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AMPS: Past Seminar Series

Past Seminar Series

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2002 Seminar Series


From Homer to Hollywood - the transmission of ideas of musical meaning
Speaker : Bob Walker UNSW
Date :22nd Mar

Eye movement and tempo in the sight reading of keyboard music
Speaker : Tony Souter
Date :12th Apr

Abstract:

This study investigated the notion that two key functions of eye movement in music reading are to maintain (1) a pace across the page that is appropriate to the tempo through a manipulation of the number and duration of fixations, and (2) an eye-hand span that is of an appropriate size to the tempo. The eye movement of nine highly skilled keyboardists was measured as they sight read two similar hymn settings in counterbalanced order at strictly controlled tempos, the first reading at 60MM and the second at 120MM. It was hypothesised that subjects would adapt to such a doubling in tempo by reducing the number and duration of their fixations, the information load in their eye-hand span, and their level of refixation, and conversely by increasing the amount of information on the score they did not fixate on. All hypotheses were confirmed by the data, suggesting that underlying eye movement in music reading is an intricate mechanism for adapting to tempo.

Missing the beat consistently: How to stabilise musical off-beat performance
Speaker : Peter Keller Haskins Laboratories
Date :24th May

Abstract:

Performing musical off-beats ­ i.e., producing sounds at the midpoints between beats ­ can be a frustrating endeavour, as there is a tendency to drift onto the beat at fast tempi. Several experiments employed a finger tapping paradigm to test the hypothesis that higher-order metric structure can be used to stabilise off-beat performance. The task required off-beat tapping with isochronous sequences in which beats were marked by high-pitched tones that were either (a) unaccompanied (producing a weak beat), or accompanied by simultaneous low tones that occurred (b) with every high tone (producing a relatively strong beat), (c) regularly, i.e., with every second, third, or fourth high tone (intended to encourage the experience of metric accents), or (d) irregularly. Results indicate that tap timing was less variable, and drift less evident, with metric and weak beat sequences than with irregular and strong beat sequences. These findings suggest that off-beat performance stability is compromised when metric structure is disrupted by irregular accents, which increase timing variability, and enhanced beat salience, which provokes drift by making the beat a more potent attractor. Higher-order metric periodicities may allay drift by providing a basis for making regular corrections to the timing mechanism that guides performance.

Musical ratios in the cochlea: implications of a revived resonance theory of hearing
Speaker : Andrew Bell ANU
Date :14th Jun

Abstract:

Can conventional traveling wave theory adequately describe the active cochlea? For example, it struggles to account for spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAEs), those faint, pure tones which emerge from healthy human ears and which can be detected with a sensitive microphone in the ear canal.

I have developed an alternative way of looking at cochlear mechanics based on the resonance theory of Helmholtz, but in which the resonant elements are reverberating ripples between rows of active outer hair cells. The new model, speculative at this point, operates in a similar way to the surface acoustic wave (SAW) resonator familiar from solid-state electronics. Simply put, SOAEs represent the continuous ringing of the cochlea's resonant elements.

Some remarkable musical properties derive naturally from the SAW model, and give a possible new perspective on how musical perception arises. As I will endeavour to demonstrate, the cochlea appears to be a detector of musical intervals. Thus, the distances between outer hair cells commonly have simple integer ratios; moreover, using a particular (but not atypical) arrangement of outer hair cells, just about the entire 12-tone scale emerges as inter-cell distance ratios.

Pythagoras could well be right: music is geometry

Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Or on the evolutionary neurobiology of hearing and hedonism
Speaker : Neil Todd, University of Manchester
Date :30th Aug

Abstract:

The conventional view in auditory science is that whatever the role of the otolith organs in lower vertebrates, in mammals hearing is mediated entirely by the cochlea. Evidence accumulated over the last few decades, though, supports the case that the sacculus has conserved an acoustic sensitivity throughout vertebrate phylogeny. The question remains, however, whether saccular acoustic sensitivity in humans has any perceptual or behavioural significance. It is quite possible that acoustic sensitivity of the sacculus does not have a role or function in higher vertebrates, but is simply an epiphenomenon of evolution, a consequence of there being no selection pressure for it to disappear. An alternative hypothesis proposed by Todd et al. (2000) is that saccular acoustic sensitivity contributes to the affective quality of loud sounds. Circumstantial evidence for this in humans comes from the coincidence of saccular acoustic sensitivity with the distribution of frequencies and intensities of natural acoustic signals (Todd and Cody 2000; Todd et al. 2000). In particular given that humans seek out pleasurable sensations of self-motion by normal inertial stimulation, such as at 'fun parks', it is possible that human compulsion to exposure to loud, low-frequency sounds is a kind of acoustic equivalent of vestibular self-stimulation.

