inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #51 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Sun 19 Oct 08 15:00
    
Touche on the exceptions to orchestral instruments bending pitch, but as an
orchestral musician for 40 years I can tell you that nonetheless orchestras
don't play in strict equal temperament (this is especially noticable when a
piano soloist comes along for a concerto). While as you say nothing can be
done about the lowest note on a string instrument, this is one reason why
players avoid open strings much of the time (that, and tone quality). (Tubas
and trumpets do have slides they can pull on certain notes to at least flatten
the pitch.)

But back to the book (I confess I've only read through "Knowledge"). It seems
clear that auditory discrimination in terms of direction, timber, volume, and
relative pitch would be useful for finding prey or avoiding predators, and
naturally selected for, but I found the song warning of the man-eating
crocodile or the fear-inducing war drums to be a bit of a stretch. To justify
some of the theories with illustrations from song lyrics seems to me to skirt
the issue, since that's language you're talking about, not music. There are
famous examples of setting different lyrics to the same tune, with completely
different effect.  And while music is a good memory aid as you point out, so
are smells and visual things. So, while you're theories are plausible, aren't
you guilty somewhat in the lack of scientific method you cite in the story
about the researcher into psychic abilities?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #52 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 16:37
    
[50-51] We have evidence of ancient music from four primary sources. 
First, text-based music tells us about lyrics, and these reach back
about 6,000 years, just around the time that biologists believe a new
mutation occurred in the brain that gave us writing.  (It is
interesting to note that writing appeared almost simultaneously, at
least in evolutionary terms, in many parts of the world.)  Those texts
don't preserve the melody, but they tell us something about the intent
of the music. In that same category, I would also include ancient
writing about music.  Texts from 3,500 years ago and older talk of the
sound of music, the effect of it, and the role of musicians (including
the old testament).   A second source comes from the music that is made
by current pre-literate societies that have been studied by
anthropologists and ethnomusicologists.  They themselves tell us that
their music, according to tradition, has changed little in thousands of
generations, and much of it has to do with encapsulating
knowledge-with-lyrics.  Just the things I spoke of: an inventory of
poisonous plants, how to build a water-tight canoe, oral histories of
families, etc.  A third source are the artifacts we find in ancient
burial sites.  No human-made artifact has been found that is older than
the ancient musical instruments found, which date to around 50,000 -
60,000 years ago.  Bone flutes from this era tell us something about
the music - the scales that were used.  A fourth source of evidence is
current brain imaging studies, which find that musical pathways are
older than speech pathways, that they stimulate primitive circuits we
share with all mammals, and that they also invoke motor circuits -
evidence that music and movement share an ancient evolutionary history.

On the topic of orchestral instruments, I do agree that not all
instruments are in equal tuning - violins are not, for example, nor are
guitars.  This can cause some unpleasant moments for the careful
listener.  (And it's why Steely Dan often retune their guitars during
recording depending on the octave in which a solo is being played)
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #53 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sun 19 Oct 08 23:39
    
as a professional musician  (London session musician of the second
rank on bassoon - and professional band trainer and adjuducator)
  B flat and A shsrp are not the same note (except on permanently out
of tune, ie compromised  or "well tempered",  frets or keyboards)

you bend the notes according to context and emotion - the sharp is
often a little bit "too" sharp - yearningly seeking resolution upwards

as in blue notes flats are heavier and may lean downwards 

Pianos with strings also have stretched octaves to compensate for the
weight and stiffness of the steel.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #54 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sun 19 Oct 08 23:54
    
musical memory is  hydra-headed

aspies with a musical gift may have the finest ability in this field

as a music teacher one gives some thought to the subject:-

photographic memory - playing, or conducting, from an image of the
pages of notation 

physical memory - the sequence of muscular movements and finger
patterns

auditory memory - the sounds - hearing the notes befor yopu play or
sing them, . .  vocal memory

the verses

most musicians use a combination of these

personally I emphasised sight reading - when I pick up a newspaper I
read it aloud without hesitation or error - the same for sheet music 
is an essential tool for a session musician

In a 3 hour session you create about 30 minutes recording of
marketable or broadcastable quality

Your technique has to be good enough too
only amateurs need to take the sheet  music home to practice
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #55 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Mon 20 Oct 08 09:24
    
Dan, way back there I mentioned the Mozart Effect, which seems to have a
checkered history. As I understand it, some serious research on the effect
of music on spatial reasoning led to a series of somewhat diluted press
accounts that painted Mozart as a magic pill that makes you smarter.

