Tag Archives: Science

Rhythm and experimental psychology

 

In the laboratories of 19th-century experimental psychologists, new concepts of precision-oriented, mechanically regulated musical time emerged as a positive ideal—one that led to the ubiquity of the metronome in the training and practice regimes of classical musicians and pervasive understandings of “good” and “bad” musical rhythm in the 20th century.

Most notably, Wilhelm Wundt included a metronome in the assembly of clockwork instruments employed in his research into the variables of human perception and action. His experiments helped to shape and define modern concepts of rhythm, radically shifting the concept of musical rhythm from a subjective, internal pulse reference to an objective, unerringly precise phenomenon independent of human agency.

At the turn of the 20th century, other psychologists, such as Carl Seashore, disseminated these scientific ideals to a wider public through important music publications, and by the 1920s such ideals were becoming pervasive among both amateur and professional music practitioners.

This according to “Refashioning rhythm: Hearing, acting and reacting to metronomic sound in experimental psychology and beyond, c. 1875–1920” by Alexander Bonus, an essay included in Cultural histories of noise, sound and listening in Europe, 1300–1918 (Abington: Routledge, 2017, pp. 76–105).

Above, Dr. Wundt (seated) and colleagues in his psychological laboratory, the first of its kind, ca. 1880; below, an abridged version of György Ligeti’s Poème symphonique for 100 metronomes.

BONUS: For the purists, a complete performance of Ligeti’s work.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Curiosities, Source studies

Hating a nonexistant celebrity

hungariancelebs3

An Internet questionnaire aimed at measuring Hungarian responses to Hungarian celebrity culture gathered responses from 7317 people; the results are reported in “National characteristics of Hungarian celebrity culture” by Andrea Viniczai, an article included in History of stardom reconsidered (Turku/Åbo: Turun Yliopisto, 2001, pp. 90–96).

Several of the statistics that were generated could give pause; for example, respondents overwhelmingly voted that celebrities should be scandalous (97%), while fewer than 20% believed that they should be likeable, intelligent, or decent (see above).

Particularly notable were the responses to a fictitious celebrity—Lukács Bíró, Vinczai’s dentist—among a group of 29 well-known names. 25% of the respondents claimed familiarity with Bíró, and 60% of them expressed dislike for him. He was the 8th most rejected person in the group.

Below, Jimmy Zámbó, a formerly extant, but still potentially hateful, Hungarian celebrity who is profiled in the article.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Curiosities, Popular music