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AMPS: Past Seminar Series

Past Seminar Series

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2001 Seminar Series

Perspectives on Machine Listening
Speaker : Barry Vercoe Media Lab., MIT
Date :12th Jan


Within the field of Music Perception, machine modeling of auditory perception can often do rather well. Perhaps more surprising is how well machines can do with processes not necessarily based on mammalian solutions. This will be an overview of the research currently in progress within the Media Lab's Machine Listening Group. Topics will range from mixed source signal separation based purely on statistical independence, to audio beam-forming using ultrasound as a carrier. Some results from more traditional perception research will be presented too.

Acoustical, Psychoacoustical and Subjective Assessment of Alvin Lucier's I am Sitting in a Room
Speaker : Densil Cabrera Architectural & Design Science, University of Syd
Date :30th Mar


Composed in 1969-70, I am Sitting in a Room is one of Lucier's earliest mature works. Its is highly distinctive musical composition, in that a room is used as the musical instrument. The two published recordings of this work made by Lucier date from 1970 and 1980. This paper examines the sound of these recordings in acoustical, psychoacoustical and subjective terms. Thus a work that is most commonly discussed in terms of its production is analysed here in terms of its sound, with an emphasis on perceptual qualities.

The experimental part of the study involves subjective assessments of a portion of each generation of the two recordings. Three evaluation scales and two emotion scales were used. The recordings are also analysed using psychoacoustical algorithms, and relationships between psychoacoustical and subjective measurements are examined. The acoustical aspect of the study examines the transfer functions and impulse responses of the room-systems, drawing some conclusions on why the 1980 recording is more appealing and more subtle than the 1970 recording.

Dotted rhythms - Perception, preference and implication for performance practice
Speaker : Dorottya Fabian & Emery Schubert School of Music & Music Educati
Date :27th Apr


In a recent study (Schubert & Fabian Somorjay, 2000), the authors found that staccato articulation of a dotted pattern in compound-duple meter, as it occurs in Variation 7 of Bach's Goldberg Variations, could enhance the perception of the dottedness in addition to the actual dottedness itself. Stimuli were tested in which the first note of the three note-group was shortened or kerned (K1), the third note was kerned (K2) or when the articulation was legato (K0). The present study addresses the aesthetic nature of this perception. Specifically, (1) do listeners prefer K1, overdotted performances, as proposed by music theorists, and (2) what is the relationship between judged stylishness and preference of the various performances? 70 participants rated the stylishness, preference and perceived dottedness of the various patterns of dottedness and kerning. The findings support the theory because overdotted renderings are considered more stylish than mechanical dotting. However, K0 (legato articulation) was preferred to K1 and K2, in contrast to the theory. This finding has important implications regarding the experimental design and the relationship between expert and non-experienced listeners. An analysis of the relationship between preference and stylishness revealed that the two terms are virtually synonymous (r = 0.979, p << 0.05). This finding is discussed in the broader context of the relationship between good, successful, quality etc. evaluations and aesthetic preference.

The Effect of Tonal Language Background on the Perception of Pitch Change in Speech and Music
Speaker : Kate Stevens & Peter Keller, MARCS / School of Psychology, Unive
Date :27th Apr


Changes in pitch are characteristic of both spoken and musical events. We propose that melodic contour is a feature characteristic of both speech and musical patterns and that extraction of melodic contour enables recognition and discrimination of short musical and spoken items. Based on the rich musicality of the early linguistic environment we test the hypothesis that perceptual biases such as heightened sensitivity to pitch or intonation in a tonal language persist into later auditory processing. Our experiments investigate the effect of tonal language background (Thai versus English speakers) on discrimination of pitch change in the context of tonal (Thai) and non-tonal (English) speech stimuli, musical intervals and frequency discrimination. As hypothesized, adult participants from a tonal language background were significantly more accurate than non-tonal language participants at discriminating pitch change in intact words and filtered speech. The effect of language background was upheld for both Thai and English items. However, there was no effect of language background in discrimination of musical intervals nor was there any evidence of variation in psychophysical thresholds for frequency discrimination. The speech specific nature of the results are interpreted as a form of expertise and we suggest that experience and expertise have the potential to make both speech and music special.

Simplicity in the Sound of Resonating Sound Art
Speaker : Densil Cabrera Architectural & Design Science, University of Syd
Date :11th May


This study is concerned with a type of minimalist music, which is called resonating sound art. In this art form, a system of sustained acoustic resonance forms the work, with little or no other performative or compositional intervention. A selection of 91 sound stimuli, mainly taken from published recordings, were assessed by subjects using three evaluation ((Dis)Like, (Un)Interesting and (Un)Pleasant) and two emotion (Arousal and Valence) scales. These stimuli were also analysed using a wide selection of psychoacoustical measures. The results show weak relationships between psychoacoustical measures and subjective ratings, with the exception of a strong relationship between loudness and emotional arousal. Those stimuli that best-fit the definition of resonating sound art form a pattern in the two dimensional emotion space, which suggests that they are emotionally simple. The five response scales are reducible to two scales.

Self-regulated Musical Learners
Speaker : Gary McPherson & James Renwick University of NSW
Date :25th May


Self-regulated learning, a field in which some of the most important recent advances in the study of cognitive development have occurred, is a useful paradigm from which to study how learners acquire the tools necessary to take control of their own learning and thereby learn effectively. We believe that self-regulated learning theory holds great potential for research in music education and music psychology, because like any academic subject, learning music requires a great deal of self-regulation, which is evident when students become metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviourally active participants in their own learning process. The prime aim of our presentation therefore, will be to propose a framework which can be used to underpin future research, by focusing on the self-regulatory processes that shape and influence the learning of a musical instrument.

Muscles and Music: Spice of Life or Aching Burden? Work-related health problems among Swedish music teachers
Speaker : Gunnevi Sundelin and Anncristine Fjellman Wiklund Umea Universit
Date :14th Aug


Musicians at all levels of performance may experience health problems from their work environment. The most common complaints relate to musculoskeletal symptoms. Health problems are costly, both to the individual and to society, and may have detrimental effects on the musician’s career. Thus, it is important to prevent health problems. Since music teachers educate and provide skills to future musicians, it is important to explore their work environment. By acting as good role models, they may help their students stay healthy and prevent musculoskeletal problems. Very few studies have described the specific work environment of music teachers from muscle strain and psychosocial points of departure. The aim of our studies was to investigate perceived health and musculoskeletal disorders as well as physical and psychosocial work factors among Swedish music teachers at municipal music schools. Results indicate that the work was perceived as positive but with a high extent of musculoskeletal pain. The interactive creation of music, the interactions with students and colleagues, role identification, as well as the ability to modify work and life situations, were found to be key aspects for perceived good health. Focussing on pedagogical tools is crucial not only in becoming an effective music teacher but also in maintaining good health.

Links Between Musical and Non-Musical Experiences: Common Principles Versus Shared Neural Resources.
Speaker : Bill Thompson
Date :27th Nov


Music affects us deeply, yet there is no general framework for understanding the power of music. First, I'll present numerous examples of music, discussing their aesthetic purposes and effects. Next, I'll review empirical attempts to understand such effects. One branch of research aims to identify cognitive principles that operate across sensory modalities. Such studies help us to understand how we make sense of music, and the degree to which music experiences are culturally determined. Another branch of research aims to identify neural links between musical and non-musical experiences. Research on the "Mozart effect" exemplifies this line of research, but recent data raise doubts about this effect. A more promising line of inquiry concerns neural links between music and speech prosody. After reviewing some of my recent studies of this topic, I will argue that this link accounts for some of the aesthetic qualities of music.