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

  • Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium
When Nov 28, 2013
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where A832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West.
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Second colloquium meeting of the 2012/2013 academic year

Presentations by Scott Rubin and Kai Siedenburg.

Scott Rubin

TITLE: Experiential time perceived in Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip, Lesson I


Experiential time is an interdisciplinary concept that draws upon information theory, neuroscience, music perception, and aesthetics. It proposes the experience of time from two perspectives: the experience of the present now-moment, and the experience of duration upon reflection. Approaches to understanding experiential time have originated from the fields of information theory and neuroscience, uniting theoretical psychology (focused on the quality of the information flowing to the listener), and applied neuroscience (focused on the shifting experience of the listener). While the information theory approach relies on the degree of information, its categorization, and its predictability, the neurophenomenological approach suggests a dialectic between the different modes of consciousness as suggested by the music, and that embodied by the listener. Since experiential time may be modulated by an array of musical parameters, it may serve as an interdisciplinary mode of music analysis to describe the listening experience.

Through innovative hybridizations of art music and popular music, 20th-century Italian composer Fausto Romitelli changed the landscape of the musical world. Concepts such as distortion, saturation, and psychedelic rock infused his mature works, one of the most notable being Professor Bad Trip. This triptych, inspired by Belgian poet Henri Michaux’s writings under the influence of mescaline, presents several dramatic shifts in experiential time through which the listener may use to shape their perception.

The goal of this presentation is to propose relationships between musical analysis and experiential time in Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip, Lesson I. Through an analysis of Romitelli’s harmonic form, use of varied repetition, and orchestration, I will suggest how the composer suggests modes of consciousness, and thus, modulates experiential time. Motivating this research are the questions: ‘what in music suggests modes of consciousness?’, ‘how can musical expectation influence experiential time?’, and ‘how can shifts in experiential time effect our perception of the piece?’.


Kai Siedenburg

TITLE: Characterizing Short-Term Memory for Timbral Sequencing


The exploration of musical timbre has undisputedly been one of the driving forces of the evolution in music composition and production in the 20th and 21st centuries. Nevertheless, there is very little work which addresses the cognitive capacities for the processing of sequential timbral structures, which are essential for the apprehension of musical phenomena as diverse as orchestrations of Klangfarbenmelodie (timbre-melody), sound sampling, or drum or percussion tracks, to name a few. In order to better understand the functional role of musical timbre, a deeper understanding of listeners' abilities in learning, memorization and recognition of timbral sequencing rules and their transformations is of crucial importance. Moreover, timbre shares a curious “sisterhood” with speech; after all, speech can be regarded as sequencing of vocal timbre. Past research has isolated many characteristic effects of verbal memory. Are these also in play for non-vocal timbre sequences? 

In this study, we considered the fundamental faculty of short-term memory for serial order. Using timbres and dissimilarity data from McAdams et al. (Psych. Research, 1995), we employed a  same/different discrimination paradigm. Experiment 1 (N = 30 MU+ 30 nonMU) revealed effects of sequence length and timbral dissimilarity of items, as well as an interaction of musical training and pitch variability: in contrast to musicians, non-musicians' performance was impaired by simultaneous changes in pitch, compared to a constant pitch baseline. Experiment 2 (N = 22) studied whether musicians' memory for timbre sequences was independent of pitch irrespective of the degree of complexity of pitch progressions. Comparing sequences with pitch changing within and across standard and comparison to a constant pitch baseline, performance was now clearly impaired for the variable pitch condition. Experiment 3 (N = 22) showed primacy and recency effects for musicians, and reproduced a positive effect of timbral heterogeneity of sequences.

Our findings demonstrate the presence of hallmark effects of verbal memory such as similarity, word length, primacy/recency for the domain of non-vocal timbre. Finally, the results suggest a tradeoff between the degree of simultaneous pitch variability and listener's capacities to memorize timbral order.



CIRMMT Music Perception and Cognition Student Colloquium

Second meeting of the 2013-2014 year

When: Thursday, November 28, 5-6:30pm, *wine and cheese to follow*

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


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, November 21.
 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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