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Music perception and cognition student colloquium series 2012/2013 - first meeting

  • Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium
When Nov 29, 2012
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where A832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West.
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First colloquium meeting of the 2012/2013 academic year

Presentations by Marion Cousineau and James O'Callaghan

Marion Cousineau, Josh H. McDermott and Isabelle Peretz, BRAMS

TITLE: The basis of musical consonance as revealed by congenital amusia


Some combinations of musical notes sound pleasing, and are termed consonant, while others sound unpleasant, and are termed dissonant. The distinction between consonance and dissonance plays a central role in Western music, and its origins have posed one of the oldest and most debated problems in perception. In modern times, dissonance has been widely believed to be the product of “beating” - interference between frequency components in the cochlea, that has been believed to be more pronounced in dissonant than consonant sounds. However, harmonic frequency relations, a higher-order sound attribute closely related to pitch perception, has also been proposed to account for consonance. To tease apart theories of musical consonance, we tested sound preferences in individuals with congenital amusia, a neurogenetic disorder characterized by abnormal pitch perception.  We assessed amusics’ preferences for musical chords as well as for the isolated acoustic properties of beating and harmonicity. In contrast to control subjects, amusic listeners showed no preference for consonance, rating the pleasantness of consonant chords no higher than that of dissonant chords. Amusics also failed to exhibit the normally observed preference for harmonic over inharmonic tones, nor could they discriminate such tones from each other. Despite these abnormalities, amusics exhibited normal preferences and discrimination for stimuli with and without beating. This dissociation indicates that, contrary to classical theories, beating is unlikely to underlie consonance. Our results instead suggest the need to integrate harmonicity as a foundation of music preferences, and illustrate how amusia may be used to investigate normal auditory function.


James O'Callaghan, Schulich School of Music, McGill University

TITLE: Mediated Mimesis


The electronic medium has opened the doors for a host of new possibilities in musical discourse: significantly, the ability to use recordings of the environment and 'found sounds' as materials may afford a referential, narrative or mimetic discourse familiar to other artistic disciplines, but rare in the history of music. While it is perhaps uncontroversial that unprocessed field recordings can be recognised as referential, those manipulated through processing or transcription may be able to retain their referential quality and afford new semantic and musical possibilities. This paper will focus specifically on the computer-assisted transcription of field recordings into material reproducible by acoustic instruments, interrogating this process as a potential means of conveying mimetic information.

The goals of this paper are to provide background on the use of mimetic material in instrumental and mixed music, an overview of some of the techniques that have been developed as a means of computer-assisted transcription of field recordings, a basic framework for assessing the verisimilitude of transcriptions and assignment into different perceptual categories according to degree of recognisability and semiotic distinctions, and finally, a discussion of the compositional applications of this material. I will be referencing several pieces of music in order to illustrate the proposed framework, as well as some of my own compositional work in order to describe compositional strategies and challenges related to the transcription of field recordings. Motivating this research are the questions: 'Can recognition of sound-source and other basic referential properties be preserved through the transcription process?' and 'What kinds of contexts and strategies make this more likely?'. While I am interested in the preservation of semantic information through the transcription process, what changes as a result and why are equally important avenues of inquiry.


We hope to see you there!

Meghan Goodchild

Kai Siedenburg




Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium

First meeting of the 2012-2013 year

All contributions related to music perception and cognition are welcome, including work in progress, papers presented at recent conferences and those to be presented at forthcoming conferences.


Abstracts (around 300 words) can be submitted until Thursday, November 22.
 Please indicate all contributors and institutional affiliations.

Presentations should not exceed 30 minutes.

A projector, VGA cables, 1/4" audio jacks and Apple VGA adapters will be available. Please specify all your technical requirements (any of the above, and/or others).


All abstracts should be sent to:

Meghan Goodchild

Kai Siedenburg


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