intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Simply Listening To Music Affects One’s Musicality

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Researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have demonstrated how much the brain can learn simply through active exposure to many different kinds of music. “More and more labs are showing that people have the sensitivity for skills that we thought were only expert skills,” Henkjan Honing (UvA) explains.

“It turns out that mere exposure makes an enormous contribution to how musical competence develops.”* The results were recently presented at the Music & Language conference, organized by Tufts University in Boston, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Performance and Perception.

The common view among music scientists is that musical abilities are shaped mostly by intense musical training, and that they remain rather rough in untrained listeners, the so-called Expertise hypothesis.

However, the UvA-study shows that listeners without formal musical training, but with sufficient exposure to a certain musical idiom (the Exposure hypothesis), perform similarly in a musical task when compared to formally trained listeners.

Furthermore, the results show that listeners generally do better in their preferred musical genre. As such the study provides evidence for the idea that some musical capabilities are acquired through mere exposure to music. Just listen and learn!

In addition, the study is one of the first that takes advance of the possibilities of online listening experiments comparing musicians and non-musicians of all ages.

*Eichler, J. (2008, July 13), ‘Can’t get it out of my head’, Boston Globe, p. N6.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. (in press)
Exposure influences expressive timing judgments in music.
Honing, H. & Ladinig, O.

Abstract (from the lead author’s hp)
This study is concerned with the question whether, and if so to what extent, listeners’ previous exposure to music in everyday life, and expertise as a result of formal musical training, play a role in making expressive timing judgments in music. This was investigated by using a Web-based listening experiment in which listeners with a wide range of musical backgrounds were asked to compare two different recordings of the same composition (fifteen pairs, grouped in three musical genres), one of which was tempo-transformed. The results show that expressive timing judgments are not influenced by expertise levels, as suggested by the expertise hypothesis, but by exposure to a certain musical idiom, as suggested by the exposure hypothesis. Apparently, frequent listening to a certain musical genre allows listeners, with and without formal musical training, to implicitly learn the timing patterns that are characteristic for that style, and to use this (implicit) knowledge to discriminate between a real and a tempo-transformed recording. As such, and in addition to what has recently been shown in the pitch domain (Bigand & Poulin-Charronnat, 2006), the current study provides evidence in the temporal domain for the idea that some musical capabilities are acquired through exposure to music, and that these abilities are more likely enhanced by active listening (exposure) than by formal musical training (expertise).

Written by huehueteotl

August 14, 2008 at 7:46 am

Posted in Music

One Response

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  1. hambreradio

    August 14, 2008 at 9:08 am


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