Music 511 Fall 2020 (online)


Music Perception and Cognition




Dr. Andrew Schloss
Office: MacLaurin A177 Local: 721-7931
Office hours: Tues 4:30-5:30 pm or by appointment (email to confirm)
email: aschloss at uvic dot ca

Classes: MacLaurin Building B120 / Thursday 1:00-3:30 pm

Text: Music, Language and the Brain, by Aniruddh Patel, Oxford University Press
Also available online via the UVic Library (completely free for enrolled students -- if you don't mind reading online)

also: Auditory neuroscience: making sense of sound / Jan Schnupp, Israel Nelken, and Andrew King
Also available online via UVic Library, plus the associated website: Auditory Neuroscience


Class participation 15%
Video journal 15%
Cultural autobiography and music examples 15%
Class presentation/experimental replication 25%
Final Project/paper 30% (includes writeup of class presentation)

Policy on Academic Integrity
Undergraduate Grading Scale


Music Cognition, Perception, Auditory Neuroscience and Pyschoacoustics

We will investigate music (and language) from cognitive, perceptual, neurological and evolutionary perspectives, following a highly multidisciplinary path through aspects of music cognition, psychoacoustics, ethnomusicology, systematic musicology, computational ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, linguistics and auditory neursoscience. We will discuss the origins of music, the nature of rhythm, perception of time, and the use of music and dance to enhance trance, altered states and ritual. Geographic areas of study will include:  Europe, Africa, Latin America, India, Eastern Europe.

Quote from the book:

1. As cognitive and neural systems, music and language are closely related.
2. Comparing music and language provides a powerful way to study the mechanisms that the mind uses to make sense out of sound.


Music, Language and the Brain: sound examples
Auditory Neuroscience website
NYU Music Cognition experiments
Perception of "Rhythm Necklaces"
The evolution of hearing (the fox) (In evolutionary terms, hearing is about survival. Music came later)
Michel Camilo Trio live in Madrid: Rhythmic, but not periodic?
Cornell University archive of bird calls and animal sounds
Oliver Sacks lecture on Musicophilia
How the brain works

On Reserve or in the library:

Music, Language and the Brain,by Aniruddh Patel, Oxford University Press
Auditory neuroscience : making sense of sound / Jan Schnupp, Israel Nelken, and Andrew King (plus the associated website)
Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks
Hearing in Time, Justin London
Ethnomusicology, Jaap Kunst
The Technique of my Musical Language, Olivier Messiaen
The Music of Africa, J. Kwabena Nketia 1974
Musique et Trance (Music and Trance, Rouget)
African Rhythm and African Sensibility, Chernoff
Flash of the Spirit, RF Thompson
How Musical is Man? J Blacking
World History of the Dance, K. Sachs
Divine Horsemen, M. Deren
Drumming at the Edge of Magic, M Hart
Popular Music of the World, Peter Manuel
Speech surrogates : drum and whistle systems, Thomas A. Sebeok and Donna Jean Umiker-Sebeok
Whistled Languages: A Worldwide Inquiry on Human Whistled Speech, Julian Meyer


Perception and Production of Syncopated Rhythms, Fitch and Rosenfeld (A research paper on the perception of syncopation)
Percussion and Transition, Needham: the connection between trance/altered states and percussion
Perspectives on the Standard African 12-8 bell pattern, Jerry Leake
Timing is of the essence: Perceptual and computational techniques for representing, learning, and reproducing expressive timing in percussive rhythm (Master's thesis, MIT), Bilmes, J.A. (1993)
The biology and evolution of music: A comparative perspective , Fitch 2006
When does consciousness arise?
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
What do we know about African rhythm? Koetting
An Aesthetic of the Cool: West Africa, R. F. Thompson
A Physiological Explanation of Unusual Behavior in Ceremonies Involving Drums, Andrew Neher
The rhythmic medium in African music New Literary History, J. Chernoff, J.M. (1991). 22(4), 1093–1102.
How to Talk About Musical Metre Justin London, 2006
The Nature and Perception of Fluctulations in Human Musical Rhythms (Fractal rhythmic deviations)
Musical protolanguage: Darwin's theory of language evolution revisited
Howling Dogs Give Insight into Language
Prescriptive vs Descriptive notation (Charles Seeger)
The Evolutionary Argument against Reality
Analzying Cuban Clave Performance (Computational ethnomusicology example)
Parallels and Nonparallels between Language and Music (Jackendoff)
Do Babies Cry in Different Languages? (NYT article)
Film Music and the Unfolding Narrative (from Language Music and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship)
Rhythmic Cognition in Humans and Animals
The Sound Labyrinth: Computers, Constructionism and Language Learning, Sónia Matos
Bioacoustics of human whistled languages: an alternative approach to the cognitive processes of language Julian Meyer
Neural Processing of a Whistled Language

