NPR reports on new brain research re: music

Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard to the
brain processing music. Scientists found that if the person under test was
familiar with the music being played, and the music was interrupted briefly,
the person was unawares and the brain continues to "fill in the blanks". If
the music was unfamiliar, this did not happen. This "memory" appeared to
occur in the area of the brain associated with musical processing; it was
not clear from the report whether other areas were involved as well.

I think the most important implication of this is how little we really know
about how we hear, especially with regard to processing music.

However, to my hobby horse (you knew I'd get there eventually, right? :-) I
wonder if this may be involved with our ongoing disputes over testing. The
scientist found the brain would seamlessly fill in the sound for 3-5 seconds
(remember Oohashi's team also found a "lag" in the time it took for
emotional response to build or subside). Is it not possible, therefore,
that the "no difference" null from quick-switch blind testing results from
the brain not really hearing the switch, but rather overriding it, so that
there is no apparent change unless there is a radically (.5 db?) difference
in volume or frequency response. Could this be why some audiophiles feel
they learn more from alternately listening to the same (remembered) piece of
music over and over again, switching (but not instantaneously)? Is it
possible that people familiar with live acoustic music have brains that can
do more of this "fill in the blanks" when hearing reproduced music, and that
the better the reproduction, the more this "fill in the blanks" provides the
emotional satisfaction of the live event, and the audiophile to rate the
equipment in the chain as allowing a pretty good "live" facsimile?

None of this is posted as "being true". All of it is posted as "what if" or
"could it be" hypothesis. Wish I had chosen this field for study...there
must be years of work an avid audiophile could do as follow up to some of
the recent findings (hard-wired "rhythm" and "harmonic" patterns, for
example).

Harry Lavo
"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" -- Duke Ellington
11 answers Last reply
More about reports brain research music
  1. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    Harry Lavo wrote:
    > Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard
    to the
    > brain processing music.

    I bet I know where this is going... ;-)

    > Scientists found that if the person under test was
    > familiar with the music being played, and the music was interrupted
    briefly,
    > the person was unawares and the brain continues to "fill in the
    blanks". If
    > the music was unfamiliar, this did not happen. This "memory"
    appeared to
    > occur in the area of the brain associated with musical processing; it
    was
    > not clear from the report whether other areas were involved as well.
    >
    > I think the most important implication of this is how little we
    really know
    > about how we hear, especially with regard to processing music.

    Do hearing and processing music have anything to do with one another?
    This study appears to suggest not. After all, subjects are shown to
    "process music" even when they aren't hearing anything at all!

    That should be an early clue to how far off the trail you are about to
    wander.

    > However, to my hobby horse (you knew I'd get there eventually, right?
    :-) I
    > wonder if this may be involved with our ongoing disputes over
    testing. The
    > scientist found the brain would seamlessly fill in the sound for 3-5
    seconds
    > (remember Oohashi's team also found a "lag" in the time it took for
    > emotional response to build or subside). Is it not possible,
    therefore,
    > that the "no difference" null from quick-switch blind testing results
    from
    > the brain not really hearing the switch, but rather overriding it, so
    that
    > there is no apparent change unless there is a radically (.5 db?)
    difference
    > in volume or frequency response.

    Lots of things are possible, but this study (at least as you have
    described it) provides no basis for such speculation. Now, if the study
    showed that people continued to "process" a piece of music when the
    testers switched to a different piece of music, then I might at least
    entertain the possibility that you are right. But anyone who's ever had
    that happen to them knows that what you actually hear very quickly
    overrides what you had been expecting to hear. It is inconceivable that
    switching to the *same* piece of music with some partial loudness
    differences would have the opposite effect.

    > Could this be why some audiophiles feel
    > they learn more from alternately listening to the same (remembered)
    piece of
    > music over and over again, switching (but not instantaneously)?

    No. The reason some audiophiles feel that way is because it allows them
    to use psychoacoustic illusion to get the result they want--namely,
    proof that they have particularly discerning hearing.

    > Is it
    > possible that people familiar with live acoustic music have brains
    that can
    > do more of this "fill in the blanks" when hearing reproduced music,
    and that
    > the better the reproduction, the more this "fill in the blanks"
    provides the
    > emotional satisfaction of the live event, and the audiophile to rate
    the
    > equipment in the chain as allowing a pretty good "live" facsimile?

    Lots of things are possible, but this study (at least as you have
    described it) provides no basis for such speculation. Now, if the study
    had compared subjects' ability to fill in the blanks when listening to
    live music and recorded music, and found they did better when the live
    music stopped, then I might at least entertain the possibility that you
    are right. But that's not what this study compared; it compared people
    familiar with a piece of music to people unfamiliar to a piece of
    music. (Which, by the way, has nothing whatever to do with familiarity
    with "the sound of live acoustic music," if that were even a meaningful
    concept.) Furthermore, this study offers no evidence that this
    fill-in-the-blank skill is related to emotional satisfaction; the test
    was based on familiarity alone.