This in turn led to a book, "The Mozart Effect (R)" (and now a cottage
industry) with all the trappings of hucksterism and incredible claims.

On the other hand, the work done by you and others indicates that
there may be something there after all. 

What's the story, and has the Mozart Effect juggernaut been a help or
a hindrance to your feild?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #56 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Mon 20 Oct 08 12:30
    
Mozart was programmed from his cradle by his father's violin playing
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #57 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Mon 20 Oct 08 17:45
    
I met Don Campbell a couple of weeks ago, the author of "The Mozart
Effect."  He is a musician and a well-intentioned one, but he is not
(by his own admission even) a scientist.  The Mozart effect was
originally published in a scientific journal without careful peer
review and the popular press jumped all over it.  The press story was
that listening to Mozart for 20 minutes a day will raise your IQ score.
 The actual article claimed pretty much that, except that rather than
raising  your IQ, they said that it would increase scores on a paper
folding task that in turn was correlated with IQ (but not perfectly
correlated).  The paper folding was given before and after the
experimental session.

That original study was poorly conducted.  The control group were put
in a room with nothing to do for 20 minutes.  Several follow up studies
showed that the so-called Mozart effect was nothing more than an
effect of boredom for the control group.  If instead of giving the
control group nothing to do you gave them something - anything - like a
Stephen King book on tape, a crossword puzzle, or other music, the
effect disappeared.  

My scientific colleagues and I were never taken in by the original
claim, both because of the clear flaws in the original experimental
design, but moreso because there was no putative mechanism described. 
The researchers never addressed the question of why Mozart would have
effects that weren't found in Bach, Haydn, or Beethoven, for example,
or how the music actually created this sudden IQ increase.

There may be something to EARLY MUSIC EDUCATION, in particular,
learning to play an instrument, as a way to enhance the development of
attentional networks in the brain. We believe we understand some of the
causal mechanisms of this, and they involve the anterior cingulate
cortex.  Music can have effects on mood and arousal, mediating blood
flow, respiration, and neurochemistry, and so they may contribute to
alertness which could affect IQ scores, but not actually raise IQ.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #58 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Mon 20 Oct 08 20:37
    
I heard somewhere recently that there's a higher incidence of perfect pitch
among Chinese, the reason being that their language forces children to pay
attention to pitch. Can you confirm?

Is it known how perfect pitch works? Have there been functional MRI studies
on people with perfect pitch? Is it true that it can only be acquired young?

I recall in your first book the interesting fact that most people seem to
remember their favorite songs in the correct key, but most people don't have
perfect pitch. So does that mean that perfect pitch is something other than
just memory?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #59 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Tue 21 Oct 08 01:04
    
I guess I've never read enough about the Mozart Effect to learn that it
was focused exclusively on that one composer! I guess I always thought
it was catchier than the "Classical Music Effect."

You last paragraph suggests something I've imagined since reading your
first book: an education model in which music was a central part of the
curriculum. Hearing music from around the world and from different
eras, playing a range of instruments, enhancing lessons with *aides
memoire musicale* (a la Schoolhouse Rock), and so on. It's a fantasy, I
know, but it seems like the major scale could sit easily alongside the
ABCs, and by high school algebra should be an elective and music a
requirement.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #60 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Tue 21 Oct 08 01:16
    
see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_method
". . . . the movement is modeled on a concept of early childhood
education that focuses on factors which Shinichi Suzuki observed in
native language acquisition, such as immersion, encouragement, small
steps, and an unforced timetable for learning material based on each
person's developmental readiness to imitate examples, internalize
principles, and contribute novel ideas.

 The term "Suzuki method" is also sometimes used to refer solely to
the Suzuki repertoire of sheet music books and/or audio recordings
which have been published as part of its music education method."

5 or 6 years old is too late
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #61 of 103: Daniel (dfowlkes) Tue 21 Oct 08 02:58
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #62 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Tue 21 Oct 08 05:24
    
[58] "a higher incidence of perfect pitch among Chinese."  There are a
couple of published reports that claim that absolute pitch (the
preferred term) is more prevalent among speakers of tonal languages,
including Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai, and Swahili.  But the explanation
that it is required for their language doesn't make sense - they
require relative, not absolute pitch to speak their languages.  If all
they had was AP, Chinese adults wouldn't be able to understand Chinese 
children who speak and octave higher.  This finding is not well
accepted among the scientific community.