Schedule (please note that these entries are subject to modification):

Week 1 Sept 10

Introduction and Overview; what to expect, grading, who is in the class?
What is sound? What makes sound? Why do animals need to hear it? How do we identify sound sources? Why is it important?
What is ethnomusicology and where did it come from? (vergleichende Musikwissenschaft). Why is it valuable as a tool to study music cognition?
What is computational ethnomusicology?
What is cultural anthropology?
What is consciousness? perception? cognition?
What is auditory neuroscience?
Why we (and all animals) have ears—Darwin and natural selection. What is reality, anyway?

"Language and music define us as human." or do they? What other animals have music? Language?
"Our ears were not designed to listen to music — rather, music was designed for our ears to listen to."
Is there such a thing as playing music with an "accent" that is analogous to speaking with an accent?

Cultural Autobiography (due in September 25)
Your musical examples to present to the class (due September 18 and thereafter, see sign-up)

Week 2 Sept 17         Sound Elements --Why things sound the way they do.  
Chapter 1 and 2 (up to section 2.3.1) of Music, Language and the Brain
and (optional) Chapter 1, Auditory neuroscience: making sense of sound (ebook: Full Text Online via UVic Library)
video: How audition works

Week 3 Sept 24          Sound Elements, cont'd
: Chapt. 2 (finish chapter) and Chapter 1 of Psychology of Hearing: "The Nature of Sound and the Structure and Function of the Auditory System"

up to page 34.
Fourier analysis: Comparison of FFT, waterfall display, and spectrogram. Convolution theorem.
video: The Science of the Senses: Hearing

Week 4 Oct 1           Rhythm
Reading: Chapt. 3 (up to section 3.2.5) and The Illiterate Listener by Henkjan Honing
What is the difference between pulse, meter, periodicity, rhythm and sycnopation?
Some initial musical examples from Africa, Cuba, Bulgaria, India.
What is a "random" rhythm and what does it sound like? (on a continuous time-scale vs quantized time)
Chant: is this non-rhythmic or arhythmic?
Where is one? Or is there a one? Perhaps this is our Western approach that assumes there is a "one."
How can we ever know (or prove) that notation of a rhythm is correct?

Week 5 Oct 8            Rhythm cont'd
Reading: Chapt. 3 (up to section 3.3.4) and Investigating the human-specificity of synchronization to music Patel, et alia, 2008 (Which nonhuman animals, if any, can follow a "beat"? How unique is the human capacity for rhythm and entrainment to a pulse—why can't dogs dance?)

Mother AFRICA - origin of our species? The African aesthetic vs the European aesthetic
The profound influence of Africa on Western popular music, and therefore/thereby on popular music around the world. Also the pervasiveness of the African aesthetic in EDM (electronic dance music): LOOPS are an African musical influence.

Options for notating rhythm:
--Traditional musical notation (shows the meter and its relation to a pulse, which is useful and familiar to musicians)
--TUBS notation ("Time Unit Box Sytsem) shows the "layout" of the rhythm, is useful for showing polyrhythmic relationships, and is easier for non-musicians to understand)
--Digital notation is useful for computer manipulations and testing: [1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0] is son clave, for example
--Geometric notation (this option shows various spacial aspects like symmety, rotation, etc)

Specificity: There are links between specific sounds (instruments like drums) and specific rhythms; traditional rhythms are usually played on particular instruments. In a way, this is a global version of orchestration/timbre-specific patterns.
There are tabla patterns and vocal isomorphism in Indian music; this is a sonic isomorphism, but not a semantic or linguistic one. More surprising is the actual ability to speak using non-linguistic sound sources: whistles, drums, idiophones. It seems intuitively obvious that tonal languages would lend themselves more to tonal representations using musical instruments, but there are whistled versions of Spanish (a non-tonal language like English) in Gomera. Other whistled languages (in Mexico for example) are of the local (tonal) languages:
Speech Surrogates: Yoruba talking drum
Whistles in the Mist: Whistled Speech in Oaxaca
A Lesson in Silbo Gomero
The Talking Balafon of the Sambla:Grammatical Principles and Documentary Implications
Demonstration of tabla bols in jhaptal