    Consider again the apparent disconnect between what people hear and
    what they process. Why should we believe that this disconnect occurs
    only when the music stops? Isn't it equally possible that, while we are
    actually listening to a piece of music that we are familiar with, our
    brain is processing it in some idealized form, and it is that idealized
    version that we are conscious of, rather than the sonically imperfect
    reproduction we are listening to? Doesn't this study suggest that it
    might be better, in listening comparisons, to use music you are
    *unfamiliar* with? Answer: No, it does not suggest that, any more than
    it bolsters any of your speculations. I just wanted to show you how
    easy it is to play this game.

    > None of this is posted as "being true". All of it is posted as "what
    if" or
    > "could it be" hypothesis. Wish I had chosen this field for
    study...there
    > must be years of work an avid audiophile could do as follow up to
    some of
    > the recent findings (hard-wired "rhythm" and "harmonic" patterns, for
    > example).

    Sure. Those are very interesting topics, which is why scientists are
    researching them, rather than trying to prove that DBTs are flawed.

    bob
  2. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    Harry Lavo wrote:
    > Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard
    to the
    > brain processing music. [huge snippage]


    Two words: Daniel Dennett

    Read Dennett's works on human perception, conciousness, how our sensory
    apparatus informs our awareness, and (especially) how the entire
    concept of the brain "filling in" information that doesn't exits is
    complete horse puckey.

    Read and learn.<
  3. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    nabob33@hotmail.com wrote:
    > Harry Lavo wrote:
    > > Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard
    > to the
    > > brain processing music.

    > I bet I know where this is going... ;-)

    > > Scientists found that if the person under test was
    > > familiar with the music being played, and the music was interrupted
    > briefly,
    > > the person was unawares and the brain continues to "fill in the
    > blanks". If
    > > the music was unfamiliar, this did not happen. This "memory"
    > appeared to
    > > occur in the area of the brain associated with musical processing; it
    > was
    > > not clear from the report whether other areas were involved as well.
    > >
    > > I think the most important implication of this is how little we
    > really know
    > > about how we hear, especially with regard to processing music.

    > Do hearing and processing music have anything to do with one another?
    > This study appears to suggest not. After all, subjects are shown to
    > "process music" even when they aren't hearing anything at all!

    > That should be an early clue to how far off the trail you are about to
    > wander.

    > > However, to my hobby horse (you knew I'd get there eventually, right?
    > :-) I
    > > wonder if this may be involved with our ongoing disputes over
    > testing. The
    > > scientist found the brain would seamlessly fill in the sound for 3-5
    > seconds
    > > (remember Oohashi's team also found a "lag" in the time it took for
    > > emotional response to build or subside). Is it not possible,
    > therefore,
    > > that the "no difference" null from quick-switch blind testing results
    > from
    > > the brain not really hearing the switch, but rather overriding it, so
    > that
    > > there is no apparent change unless there is a radically (.5 db?)
    > difference
    > > in volume or frequency response.

    > Lots of things are possible, but this study (at least as you have
    > described it) provides no basis for such speculation. Now, if the study
    > showed that people continued to "process" a piece of music when the
    > testers switched to a different piece of music, then I might at least
    > entertain the possibility that you are right. But anyone who's ever had
    > that happen to them knows that what you actually hear very quickly
    > overrides what you had been expecting to hear. It is inconceivable that
    > switching to the *same* piece of music with some partial loudness
    > differences would have the opposite effect.


    Harry is of course free to lengthen the switching interval as long as he
    likes. The bulk of psychoacoustic research suggests it will decrease,
    rather than increase, sensitivity to difference, but what the hey.

    But it's good to see him note that 0.5 dB can be a radical difference in
    level. Unlike Harry's hypothetical flaw in quick-switching DBT, level
    mismatch is an all too real source of error. DBTs routinely attend to it,
    sighted comparisons in the audiophile press and online anecdotes tend not
    to. Perhaps Harry will devote some posts to meditations on this rather
    more definite and pervasive source of erroneous conclusions of difference,
    emanating largely from the subjectivist faction of audiophile culture.