In this paper I discuss an experiment which indicates that there is a significant change in the quality of sensation above the saccular acoustic threshold (Todd 2001). In order to account for this I outline a new theory of the evolutionary biology of hearing. The evolutionary significance of saccular acoustic sensitivity in higher vertebrates, according this theory, is that a primitive central mechanism has also been conserved, through which vocally mediated sexual selection has continued to operate by providing a direct pathway to reward centres in the brain (which is not provided by cochlear pathways). The existence of loud vocalisations in primates is almost a universal. Such loud synchronised vocalisations in primates are considered to be the precursor of loud music in human culture. Whilst amplified music is clearly a modern invention, both human vocalisations and percussive instruments are of sufficient acoustic power to activate the sacculus (Todd et al. 2000). Thus saccular acoustic sensitivity may still play an important role in perceptual and behavioural responses to loud music.

Todd, N.P.McAngus and Cody, F. (2000) Vestibular responses to loud dance music: A physiological basis for the "rock and roll threshold"? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 107(1), 496-500.

Todd, N.P.McAngus, Cody, F. and Banks, J. (2000) A saccular origin of frequency tuning in myogenic vestibular evoked potentials?: Implications for human responses to loud sounds. Hearing Research. 141, 180-188

Todd, N.P.McAngus (2001) Evidence for a behavioural significance of saccular acoustic sensitivity in humans. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 110(1), 380-480.

The virtual flute: a web service for musicians
Speaker : Andrew Botros School of Physics UNSW
Date :6th Sep

Abstract:

One of the aims of musical acoustics is to provide useful technical advice to players, composers and instrument makers. This talk reports some progress in this direction. 'The Virtual Flute' is a web service that offers alternative fingerings, and fingerings for microtones and multiphonics.

Multiphonics are a problem for composers, because not all chords are possible, and quite a few composers are reluctant to write music that cannot possibly be played. They pose a problem for flutists, too, because there is no complete listing of all possible multiphonics and fingerings. Alternative fingerings for standard notes are also useful: sometimes the standard fingerings are awkward (e.g. a trill from F6 to A6), others are difficult to play softly (e.g. most notes in the fourth octave) and many are out of tune (no flutist jokes, thank you!).

The virtual flute uses a database derived from theoretical modelling of all 39,744 different fingerings of the flute. Because each fingering can play several notes and most can play a few chords, the number of possible note/chord-fingering combinations is in the hundreds of thousands. The modelling, in turn, is based on accurate laboratory measurements of the acoustic response of the flute (senza flutist) measured at the embouchure. To get from the physical model to playable notes and chords, it uses an expert system based upon the evaluation of 957 acoustical possibilities by an expert player. Finally it uses a musician-friendly web interface to interact with musicians from all over the world who are now using it.

The talk will give a non-technical overview of how the virtual flute was built, and some demonstrations of what it can do.

* This project was Andrew Botros' final year project in the Acoustics Lab in the School of Physics, where he worked with Joe Wolfe and John Smith. He won the national Siemens Innovation Prize for this work. Andrew currently works for Cochlear Ltd.

The flow of imagery evoked by GIM music. Preliminary findings relating to attributes of music, the listener's report and ANS arousal (SC)
Speaker : Alan Lem School of Contemporary Arts, University of Western Sydn
Date :20th Sep

Abstract:

GIM (Guided Imagery and Music) is a method of psychotherapy using specially programmed classical music. Each program has a beginning piece, which stimulates imagery, a middle section to deepen the emotional experience, and a final selection which returns the listener to a non-altered state of consciousness (Erdonmez Grocke, 1997). In addition to their primary therapeutic purpose GIM programs are often used and studied in experiments involving Unguided Music Imaging (Erdonmez Grocke, 2000) situations (UMIS).Following my earlier research on UMIS (Lem, 1998; Lem, 1999) I report preliminary findings concerning the flow of imagery evoked in 50 listeners by GIM program 'Relationships'. Investigated were temporal relationships between the listener's report and ANS arousal (SC). The aim was to produce an index of references relating to different stylistic and psychodynamic attributes of GIM music potentially underpinning different imagery experiences. Most frequently associated with imagery were Psychodynamic Contour and Instrumentation. Strong connections were established between visual imagery, increased relaxation and music characterised by the release of tension and melodic descent. Extreme loudness and psychodynamic intensity were associated with increased alertness felt after the music. Results suggest that, although specific attributes of music may underpin specific imagery responses, it is the unique psychodynamic structure of the whole GIM program that facilitates the ongoing flow of experiences.

Erdonmez Grocke, D. E. (1997). Guided Imagery and Music. In W. Bebbington (Ed.) The Oxford Companion to Australian Music. Melbourne: OUP.

Erdonmez Grocke, D. E. (2000). A Phenomenological Study of Pivotal Moments in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) Therapy. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Melbourne.

Lem, A. (1998). EEG Reveals Potential Connections Between the Structural Variability of Music and the Listeners' Imagery. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 9, 3-17.

Lem, A. (1999). Selected Patterns of Brainwave Activity Point to the Connection Between Imagery Experiences and the Psychoacoustic Qualities of Music. In R. Rebollo Pratt and D. Erdonmez Grocke (Eds), Music Medicine 3 (pp. 75-87). Melbourne: University of Melbourne.