"Is it known how perfect pitch works? Have there been functional MRI
studies on people with perfect pitch? Is it true that it can only be
acquired young?"

I've promoted the theory that AP requires two components: accurate
long-term memory for pitches ("pitch memory") and then the ability to
label those memories with meaningful labels such as G, Do, or 440 Hz
("pitch labeling").  Acquisition of AP appears to require early
training of the tone-label associations.  There are no reported cases
of an adult successfully acquiring full AP.  The critical period for
acquisition seems to be about age 2 - 10.  There have been fMRI studies
of people with AP and they show that the neural locus of the ability
is in just that area of the brain that is used for labeling things, in
the dorsalateral pre-frontal cortex.  Together with other fMRI studies,
and behavioural studies, the weight of evidence is that AP is not a
difference in sensation or perception (they don't necessarily have
"super hearing" or "super discriminability"), rather, it is a
difference simply in labeling.  They know they labels, you don't.

The finding that many people remember their favorite songs at the
correct pitch, but can't name them, supports the two component theory
of AP.  They have "pitch memory" but not "pitch labeling."
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #63 of 103: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 21 Oct 08 08:56
    
>>There are no reported cases of an adult successfully acquiring full
AP.

Not disputing you, but I'd always heard that Paul Hindemith, when he
was teaching at Yale, required his students to acquire AP, and you
could always tell one of his students because they'd pull out a tuning
fork on the bus or something to check the note they were humming. And I
seem to remember that his insistence that it could be learned -- even
at that late stage -- was born out.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #64 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Tue 21 Oct 08 10:03
    
I read somewhere (Oliver Sacks's "Musicophilia"?) that there are no
tone-deaf Chinese. I know little of Chinese beyond the idea of a
four-tone system, but it seems unlikely that even the relative pitch of
the tones is consistent across dialects and individuals. There must be
the relative equivalent of sing-song-y and monotone speakers.

(I know we have some folks following this discussion who might not
know these terms, absolute pitch and relative pitch. 

Absolute (or perfect) pitch refers to the ability identify a single
note with its name. That is, if I play the middle C on a piano, that
person can identify it, and any other notes, flawlessly. This is a
rare talent, and few people have it, even professional musicians.

Relative pitch refers to the distance between two notes. The distance
from a C to a G (or D to A, and so on) is a fifth, and many musicians
can identify that relationship even if they aren't sure which notes
are being played.)
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #65 of 103: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Tue 21 Oct 08 10:32
    
I've gotten to where I can pick up a guitar and tell whether or not it's
tuned to pitch.   But then, I spend much of my day picking up guitars and
checking the tuning.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #66 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Tue 21 Oct 08 10:52
    
Ed 

that is called relative pitch (working from a fork for example)
 and is standard training  for any professional musician not gifted
with perfect pitch
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #67 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Tue 21 Oct 08 11:23
    
Relative pitch means getting from one note to the next, and is indeed
something you can practice and get good at by learning to identify or produce
all the possile intervals reliably. The Hindemith story could be true, with
the student testing his recall of an A, but I'm skeptical about how well it
worked.

I can, with effort, conjure up an A from memory with a fairly good rate of
success, or guess the key of something I'm hearing by imagining that I'm
playing it and figuring it out from that. But that's not absolute pitch, which
is effortless and almost unconcious, and indeed I'm often a half step or more
off. People with absolute pitch have described each different pitch as having
a completely different character, almost like the difference between red and
blue, while most of us hear gray.

My 86-year-old father-in-law, an amateur musician all his life, is now losing
his absolute pitch. Any idea what might be going on there, Daniel? He has some
hearing loss, but not profoundly, and no dementia. He has relied on his
absolute pitch in making music, so now is suffering for it. (My ear training
teachers would devise exercises for my fellow students with absolute pitch to
force them not to rely on it--they would have to sight sing in a different key
from what was written, for example.)
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #68 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Wed 22 Oct 08 11:52
    
There are many reports of adults acquiring perfect memory and
labelling for a single tone, such as the A that they tune to.  But this
is not the same as true absolute pitch, which is the ability to name
or produce any tone from memory, without reference to an external
standard.  The Hindemith example is probably that his students
internalized one tone, but not all 12.  They could then use relative
pitch to navigate from there.