    --

    -S
    It's not my business to do intelligent work. -- D. Rumsfeld, testifying
    before the House Armed Services Committee
  4. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    "Harry Lavo" <harry.lavo@rcn.com> wrote in message
    news:d15dcm0263i@news4.newsguy.com...
    > Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard to the
    > brain processing music. Scientists found that if the person under test
    > was
    > familiar with the music being played, and the music was interrupted
    > briefly,
    > the person was unawares and the brain continues to "fill in the blanks".
    > If
    > the music was unfamiliar, this did not happen. This "memory" appeared to
    > occur in the area of the brain associated with musical processing; it was
    > not clear from the report whether other areas were involved as well.
    >

    A more studied parallel is the filling in the blanks associated with
    visionary information. If you walk into a room, have a look around and come
    out again, you think you have looked at most things in that room and think
    you now know what that room is like. However, if you attatch sensors to the
    eyes and brain, it is shown that you only actually look at a few key points
    and the brain fills in the rest with what it expects to see based on stored
    images and previous experiences. In reality you see very little, yet have no
    idea this process is happening.

    It seems logical that at least some form of this would occur in auditory
    processing too.


    Gareth.
  5. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    >Do hearing and processing music have anything to do with one another?
    >This study appears to suggest not. After all, subjects are shown to
    >"process music" even when they aren't hearing anything at all!

    Haven't you ever heard of persistence of vision? Eyes work this way
    also. When watch a movie, you are actually looking at a black screen
    about half the time.

    This study shows that we process vision and hearing in much the same
    way.
  6. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    "Bob Ross" <bross@berklee.net> wrote in message
    news:d17vpl02pe2@news2.newsguy.com...
    > Harry Lavo wrote:
    > > Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard
    > to the
    > > brain processing music. [huge snippage]
    >
    >
    >
    > Two words: Daniel Dennett
    >
    > Read Dennett's works on human perception, conciousness, how our sensory
    > apparatus informs our awareness, and (especially) how the entire
    > concept of the brain "filling in" information that doesn't exits is
    > complete horse puckey.
    >
    > Read and learn.<

    Okay, here are the exact words from the NPR website summary. Read and
    learn.

    "Morning Edition, March 14, 2005 · Researchers at Dartmouth College find the
    "iPod of the brain." They've learned that the brain's auditory cortex, the
    part that handles information from our ears, holds on to musical memories. "

    The link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4533543
  7. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    nabob33@hotmail.com wrote:
    > Russ Button wrote:
    >
    >>Musicians listen for harmonic structure, counterpoint, and how the
    >>various components of a song work together.
    >
    >
    > Sometimes, when they're thinking about a work on a technical level. But
    > they also listen just to listen, like the rest of us.

    Sure they do, but musicians generally don't hold high quality in audio to
    be of great importance.

    >
    >>It strikes me that the things that audiophiles treasure are very much
    >>sensual - imaging, timbre, tonal balance, etc.
    >
    >
    > I don't think you really mean to say that musicians aren't sensual in
    > their listening. It would be more correct, I think, to say that
    > musicians and audiophiles, when they are listening on a technical
    > level, are listening to different things.Imaging, timbre, and tonal
    > balance, are technical factors, just like harmonic structure, etc.

    On the whole, I agree.

    My wife is a professional violinist. Last year she purchased a
    baroque violin (as opposed to a "modern" violin). This instrument
    was made in 1774 has was never altered for modern performance, unlike
    the great majority of the violins from that period. She spent about
    a year and a half playing different violins and was very particular
    about what she wanted. All the things we talk about like timbre,
    tonal balance and harmonics are fundamental to what she wanted out
    of her instrument.

    Last year she also bought another modern bow. Now this is a glorified
    stick of wood to the rest of us, but to her, the subtleties were
    enormous. She spent $12,000 on the bow, and that was actually pretty
    middling for a player of her class. And then she bitched at me for
    spending $900 on a new Courtois C trumpet! Go figure.

    But if she were the one buying our home audio gear, she'd probably be
    using something she had left over from her 1975 college dorm room. She
    does enjoy the sound of our system, but it's not terribly important to
    her.

    I can't tell you how many times I've been in the homes of professional
    and or serious amatuer musicians and they've got one JVC speaker sitting
    on the floor, next to the couch, in one corner with a fern on top, and
    the other speaker is in a bookcase on the opposite wall. And their
    electronics consist of something like a JVC solid state receiver at
    25 watts/channel with a 5 disc CD player and they threw their vinyl
    away 15 years ago.

    Russ
  8. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    On 16 Mar 2005 00:48:53 GMT, "Bob Ross" <bross@berklee.net> wrote:

    >Harry Lavo wrote:
    >> Heard on NPR this AM the results of some more work done with regard
    >to the
    >> brain processing music. [huge snippage]
    >
    >
    >
    >Two words: Daniel Dennett
    >
    >Read Dennett's works on human perception, conciousness, how our sensory
    >apparatus informs our awareness, and (especially) how the entire
    >concept of the brain "filling in" information that doesn't exits is
    >complete horse puckey.
    >
    >Read and learn.