How Soon is Immediately? The delay in accompaniment in North Indian music
Speaker : John Napier School of Music & Music Education, University of New
Date :4th Oct

Abstract:

In North Indian classical vocal music a melodic accompanist imitates or doubles the singer's lines, either completely, in outline, or with some degree of variation, and continues playing whilst the soloist rests. A conventional description is that the accompanist imitates "as quickly and as accurately as possible". In this paper I investigate three aspects of the delay between the vocalist and the accompanist, the "following distance". How soon is soon? Is the accompanist endeavouring to "catch up" with the soloist? To what extent may the distance at which the accompanist follows be understood in reference to the underlying beat? In each of the three aspects, the results of this investigation are varied. The notion of "as soon as possible", for example, does not do justice to the richness, the flexibility and the multiply determined "messiness", that go to make up this aspect of the practice.

Following on from this, I discuss notions of "the same melody" and "the sametime", arguing that these ideas are culturally grounded.

Creative Practices: investigating the compositional process
Speaker : Alexandra Cameron Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Date :25th Oct

Abstract:

Creative practices: investigating the compositional process The "creative genius" mythology shrouding prolific composers such as Mozart has contributed to the notion that the creative process of music composition is inexplicable and quasi-mysterious in nature. Research has shown that in order to understand what principles guide and shape the creative process, the criteria for identifying and evaluating creative achievements must be determined (Schoon, 1992). This paper will outline a study that builds on earlier research by Jane Davidson (The University of Sheffield), Ingrid Schoon (City University, London) and myself that investigated the criteria used by judges assessing graduate level compositions to explore the types of judgements made and the level of consensus between expert judges. It follows that once a composition is reliably assessed as creative the process by which it evolved can be explored to shed light on the creative process. In this study a multi-perspective approach to data collection and analysis was adopted. Each participant completed a workbook and diary, charting their composition's genesis and development, participated in semi-structured interviews covering their personal and compositional history and completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (1975). This data was cross-referenced to identify whether the piece composed for the current study was indicative of the participant's typical compositional process. Examining participant's behaviour during the compositional process revealed their approach towards composing, motivation and personality characteristics. We found that the compositional process is dynamic and interactive and is greatly influenced by the participant's approach to composing. Three approaches were identified: predominantly intuitive, predominantly intellectual or a combination of intuitive and intellectual with elements of each used in complementary ways. Individual differences such as personality characteristics seemed to affect the approach while extrinsic motivation had a direct effect of the compositional process.Creative practices: investigating the compositional process The "creative genius" mythology shrouding prolific composers such as Mozart has contributed to the notion that the creative process of music composition is inexplicable and quasi-mysterious in nature. Research has shown that in order to understand what principles guide and shape the creative process, the criteria for identifying and evaluating creative achievements must be determined (Schoon, 1992). This paper will outline a study that builds on earlier research by Jane Davidson (The University of Sheffield), Ingrid Schoon (City University, London) and myself that investigated the criteria used by judges assessing graduate level compositions to explore the types of judgements made and the level of consensus between expert judges. It follows that once a composition is reliably assessed as creative the process by which it evolved can be explored to shed light on the creative process. In this study a multi-perspective approach to data collection and analysis was adopted. Each participant completed a workbook and diary, charting their composition's genesis and development, participated in semi-structured interviews covering their personal and compositional history and completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (1975). This data was cross-referenced to identify whether the piece composed for the current study was indicative of the participant's typical compositional process. Examining participant's behaviour during the compositional process revealed their approach towards composing, motivation and personality characteristics. We found that the compositional process is dynamic and interactive and is greatly influenced by the participant's approach to composing. Three approaches were identified: predominantly intuitive, predominantly intellectual or a combination of intuitive and intellectual with elements of each used in complementary ways. Individual differences such as personality characteristics seemed to affect the approach while extrinsic motivation had a direct effect of the compositional process.

Requited or Unrequited Love? The Role of Melodic Dissonance in the Love Song of the Musical
Speaker : Diana Blom School of Contemporary Arts, University of Western Sy
Date :22nd Nov

Abstract:

Background:
In many musicals a love song plays an emotive and pivotal role. Findings from research by Sloboda (1991, 1992) and Panksepp (1995) have noted that when listeners respond with chills, crying, racing heart beat, shivers, tingles etc. to music, they are responding, in part, to one or more of several musical devices which achieve these responses. These devices include the cycle of fifths, melodic appoggiaturas, melodic or harmonic sequence, enharmonic change, harmonic or melodic acceleration to cadence, delay of final cadence, new or unprepared harmony, and others. The love song in a musical, not unexpectedly, draws heavily on these devices.

Aims:
This paper focuses on the use of one of these devices, the accented melodic dissonance (appoggiatura, accented passing note, accented neighbour tone), in the love song.

Main Contribution:
It examines and discusses the relationship between placement of this dissonance in the melody an whether the "love" of the song story is requited or unrequited.

Implications:
In making this connection the paper then suggests that placement of the accented melodic dissonance in a "love" song can serve as an interpretative device for the musical¹s narrative, determining whether the love is requited or unrequited.