complex picture of music’s power: music can generate remarkably similar stories in listeners’ minds, but the degree to which these imagined narratives are shared depends on the degree to which culture is shared across listeners. Thus, music is neither an abstract stimulus nor a universal language but has semantic affordances shaped by culture, requiring more sustained attention from psychology.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

A musical offering.

For this day that was central in my Protestant Christian Texas childhood: a performance by the Netherlands Bach Society of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo from Bach's  Christmas Cantata BVW 191 first performed in Leipzig ~1742. There is joy in this music that transcends it’s religious origins. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Snippets of Bach

To give MindBlog readers a bit of a break from brain and mind posts, I want to point out that the New York Times has a great series of articles that present roughly five minutes of music chosen by artists and composers to make you fall in love with different genres of classical music: piano, opera, cello, Mozart, 21st-century composers, violin, Baroque music, sopranos, Beethoven, flute, string quartets, tenors, Brahms, choral music, percussion, symphonies, Stravinsky, trumpet and Maria Callas. 


The most recent installment presents the stirring, consoling music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the grand master of the Western classical tradition.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Music can be infectious like a virus - the same mathematical model works for both

Rosati et al. find that a standard model of epidemic disease, called the SIR model, fitts trends in song downloads over time:
Popular songs are often said to be ‘contagious’, ‘infectious’ or ‘viral’. We find that download count time series for many popular songs resemble infectious disease epidemic curves. This paper suggests infectious disease transmission models could help clarify mechanisms that contribute to the ‘spread’ of song preferences and how these mechanisms underlie song popularity. We analysed data from MixRadio, comprising song downloads through Nokia cell phones in Great Britain from 2007 to 2014. We compared the ability of the standard susceptible–infectious–recovered (SIR) epidemic model and a phenomenological (spline) model to fit download time series of popular songs. We fitted these same models to simulated epidemic time series generated by the SIR model. Song downloads are captured better by the SIR model, to the same extent that actual SIR simulations are fitted better by the SIR model than by splines. This suggests that the social processes underlying song popularity are similar to those that drive infectious disease transmission. We draw conclusions about song popularity within specific genres based on estimated SIR parameters. In particular, we argue that faster spread of preferences for Electronica songs may reflect stronger connectivity of the ‘susceptible community’, compared with the larger and broader community that listens to more common genres.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Monday morning tonic - A modern folk song about your brain

Ryan Stotland, a song writer from Montreal, has pointed me to a few of his engaging pieces, and I pass on one of them to you. It rhapsodizes about what different parts of our brains do... (not to worry, if you're a regular MindBlog reader, that the facts presented are phrenological oversimplifications that are a bit out of date.) 


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Music and Medicine

Amy McDermott does an open source article on how music is increasingly being employed as a medical therapy. Here are some clips from the article:
...growing evidence points to a range of musical medical benefits for ailments from stroke to Parkinson’ mechanically ventilated ICU patients relaxing, slow-tempo classical music reduced patients’ number of delirium days... music has been part of medicine, in one way or another, from the earliest efforts to heal the sick...since some 35,000 years ago...around the time that humans began painting animal figures in ochre and black on cave walls, shamans used bone flutes and animal skin drums in healing and funerary rituals. Fast forward to the 20th century, and musicians took up the mantle of healers after the First World War by playing for wounded soldiers in veteran’s hospitals. Anecdotally, the soldiers responded so well that hospitals brought in musicians; the National Association for Music in Hospitals was born in 1926, according to the American Music Therapy Association. In the decades that followed, hospital musicians developed an accreditation system and became known as music therapists, as their work became increasingly tailored to patients experiencing a range of disorders. Today, music therapists work in settings from hospitals, to outpatient clinics, to nursing homes, where they are typically members of a patient’s interdisciplinary treatment team along with medical doctors, neurologists, and psychologists.
The article proceeds with McDermott's summary of a number of clinical trials attempting to rigorously investigate the therapeutic effects of music.

Friday, December 25, 2020

A musical offering for this day.

I'm grateful to a number of MindBlog viewers for their positive feedback on the recent series of posts on Barrett's book on emotions, and I thought I would pass on as a seasonal gift this YouTube video of the beginning of the Bach Christmas Oratorio showing a piano version of its orchestral musical score scrolling past as the performance proceeds. I enjoy sightreading the score on my Steinway B with the YouTube sound turned down a bit. 

(My YouTube channel shows some of my solo piano and chamber music efforts.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Baroque Music - Calming sounds for our times

The New York Times offers another installment in its series that asks prominent artists to choose the five minutes or so they would play to make their friends fall in love with a particular category of music, such as  classical music, the piano, opera, the cello, Mozart, 21st-century composers, the violin...and now, Baroque Music. I found listening through the 16 selections chosen from the work of Bach, Handel, Purcell, Monteverdi, Scarlatti and others to be a wonderful calming antidote to my usual brain noise.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Origins of human music - two perspectives

Because I wrote an article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (coauthored with Vadim Arshavsky), that was published in 2010, I receive the journal's calls for commentaries on forthcoming articles. Here I pass on the abstracts of two articles proposing evolutionary rationales for the origins of our human musical abilities.  Because I am a recital pianist I have always been interested in the origins and neuroscience of our musical faculties. In 2015 I agreed to give a lecture on 'Music and the Mind', generated thirty pages of fairly lucid text, became overwhelmed by the complexity of the subject, and backed out of doing the talk.  I'm curious to see whether a careful reading of these articles confirms that decision or inspires me to try again. 