It is well documented also that people who do have true absolute pitch
begin to lose it as they age.  Stiffening of the hair cells in the
cochlea causes those nerve firings to change, so that the brain gets
information that is different from what it usually got.  Most report
that their sense of pitch shifts by a semitone or more and they find it
very, very disturbing.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #69 of 103: Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Wed 22 Oct 08 11:59
    
Happening to a friend of mine who's in his mid-50s, who used to repair
guitars for us.     He was our standing joke when we'd take a guitar down
for a customer.     You'd yell, "Tom, give me an E!", and he'd hum one over
the PA from the repair shop for us to tune to.     Always got a laugh.
He's at another store now, and tells me he's losing his edge.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #70 of 103: Stuart (sjs) Wed 22 Oct 08 12:52
    
Thank you for joining us, Daniel.

May I go back to a statement <bryan> made in <51>, please, and follow
up?  <bryan> said:  

"To justify some of the theories with illustrations from song lyrics
seems to me to skirt the issue, since that's language you're talking
about, not music."

Very early in the book, I enjoyed the scenario you set up about the
highschool kids smoking out on the school grounds.  The scene described
the tunes playing and how there was some relatively low-key
interaction between the kids up until "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" came
on -- and then there was unity in the group.  Wasn't that ALL about the
words (the "poetry" to go back several posts) because of the content? 
The melody/instrumentation absent the lyrics wouldn't produce the
Friendship the chapter is about.

(even if the theory is the connection between the lyrics and the
music, in this case doesn't that still leave the music -- by itself --
as the secondary element to the Friendship?)
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #71 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Wed 22 Oct 08 15:01
    
[70] The book is ABOUT songs - about music with lyrics. Although I
spend some time talking about music without lyrics, the whole thesis of
the book is about the special thing that happens when the two are
wedded together.  So I think that Bryan is off-base when he says that
I'm skirting the issue by discussing lyrics - lyrics ARE the issue.  

Listen: perform a thought experiment.  If those kids in Missouri out
behind the dumpsters were listening to music and someone came on the
boom box and simply recited the lyrics to "Smokin' In the Boys' Room"
do you think the reaction would be anywhere near as intense?  It is the
combination of the lyrics with those dirty, distorted, rule-breaking
guitars, the sloppy who-the-fuck-cares drum track, and the
tobacco-scratched vocal cords of the singer that come together to make
it work.  
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #72 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Wed 22 Oct 08 15:43
    
I didn't realize you were limiting yourself to songs with lyrics. If you do,
though, "How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature" is probably too ambitious
a thesis statement. What I want to know is, what is it about the music itself?
Perhaps it's impossible to say, but that's what made the book ultimately
disappointing to me.

I agree that music makes the lyrics more powerful. The same is true of a movie
soundtrack. By how does music do that? You can divide the plots of movies into
six categories, but I don't think you learn much about why the soundtracks
have the effect that they do.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #73 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Wed 22 Oct 08 16:06
    
The mechanics of how music causes emotional reactions is covered in my
first book "This Is Your Brain on Music."  The evolutionary role that
music played in helping our ancestors to form social bonds, preserve
knowledge and information, signal mental and physical fitness for
mating, is the subject of TWISS.  The subtitle is not ambitious if you
consider the thesis I lay out, that certain specific changes to the
brain led to the formation of music, language, art and science. 
Clearly the book didn't work for you.  It's not for everyone.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #74 of 103: Andrew Alden (alden) Wed 22 Oct 08 17:58
    
#68/69 explains why I used to have perfect pitch, but after I stopped
playing and listening to music for several years everything went down a
semitone. As you say, it is quite disconcerting.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #75 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Wed 22 Oct 08 23:51
    
I see the connection between the two books and can intuit (but not
articulate) a connection to music that is seemingly not accounted for
in a developmental model, like classical and jazz. It's doubtful our
early ancestors were using music in the ways that modern humans of the
last few hundred years (let alone the past few decades) have been, as
intellectual and aesthetic exercises.

As an analagy, I think of native American "art" -- it wasn't art to the
people who made it, and they oppose the works of their ancestors being
shown in museums. Those objects were part of their life, not creations
set to one side as special. Similarly, songs with lyrics (and likely
dance) were an integral part of existence, not a separate effort.

On the subject of emotional reactions heightened by soundtracks, surely
this is a recent cultural learning. I doubt a 1935 audience would have
reacted to "Vertigo" or even "Star Wars" the way a contemporary
audience does. Our movie-watching history has trained us to expect
tension or resolution with particular musical passages. 
  

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