27 Mar 2014: Music and the Practicalities of Analysis

As Lauren wrote in her email to the EMPRes list:

This week’s paper is a bit different – it’s an explanation of a Matlab
toolbox for music information retrieval. Getting to know this software
will I’m sure make music research like ours much quicker and less

Hmm. Well. We still think this is the case, but for researchers and students disciplined primarily (or exclusively) in Music rather than the sciences, it’s not a straightforward step!

Matlab is a programming language for technical computing. The Matlab toolbox for music information retrieval by researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, comprises a modular suite of programs which allow the user to extract data on musically-important features, such as pitch, tempo, beat-clarity and key, from audio recordings.  The MIR toolbox – based as it is in the Matlab environment – allows statistical analyses of these features on a potentially grand scale.

If you’re someone whose understanding of music intuitively draws you towards ethnographic or ethnomusicological research, such computational approaches to music research and analysis can seem anathema. You may feel that a detailed case study or historical or archival research is the only way to do justice to the topic: music-making is infinitely diverse and context-specific; musical experience is highly individual. But, of course, we need all approaches, don’t we? It’s not a matter of pitting the power of the computational approach against the detail and nuance of the ethnographic case study.  When advocates for both such approaches can understand enough of the other’s methods to interpret their evidence fully, that’s when we get some progress.

On this basis, this particular reading group session became the springboard for a little EMPRes spin-off, when Eric Barnhill offered to run a series of workshops to introduce us to the wonders of Matlab…

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13 Mar 2014: Music and Expectation

This reading group session discussed a recent review paper by Barbara Tillman and colleagues published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. The paper draws together the most recent evidence to examine a number of music psychology issues : expectation, emotion, the brain and the musical score.

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13 Feb 2014: Music and Children

IMHSD student, Ana Almeida, gave an informal presentation on her PhD research on children’s spontaneous movement to music. Ana devised a study that used Laban movement analysis of the free-style dance responses of early-years children. Research into children’s spontaneous physical response to music is methodologically challenging; as well as explaining the study’s observations and findings, Ana described aspects of the design particular to this type of child development research.

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5 Dec 2013: Music and Disability

IMHSD PhD student, George Low, led this session on the topic of music, disability, and identity.

George’s research questions ask:

  • Why are there so few disabled musicians?
  • How does a physical impairment impact on musical identity?
  • How does disability affect reception, and consequently, music production?

We read: Honish (2009). ‘“Re-narrating Disability” through Musical Performance.’ Music Theory Online, 15(3-4). (http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.09.15.3/mto.09.15.3.honisch.html)

This session was an eye-opener… how little we talk about these issues in ‘mainstream’ music teaching and research!  Of course, community music practitioners and music therapists – both out in the field and (increasingly) inside academia – generate discourse on music and disability. Innovation in the field of enabling technologies is thriving, and this is one lively area for music research – for example, if you don’t already know about it you should check out the Skoog!

But seriously: how many Universities offer – as standard – a music degree curriculum which acknowledges and welcomes different types of physical ability?

More interesting reading on the topic:

  • Howe (2010). ‘Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance Of Disability.’ The Journal of Musicology, 27(2): 135-180
  • Rose and Meyer (2000). ‘The Future Is in the Margins: The Role of Technology and Disability in Educational Reform.’ White Paper prepared for US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. (http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED451624.pdf)
  • Mackay (2013). Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability. Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Posted in Autumn 2013 | Leave a comment

Next EMPRes reading group date: Thu Dec 5

No reading group meeting for the two November dates, with group members off to conferences in Hull and Oxford, and everyone in the throes of mid-semester madness…

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24 Oct 2013: Music and Empathy

This week’s topic was led by Alec Cooper (PhD student, Music), in preparation for his presentation at the SEMPRE conference on Music and Empathy, 9 November 2014, University of Hull (conference programme here).

The reading and materials were based on his conference paper, ‘Musical time as shared social experience’.  Alec received feedback from the group, and went on to give a very well-received presentation at the conference.

Posted in Autumn 2013 | Leave a comment


Please note that although the time is 1-2pm as usual, our meeting place has changed and is now:

Room 1.20 in the Dugald Stewart Building.

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10 Oct 2013: Microtiming in African Rhythm

Prof. Justin London (Carleton College, Minnesota / Research Associate, Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge) led the discussion, with reading based on his latest research on cross-cultural perspectives on microtiming.

The group read two short papers by Justin London and Rainer Polak written for the International Symposium on Performance Science: ‘Mande ensemble drumming – an introduction to Ngòn’; and ‘Microtiming in Ngòn: Categorical production and perception of a non-isochronous meter.’

Metrical implications in this Malian emsemble drumming style are interesting from a rhythm cognition perspective. These point to a non-isochronous basic subdivision, but one which leads to a very stable, unambiguous eight-beat metre (composed of two half-cycles).

Matching the cross-cultural research interests of several EMPRes members, we were particularly interested in the audio data collection and analysis methods for this research.

Page 3 of the circulated draft: “Author RP made field audio and video recordings of these performances with each drum separately miked. Vegas Pro 11 (Sony) was used for video and audio editing, and Soundforge Pro 10 (Sony) and Wavelab 6 (Steinberg) were used for additional audio editing and onset detection. Timings were checked and markers for each onset inserted by hand. Marker timepoints (running milliseconds) were then converted to text files and then imported into Excel for data cleanup and organization, and then into  PASW Statistics (18.0) for analysis.”

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26 Sep 2013: Replicability in music psychology research

At the reading group session on Thu 26 Sep, we discussed a topic that’s recently received a lot of discussion in psychological scholarship and research – the issue of replication (of studies, methods, results).

Reading: the introductory chapter of this month’s Musicae Scientiae Special Issue: Replication in Music Psychology, to give a nice overview of the relevant problems and pitfalls.

Frieler, Müllensiefen, Fischinger, Schlemmer, Jakubowski and Lothwesen (2013). Replication in Music Psychology. Musicae Scientiae, 17(3): 265-276.

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Schedule for Autumn 2013

Looking forward to the new season of EMPRes reading group meetings!

  • Thu 26 Sep: Replicability in music psychology research
  • Thu 10 Oct: Microtiming in African Rhythm – guest discussant, Prof. Justin London (Carleton College, Minnesota / Research Associate, Centre for Music and Science, Cambridge)
  • Thu 24 Oct: Music and Empathy
  • Thu 7 Nov: TBA
  • Thu 21 Nov: TBA
  • Thu 5 Dec: TBA

All meetings 1-2pm – first meeting in Room 304, Alison House.

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