    Bob,

    Dennett is but one of many voices in a conflicting symphony of ideas
    respeting imagery. Kosslyn, Fodor, Pylyshyn, Block (etc.) present a
    more balanced treatment of pictorialism and the analog-propositional
    debates. Keep in mind, most of this is pure conjecture -- a collection
    of brain theories with little objective science behind it.

    Here's a good introduction by philosopher Nigel Thomas

    http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/nthomas/mipia.htm

    JL
  9. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    Russ Button wrote:
    > nabob33@hotmail.com wrote:


    >
    >>> How can jazz strike out in a new direction if you don't know where
    >>> jazz came from? Some guys are needed to preserve the traditions and
    >>> some
    >>> guys are needed to make new ones.>
    >>
    >>
    >> What we don't need are the guys who want to preserve only some of the
    >> traditions.>

    >
    > If Wynton wants to preserve a certain period of jazz history, then let
    > him. He doesn't limit anyone else from playing any other art form. He's
    > just doing his own thing. After the Ken Burns series (which I presume
    > is where you've decided that Wynton is pedantic), I never once heard
    > anyone say that jazz stopped with Duke Ellington.
    FYI:
    "Marsalis disparaged Davis for abandoning acoustic jazz in favor of
    jazz-rock fusion, and Davis sniped that Marsalis was spending too much
    time playing classical music and not developing his own improvisational
    voice."

    http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=16763

    WVK
  10. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    In article <d1qhb801rfh@news1.newsguy.com>, russ@button.com says...

    >
    > He hit's Graham's hand and says in his heroin ruined voice,
    > "I feel fine."

    I recall reading that Miles's voice was ruined not from drugs, but
    because he had some throat surgery and while recovering he got into a
    shouting match with someone (a producer, I think) and ripped everything
    apart again. Not a nice guy by any means.

    In addition to his "seminal" 50s stuff, I think the 60's stuff with
    Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, et al is quite amazing too -- not so much
    for Miles's playing but for everyone else's. I've always felt that
    Miles's best feature was the other people who played with him.
  11. Archived from groups: rec.audio.high-end (More info?)

    Stu Alden wrote:

    > In addition to his "seminal" 50s stuff, I think the 60's stuff with
    > Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, et al is quite amazing too -- not so much
    > for Miles's playing but for everyone else's. I've always felt that
    > Miles's best feature was the other people who played with him.

    Miles was much more than just a trumpet player. He was a
    musical innovator and a band leader. Look at the other
    great band leaders of the period. With the exceptions of
    Dizzy Gillespie and Buddy Rich, none of them were really
    considered to be great soloists and Grand Masters of their
    instruments. But their bands each had a signiture sound
    that you can readily identify.

    Consider Count Basie for a moment. He was a fine pianist, but
    when jazz buffs talk about the giants of the instrument, they
    talk about Oscar Peterson, Teddy Wilson, Bud Powell, Bill Evans,
    Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Bennie Green, etc.
    They don't mention Count Basie, Duke Ellington or Stan Kenton
    as being at that level of performance.

    Compare Woody Herman to Buddy DeFranco, or Charlie Barnett to
    Sonny Rollins. The only two bandleaders I can think of who are
    also acknowledged to be giants of their respective instruments
    are Dizzy Gillespie and Buddy Rich.

    So it is with Miles. He was a good trumpet player, but certainly
    not in the same league with guys like Dizzy, Clifford Brown,
    or even Freddie Hubbard or Woody Shaw. But Miles was a musical
    innovator and visionary. Sure he had great players around him,
    but he also had the genius to not only recognize the great young
    talent when he saw it, he knew which of these guys would be able
    to do the things he wanted them to do.

    It was like that with Ellington as well. He was also a great
    musical innovator and needed not just good players, but the right
    players to carry off what he wanted to do. I expect that in
    centuries to come, music historians will see Ellington as one
    of the great 20th century composers like Aaron Copland,
    George Gershwin, Serge Prokofiev, etc. He was much more than
    a band leader.

    Russ Button

    PS. In the issue of Miles vs. Wynton, it is well known that
    Miles didn't care for Wynton. During the 1980's, Miles Davis'
    favorite trumpet player was Woody Shaw. If you're not familiar
    with Woody Shaw, his "Rosewood" alblum was Downbeat Magazine's
    1978 alblum of the year and is a must for any serious jazz collector.
    Do a search for "Woody Shaw" at Amazon.com and that's the very
    first thing that comes up.
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