Week 6 Oct 15            Rhythm, cont'd
Reading: Chapt. 3 (finish chapter) and Biology of Music (editorial) and
The Biology and Evolution of Rhythm: Unravelling a Paradox, Fitch, published in Rebuschat, et al (Eds): "Language and Music as Cognitive Systems" Oxford University Press.
example of simple polyrhythm in Cuba: rumba tonada

video: LISTENING TO THE SILENCE: African Cross-Rhythms (33 min)

Microtiming --
systematic vs random deviations from canonical patterns

: DUNDUN, The Talking Drum, voice of the Gods (Nigeria)

Adzro example Gankogui: "pentatonic" rhythm Kagan: "ride" rhythm
Gahu example
Agbekor (slow) example
Agbekor (fast) example

Cuba: 3-2 vs 2-3 son clave vs rumba clave,
Brazil: samba, batucada, canbomblé, bossa nova

INDIA (summary)
Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary cont'd
Nama Orchestra: dance from Shopluk, Bulgaria

Week 7 Oct 22           Melody
Reading: Chapt. 4 (up to section 4.5)
"Hearing a melody is hearing, having heard, and being about to hear, all at once. Every melody declares to us that the past can be there without being remembered, the future without being foreknown."
su –Victor Zuckerkandl

Week 8 Oct 29          Melody (cont'd)
Chapt. 4 (finish chapter)
"Time is always new; cannot possibly be anything but new." –V. Zuckerkandl

Week 9 Nov 5         Syntax
Reading: Chapt. 5 (up to section 5.4)
The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve? Marc D. Hauser, Noam Chomsky, W. Tecumseh Fitch

Week 10 Nov 12        Syntax (cont'd)
Reading: Chapt. 5 (finish chapter)
Leonard Bernstein: The Unanswered Question, Harvard University lecture series

Week 11 Nov 19        Meaning
Chapt. 6 (entire capter) (READING BREAK)
ORION Lecture at UVic: Peter Golub -- Film music and Emotion
Peter Golub lecture 1 Peter Golub lecture 2

Week 12 Nov 26         Evolution
Chapt. 7 (entire chapter)
Altered states of consciousness, shamanism, how much can we learn from EEG and other physiological measurements of brain activity?
Minimalism: Steve Reich's trip to Ghana / aesthetic foundations of minimalism / experiential (the description of the music differs completely from the experience of listening)
Listening experiments, improvisations
Contemporary composers and rhythmic approaches (Messiaan, Ligeti, Reich)
Music Visualization: Visualization of Rite of Spring vs. musical score: appealing or appalling? That is to say, does it enhance your listening experience, or simply distract you?

Week 13 Dec 3         Final Projects
CLASS PRESENTATIONS, November 26th, December 3rd
Video Journal due December 3
FINAL PROJECTS (includes writeup of class presentations) due Decmber 20th

Music software: Max/MSP/Jitter, Pro Tools, sndpeek, Audacity, spectrogram
Randomness in pitch and rhythm: what does it actually sound like? (Max patch)
Auditory Demonstrations CD (Acoustical Society)
Steve Reich

Listening examples:
Edgard Varese: Ionization
Steve Reich: Drumming, Clapping Music, Music for 18 Musicians
Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time,
Georgy Ligeti: Piano Etudes
Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba
Ilú Añá, Sacred Rhythms of Cuba
Cuban percussion, rumba tonada
Ghana: Ewe, Ashanti music

Other Videos (selections from list below):

How audition works
Demonstration of tabla bols in jhaptal
The Science of the Senses: Hearing
Alive Inside
Leonard Bernstein: The Unanswered Question, Harvard University lecture series
Music and the Brain (Evolution)
From Neurons to Nirvana
Simha Arom, ethnomusicologist
Sonic Wonders of the World NPR interview
The Music of Language and the Language of Music (Library of Congress Series: Music and the Brain)
Divine Horsemen (Haiti)
Oliver Jones in Africa
Listening to the Silence

Guest lectuer: Dr. Anthony Tan: "Psychoacoustics and Music Composition"
Guest Lecturer: Alona Fyshe, Neuroscience and Computational Linguistics