Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Music as a meme

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Music is something that resides in human knowledge, and one person teaches another, in the way that memes reproduce. Sounds are not taught — sounds are physical phenomena — but music must be learned and resides within human culture, not in the world outside human understanding (the world in which sounds exist). Music emerged from cultural evolution and is a cultural construct, which is why the music of different cultures sounds so strange to those who have no learned that music (cf. Japanese music, Navajo music, African music, and Beethoven). People learn to make certain kinds of sounds, and learn to apprehend those as music, just as people learn to make certain sounds with their mouth — the sounds being real phenomena — and learn to apprehend those as language, for language (like music) resides totally within human understanding and has no reall physical existence.

Elena Renken writes in Quanta:

In the lowlands of Bolivia, the most isolated of the Tsimané people live in communities without electricity; they don’t own televisions, computers or phones, and even battery-powered radios are rare. Their minimal exposure to Western culture happens mostly during occasional trips to nearby towns. To the researchers who make their way into Tsimané villages by truck and canoe each summer, that isolation makes the Tsimané an almost uniquely valuable source of insights into the human brain and its processing of music.

Most studies about music perception examine people accustomed to Western music, so only a few enclaves like these remote Tsimané villages allow scientists to make comparisons across cultures. There they can try to tease apart the effects of exposure to music from the brain’s innate comprehension of it — or at least start dissecting the relationship between the two. “We need to understand that interplay between our genes and our experience,” said Josh McDermott, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the senior author of a recent paper involving the Tsimané in the journal Current Biology which suggests that a feature of music most of us might consider to be intrinsic — the perceived organization of musical pitches into octaves — is a cultural artifact.

Musical systems around the world and across historical eras have been diverse, but octaves are commonly a feature of them. The acoustic structure of octaves is always the same: The frequency of a note in one octave is half the frequency of the same note in the octave above. For example, middle C, or C4, is 261.63 hertz, while C5, one octave up, is 523.25 hertz. These physical qualities of sound in the ear have routinely led to assumptions that octave equivalence — the perception of pitches in different octaves as variations on the same note — is universal, according to Elizabeth Margulis, a professor of music at Princeton University.

McDermott and an international team of colleagues have now tested that assumption with their experiments, in which they asked Tsimané volunteers to listen and sing. A machine played two notes, one after the other, and the subject would sing them back into a microphone. The researchers played pairs of notes different distances apart on the scale and in different pitch ranges.

Computer analyses that compared the Tsimané participants with those in the United States found that both groups generally preserved the pitch intervals between the notes played to them — for example, maintaining the difference between a middle C and middle A. Both groups could also discriminate well between pitches only up to about 4,000 hertz, near the highest key on a piano, C8. For pairs of notes higher than that, everyone seemed to have trouble characterizing the differences.

A curious difference emerged, however, in how they sang the notes back. When the notes played were very high or low, U.S. participants accurately shifted the notes into an octave within their vocal range. The Tsimané didn’t. To them, it seemingly wasn’t clear what notes in their range best corresponded to the ones they heard. Their responses didn’t seem to reflect a perception of octave structure at all.

The researchers went so far as to coach the Tsimané to switch octaves. They gave feedback, like “excellent!” (Anic jäm’ in Tsimané) or “OK” (Dam’ jäm’), depending on how close their responses were to the notes of the prompt. The villagers did not get closer, however. It appeared that the same notes in different octaves, like high C and middle C, didn’t sound alike to the Tsimané as they did to people in the U.S.

The researchers acknowledged in the study that the results might reflect differences in how people sing, and not in how people perceive pitch. But they argued that the totality of collected data, including some more direct measures of octave perception, put the weight of evidence on the side of a perceptual explanation. The Tsimané have shown perceptual differences before: In an earlier study by McDermott and his colleagues, the Tsimané rated dissonant combinations of pitches, which Western listeners find grating, to be just as pleasant as more consonant chords.

Moreover, if the Tsimané’s performance in the tests has more to do with singing ability than their perceptual experience, then it would mean that all people have absolute pitch — an idea that is not well supported experimentally, according to McDermott and his colleagues. Instead, the researchers speculate that the brain’s default approach to identifying pitch is based on relative differences between notes, while absolute pitch, which can help with recognizing notes scattered across octaves, is something learned through experience. They suggest that Tsimané have generally not had those experiences. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2019 at 3:09 pm

Would Johnny Cash have supported Donald Trump?

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 September 2019 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Music, Politics

Whistling as music

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And for some backstory on Geert Chartrou (and some amazing performances):

And a jazz whistler:

A better clip of him:

And this

Most of these are via this article. It has more. One interesting thing you see in various performances (e.g., in the CDZA clip) is that one does actually wet his whistle.

Here’s more Ron McCroby, whom I like a lot:

One more:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2019 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music

Remembering “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet

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This is via an Open Culture post that’s worth reading in its entirety.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2019 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Every Noise at Once, revised and expanded

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I’ve blogged this before, but they have continued to develop it. From the link (under the now-very-large music map):

Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 3,295 genres by Spotify as of 2019-08-01. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

Click anything to hear an example of what it sounds like.

Click the » on a genre to see a map of its artists.

Be calmly aware that this may periodically expand, contract or combust.

How We Understand Music Genres explains how this thing got started.
A Retromatic History of Music (or Love) follows these genres across years.
Spotify New Releases by Genre uses them to scour this week’s new releases.
We Built This City On follows them to their cities of origin.
Genres by Country breaks them down by strength of association with countries.
Songs From the Edges flings you through a blast-tour of the most passionate genrecults.
Songs From the Ages samples demographic groups.
Songs From the Streets samples cities.
Drunkard’s Rock wanders around for a really long time.
The Sounds of Places plots countries as if they were genres.
Spotify World Browser shows Spotify editorial programming in different countries.
Every Place at Once is an index of the distinctive listening of individual cities.
Hyperspace House Concerts looks for music playing only in particular places.
Every School at Once is an index of the distinctive listening of students by school.
Genres in Their Own Words maps genres to words found in their song titles.
The Needle tries to find songs surging towards the edges of one obscurity or another.
The Approaching Worms of Christmas tries to wrap itself around things I usually fight.
Every Demographic at Once explores listening by country, age and gender.
Or there’s a dynamically-generated daily summary of Spotify Listening Patterns by Gender.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2019 at 9:00 am

Wonderful exegesis of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”

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Worth watching—and listening to:

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2019 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music

Serenading cows: Trombone edition

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2019 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Music, Video

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