The June 2013 issue of Journal of new music research (XLII/2) is a special issue devoted to computational ethnomusicology.
The editors, Emilia Gómez, Perfecto Herrera, and Francisco Gómez-Martin, explain that the term computational ethnomusicology is over 30 years old, but it has recently been redefined as “the design, development, and usage of computer tools that have the potential to assist in ethnomusicological research.”
Above, a diagram of the Tarsos platform from “Tarsos, a modular platform for precise pitch analysis of Western and non-Western music” by Joren Six, Olmo Cornelis, and Marc Leman (pp. 113–29). Below, a vintage computer cover of The house of the rising sun.
This Halloween, let’s see what a series of experiments demonstrated about the influence of skull resonance on music preference.
Listeners were presented with a set of original melodies and were asked to judge how much they enjoyed each selection.
Following the melody judgments, the resonance of each listener’s skull was recorded by firmly pressing a microphone against the temporal bone while the listener tapped on his or her head. The complex spectra recording from this tapping was analyzed to determine the fundamental resonant frequency of that person’s skull.
The skull was not found to directly influence the melodies that the participants selected at all. Participants preferred a wide range of musical keys and these musical keys had no simple relationship to the resonance of the skulls.
However, skull resonance was found to moderately predict the musical keys that people disliked. Unlike the preferred music, the disliked music tended to be found in a very narrow set of musical keys. In addition, the fundamental frequency of the musical keys themselves tended to have a clear set of non-integer, complex mathematical ratios to the skull.
In short, this research suggests that the skull might influence the music that a person dislikes rather than the music a person likes.
This according to “Music of the body: An investigation of skull resonance and its influence on musical preference” by Jitwipar Suwangbutra, et al. (Acoustical Society of America: 165th Acoustical Society of America Meeting/21st International Congress on Acoustics/52nd Meeting of the Canadian Acoustical Association: Lay papers, 2013).
Many thanks to the Improbable Research blog for bringing this to our attention! Below, The Skulls discuss funding for future projects.
Two experiments explored the effects of specific sound stimuli on laying hens.
The first measured heterophil to lymphocyte ratio and tonic immobility duration in 216 36-week-old hens exposed to specific noise stimuli of 65 dB (background chicken vocalizations and fans, control) or 90 dB (background noises plus truck, train, and aircraft noises) for 60 minutes. The measurements showed that the hens exposed to 90 dB noise were more stressed and fearful than control hens.
The second experiment measured heterophil to lymphocyte ratio and tonic immobility duration in 108 36-week-old hens exposed to background noises (65 dB) or to classical music plus background noises (75 dB) between 9.00 and 14.00 for three days. The measurements showed that the hens exposed to classical music were more fearful than control hens.
Overall, the results indicate that loud noise causes stress and fear in laying hens, and classical music influences their fearfulness.
This according to “Effects of specific noise and music stimuli on stress and fear levels of laying hens of several breeds” by José Luis Campo Chávarri, et al. (Applied animal behavior science XCI/1–2 [May 2005] pp. 75–84. Below, perhaps the ballet of the unhatched chicks.
In 2008 Science magazine and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science hosted the first ever Dance Your PhD Contest in Vienna.
Calls for submission to subsequent annual Dance Your PhD contests followed suit, attracting hundreds of entries.
For these contests, practitioners transform their bodies into animating media and conduct body experiments to test their hypotheses. This body-work offers a medium through which they can communicate the nuanced details of their findings among students and colleagues. The Dance Your PhD contests expand and extend what it is possible for scientific researchers to see, say, imagine, and feel.
This according to “Dance Your PhD: Embodied animations, body experiments, and the affective entanglements of life science research” by Natasha Myers (Body & society XVIII/1  pp. 151–189). Above and below, the winning dance from 2012.
BONUS: John Bohannon, who started the contest, presents a TED talk about it here.
In an experiment, 80 students were each randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: no treatment (control), music only, imagery only, and music and imagery combined.
The first group was asked to sit quietly for 17 minutes. The second group listened to a recording of Pachelbel’s D-major canon. The third treatment used directed imagery to help the subjects visualize the bone marrow, a primary source of lymphocyte production, and the radiation of cleansing lymphocytes to various areas of the body. The fourth treatment combined the music and the directed imagery.
The second, third, and fourth treatments resulted in significant increases in the subjects’ immune response. The fourth treatment, however, did not show a significant increase over those of the second and third.
This according to “The effects of music and biological imagery on immune response (S-IgA)” by Chung Tsao Chien, et al., an essay included in Applications of music in medicine (Washington, D.C.: National Association for Music Therapy, 1991, pp. 85–121.
