Sunday, August 1, 2010

music, form, and perception, cont'd

Well, this post certainly generated a conversation! Okay, admittedly, one of the comments is mine and one is a repetition, but still. I feel delightedly compelled to address them.

Sarah says:
"ALSO, if there's one thing med school has taught me, it's that one study does not a phenomenon make. (also: spinal cord pathways)."

There's actually a surprising number of studies, all of which have their issues, but converge on the same basic conclusion. The one thing these studies seem to lack is repetition, mostly for understandable logistical reasons. At the bottom here I included a bunch of references I used in the paper I wrote about this last year. The studies can all be found on web of science with an academic subscription.

Alissa says:
"i'd be interested in knowing what the results of that same survey would have been back in the 18th/19th/early 20th centuries..."

Well, the point of the studies, if you believe them, is not just to assess how people listen to music in a "naturalistic" setting, ie, just listening for funsies, but also to assess how they listen in "attentive" conditions, even testing musically trained participants, who supposedly have plenty of experience with that kind of listening and know how to listen to classical music. With some caveats, the same types of results are relatively robust, even for that population. Now, if you give a non-Western listener the same type of music, their perception is completely different, but music hasn't changed that much over the last few hundred years, in the Western world at least, to suggest that people's perceptions of it has fundamentally changed.

Charles Rosen actually writes a lot about this, but as a musicologist he gets the psychology of it all wrong. The idea that a general audience in the past could better perceive various structural aspects of the music they were listening to despite significantly less exposure is highly dubious at best.

Ellen says:
"The studies don't consider unconscious response, and unconscious response is probably even more crucial to hearing music (or the other art forms) than conscious and measurable replies."

Although it's impossible to assess every possible unconscious reaction to a stimulus, these studies do a pretty good job of looking at the variance between people's unconscious perceptions of different stimuli by looking at a range of responses after the stimuli. In any psychology experiment that's looking at unconscious perception, the goal is to find a behavioral or conscious manifestation of the unconscious response. For instance, in this famous study (from a lab I worked in at Yale!), the subjects' unconscious reaction to the temperature of the drink they were holding manifested in their later assessment of the experimenter.

Most of these music studies come in one of two types. In the between-subject experiments, the experimenters present two different groups of listeners with different musical examples, one of which (the test stimulus) is manipulated in some way, either to end in the wrong key, or fragmented, or whatever, the other of which is in its original form (the control). All the listeners then evaluate their given excerpts in a questionnaire. Even if the test subjects don't realize that their stimulus is manipulated, we would expect them to react unconsciously to the manipulation and later rate the musical excerpt lower in the post-experimental evaluation than those in the control condition. In the within-subject experiments, the listeners directly compare the manipulated and the control stimulus. One of my biggest criticisms of this literature is actually that most of the experiments are done with a within-subject, rather than between-subject, design, but that's another story....

i'll get to andy's and dad's comments later.

some studies:

Bigand, Emmanuel and Parncutt, Richard. “Perceiving musical tension in long chord sequences.” Psychological Research 62 (1999), 237-254.

Cook, Nicholas. “The perception of large-scale tonal closure.” Music Perception 5:2(1987), 197-206.

Eitan, Zohar and Granot, Roni Y. “Growing oranges on Mozart’s apple tree: ‘inner form’ and aesthetic judgment.” Music Perception 25(5): 2008, 397-417

Gotlieb, Heidi and Konecni, Vladimir. “The effects of instrumentation, playing style, and structure in the Goldberg Variations by JS Bach.” Music Perception 3:1 (1985), 87-101.

Karno, Mitchell and Konecni, Vladimir. “The effects of structural interventions in the first movement of Mozart’s sympony in g minor K. 550 on aesthetic preference.” Music Perception 10(1):1992, 63-72

Marvin, Elizabeth W and Brinkman, Alexander. “The effect of modulation and formal manipulation on perception of tonic closure by expert listeners.” Music Perception 16(4): 389-408

Pollard-Gott, Lucy. “Emergence of thematic concepts in repeated listening to music.” Cognitive Psychology 15 (1983), 66-94.

Tan, Sui Lu, et al. “The Effects of repeated exposure on liking and judgments of musical unity of intact and patchwork compositions.” Music Perception 23:5 (2006), 407-421.

Tillmann, Barbara and Bigand, Emmanuel. “Influence of global structure on musical target detection and recognition.” International Journal of Psychology, 33 (2): 1998, 107-122.

Tillmann, Barbara, et al. “Effects of global and local contexts on harmonic expectancy.” Music Perception 16(1): 1998, 99-117.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like this subject could make a great book (or at least a Ph.D., thesis topic, if you're ever looking around for one . . .). seriously - "why people don't like classical music ..." or "why our brains make it hard for us to enjoy music .." or the like -