Music as a coevolved system for social bonding
Why do humans make music? Theories of the evolution of musicality have focused mainly on the value of music for specific adaptive contexts such as mate selection, parental care, coalition signaling, and group cohesion. Synthesizing and extending previous proposals, we argue that social bonding is an overarching function that unifies all of these theories, and that musicality enabled social bonding at larger scales than grooming and other bonding mechanisms available in ancestral primate societies. We combine cross-disciplinary evidence from archaeology, anthropology, biology, musicology, psychology, and neuroscience into a unified framework that accounts for the biological and cultural evolution of music. We argue that the evolution of musicality involves gene-culture coevolution, through which proto-musical behaviors that initially arose and spread as cultural inventions had feedback effects on biological evolution due to their impact on social bonding. We emphasize the deep links between production, perception, prediction, and social reward arising from repetition, synchronization, and harmonization of rhythms and pitches, and summarize empirical evidence for these links at the levels of brain networks, physiological mechanisms, and behaviors across cultures and across species. Finally, we address potential criticisms and make testable predictions for future research, including neurobiological bases of musicality and relationships between human music, language, animal song, and other domains. The music and social bonding (MSB) hypothesis provides the most comprehensive theory to date of the biological and cultural evolution of music.
Origins of music in credible signaling
Music comprises a diverse category of cognitive phenomena that likely represent both the effects of psychological adaptations that are specific to music (e.g., rhythmic entrainment) and the effects of adaptations for non-musical functions (e.g., auditory scene analysis). How did music evolve? Here, we show that prevailing views on the evolution of music — that music is a byproduct of other evolved faculties, evolved for social bonding, or evolved to signal mate quality — are incomplete or wrong. We argue instead that music evolved as a credible signal in at least two contexts: coalitional interactions and infant care. Specifically, we propose that (1) the production and reception of coordinated, entrained rhythmic displays is a co-evolved system for credibly signaling coalition strength, size, and coordination ability; and (2) the production and reception of infant-directed song is a co-evolved system for credibly signaling parental attention to secondarily altricial infants. These proposals, supported by interdisciplinary evidence, suggest that basic features of music, such as melody and rhythm, result from adaptations in the proper domain of human music. The adaptations provide a foundation for the cultural evolution of music in its actual domain, yielding the diversity of musical forms and musical behaviors found worldwide.

Monday, July 06, 2020

For a tranquil start to your week, Debussy with flowers

In my slow cruising through old MindBlog posts, I just came across the following post from Monday, March 2, 2009.....perhaps a faintly calming antidote to our current uncertain times. Enjoy:

I got an email from the fellow who made this video asking if he could use my YouTube videorecording of the Debussy Reverie. I said 'sure, go ahead'.... I'm not too keen on the electronic 'enhancements' he added to my basic piano track to make the first half of the video, but here it is...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Nostalgia... Remember Disco??

On my current tour through old MindBlog posts I came across this one from Jan 24, 2018, done during my early snowbird years in Fort Lauderdale, good energy to recal:

I saw this video (So Many Men, So Little Time - Miquel Brown) during happy hour at the local bar (Georgie's Alibi) several evenings ago and was totally transported back to my days of disco dancing in the late 1970's, early 1980's, getting hot and sweaty, tearing off the shirt, etc. The same moves at my current age would probably be life-threatening. I'll bet a number of you remember this kind of energy...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A perky bit of piano - Haydn Fantasia in C major, glitches included

I've generated almost 5,000 posts since this blog started in 2016 (before the first iPhone was released in 2017!, seems an aeon ago.) As a diversion during my self isolation until proper testing or a vaccine appears for COVID-19, I'm scanning through these posts from their beginning, and will be passing on a few. Coming across this bit of my piano playing perked me up yesterday, and I pass it on here, a Haydn fantasia.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Speech versus music in the brain

Peter Stern summarizes work of Albouy et al. in the current issue of Science Magazine:
To what extent does the perception of speech and music depend on different mechanisms in the human brain? What is the anatomical basis underlying this specialization? Albouy et al. created a corpus of a cappella songs that contain both speech (semantic) and music (melodic) information and degraded each stimulus selectively in either the temporal or spectral domain. Degradation of temporal information impaired speech recognition but not melody recognition, whereas degradation of spectral information impaired melody recognition but not speech recognition. Brain scanning revealed a right-left asymmetry for speech and music. Classification of speech content occurred exclusively in the left auditory cortex, whereas classification of melodic content occurred only in the right auditory cortex.
And here is the Albouy et al. abstract:
Does brain asymmetry for speech and music emerge from acoustical cues or from domain-specific neural networks? We selectively filtered temporal or spectral modulations in sung speech stimuli for which verbal and melodic content was crossed and balanced. Perception of speech decreased only with degradation of temporal information, whereas perception of melodies decreased only with spectral degradation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data showed that the neural decoding of speech and melodies depends on activity patterns in left and right auditory regions, respectively. This asymmetry is supported by specific sensitivity to spectrotemporal modulation rates within each region. Finally, the effects of degradation on perception were paralleled by their effects on neural classification. Our results suggest a match between acoustical properties of communicative signals and neural specializations adapted to that purpose.