Today is Pachelbel’s 360th birthday! Below, Rob Paravonian discusses other uses of the celebrated canon in D.
The 19th century was a golden age for the invention of acoustical research instruments—tools for measuring audible frequencies or the speed of sound, or for making sound visible.
Advancements in instrument making and voice physiology paralleled advancements in sound recording, reproduction, and transmission. Apparatuses developed during that time included tuning forks, sirens, sonorous pipes, singing and sensitive flames, manometric capsules, and resonators.
This according to “1800–1900: Un secolo di strumenti per lo studio dell’acustica/1800–1900: A century of instruments for the study of acoustics” by Paolo Brenni, an essay included in L’acustica e suoi strumenti: La collezione dell’Istituto Tecnico Toscano/Acoustics and its instruments: The collection of the Istituto Tecnico Toscano (Firenze: Giunti, 2001, pp. 57–72).
Above, a manometric capsule; below, Professor Henry Higgins demonstrates a sensitive flame, using a rotating mirror for isolating the flame’s oscillations.
Today we honor both George Harrison’s birthday and National Cancer Awareness Month.
In 1997 Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer; it did not appear to be a large tumor, and it seemed harmless. Chemotherapy and radiation showed effective results.
But in 2000, while he was working on a reissue of All things must pass, he underwent treatment for another cancerous growth in the lung, which had migrated from his primary lesion of the throat. Later he was found to have an inoperable brain tumor as well.
Harrison underwent a new type of cancer treatment in a Swiss clinic, but he finally succumbed to his disease on November 29, 2001. If the original cancer had been screened and diagnosed in time, we might be celebrating his 70th birthday today.
This according to “George Harrison” by Anirudha Agnihotry, an article posted on the blog Oral cancer awareness drive (Oral Cancer Organization, 2013). Many thanks to Dr. Agnihotry for guest-writing this post!
Above, Ravi Shankar imparts the rudiments of sitār playing. Below, Harrison with a few friends.
MIDI-Connect4 is a program that composes music from the unfolding of a board game, Hasbro’s Connect 4™.
The system uses evolutionary computation to evolve from scratch a neural network that plays the Connect 4 game. Music is produced when a user plays the game against the system. The system generates music by associating the moves of each player with musical forms (see above).
The program was inspired by a musical event called Reunion, which was conceived by John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Teeny Duchamp in 1968, in which sounds were spatially distributed around a concert audience as a chess game unfolded.
This according to “Composition as game strategy: Making music by playing board games against evolved artificial neural networks” by Eduardo Reck Miranda and Qijun Zhang, an article included in Proceedings of the 31st International Computer Music Conference (San Francisco: International Computer Music Association, 2005).
Below, the game’s intrinsic acoustical properties.
“I know a distinguished pianist, of tremendously nervous temperament; he often has trouble urinating, and often is subject to all the trouble in the world without being at liberty to satisfy his needs; yet whistling or a few chords on the piano frees this obstruction in an instant.”
So wrote Jan Matuszyński in an 1837 doctoral thesis for the École de Médecine in Paris, referring to his best friend and former school- and then flat-mate, Frédéric Chopin. Matuszyński’s topic, the concept of sympathetic nerves, was in the vanguard of Parisian physiological theory in the 1830s.
His thesis in his study of the suffering pianist was that “the intimate connection existing between the human ear and the abdominal viscera by the sympathetic nerves permits these organs to have a significant influence upon the organ of hearing.”
This according to “Reflecting on reflex, or, Another touching new fact about Chopin” by James Q. Davies (Keyboard perspectives II  pp. 55–82). Below, the composer’s celebrated “Raindrop” prelude, which may now be open to reinterpretation.
Musicforcats.com presents music by David Teie that is based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats, written in a musical language that is uniquely designed to appeal to the domestic cat.
The pieces are composed in three different styles; each style is designed to convey and evoke a particular mood.
- Kitty ditties: Playful and quick, these incorporate stylizations of some of the animal calls that are of great interest to cats. A little like sonic catnip, ditties are meant to arouse interest and curiosity.
- Feline airs: The purr is to cats what the moan is to humans; it can express pleasure or pain, but most importantly, it draws sympathetic emotions from the listener. The timing and cyclic rhythms of purrs are remarkably consistent among all breeds of domestic cats, and the feline air is based on the pulses of the purr.
- Cat ballads: Just as the pedal drum provides the heartbeat in human music, the swish, swish of these ballads provides the sound of suckling in feline music.