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Music perception and cognition student colloquium series 2013/2014 - first meeting

  • Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium
When Sep 26, 2013
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 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 Cecilia Taher and Jessica Thompson.

Cecilia Taher

TITLE: Fading Highlights: The Role of Repetition on the Perception of Musical Texture


Repetition is an essential aspect of tonal music that all listeners can identify. This paper presents an empirical investigation of the effects of immediate and exact repetition on the perception of musical texture. Thirty-seven participants heard 24 musical excerpts, composed of a repetitive and a non-repetitive part, continuously rating the relative prominence of the two voices. The results suggest that repetition dynamically shapes our perception of musical texture, by shifting our attention from repetitive to non-repetitive voices.


Jessica Thompson

TITLE: Experience, perception, and physicality in experimental music: An argument for the role of neuroscience in music phenomenology


Phenomenology is broadly defined as the study of the structures of experience. However, a more specific definition may describe phenomenology as one of several fields working together toward an understanding of human experience. For example, cognitive neuroscience seeks to uncover the neural mechanisms underlying human perception, while cultural studies analyzes the effect of social activities on experience.  In music, there are several disparate fields that describe various aspects of musical experience, but some of these disciplines rarely interact. I suggest that a phenomenological understanding of music is a common goal among auditory cognitive neuroscience and a variety of other fields and that a collaborative research effort will lead to a better understanding of musical experience. 

Aden Evens, author of Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience, suggests sound as a starting point for any phenomenological study of music. This positions sound-focused disciplines like sound studies and auditory cognitive neuroscience to be especially relevant to music phenomenology. The word ‘sound’ is often used to refer to the physical vibrations corresponding to an auditory impression. Sound’s very definition, however, is based on the human capacity to hear. The word ‘sound’ sits at the delicate boundary between subjective experience and the physical correlates of perception, but common language often equates the two. There are several examples of everyday perception in which the auditory percept does not correspond to a physical waveform in the material outside the ear (e.g. the missing fundamental, the McGurk effect, binaural beats), yet these are still classified as ‘sound’. 

The tension between the material and perceptual aspects of sound has been especially prominent in electronic music since the development of technologies that control the physical properties of sound, sometimes downplaying the importance of the human listener. I distinguish between two types of physicality in electronic music: 

  • material physicality, the idea that one’s control over music is one’s control over the physical properties of vibration, and
  • perceptual physicality, which acknowledges and centers the human participant in the physical world.

Psychoacoustics has traditionally stood at this junction by creating maps between physical vibration and auditory perception. These one-to-one maps, however, do not factor in the active, embodied nature of human experience. Recent results in cognitive neuroscience on multi-stable perception have shown that the subjective interpretation of ambiguous sounds can be decoded from brain activity, providing a window into the internally constructed aspects of experience. I argue that the study of the neural mechanisms underlying auditory experience is a key component in an interdisciplinary effort towards a phenomenological understanding of music. 



CIRMMT Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium

First meeting of the 2013-2014 year

When: Thursday, September 26, 5-6:30pm, *wine and cheese to follow*

Where: CIRMMT, McGill University, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West in A832


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 (less than 300 words) can be submitted until Thursday, September 19.
 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


We hope to see you there! 

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