Auditory and Music Perception

Workshop Date: 
Mon, 07/22/2013 - Fri, 07/26/2013

Takako Fujioka

Poppy Crum

Pierre Divenyi


From hearing sounds to hearing music: Fundamentals of auditory and music perception

A summer workshop led by Takako Fujioka, Poppy Crum and Pierre Divenyi

Description Are you a musician or music lover who has always wondered how music is related to acoustics and how the ear and the mind allow the musical experience? Are you a science/engineering major or a science and technology lover who is not sure how acoustics and digital representation of musical sounds are translated into percepts and understanding by the listener? Are you dissatisfied or at least perplexed by the way popular media on- and off-line present their explanations of how music and the mind work? This workshop will be a short course presenting the basics of hearing, the human auditory system from the ear to the brain, musical perception and cognition, representation and analysis of auditory signals, and experimental methods to measure auditory capabilities. But beyond the information it will present, the workshop will also allow to broaden your perspective about music by giving you hands-on experience in producing sounds with a computer and verifying immediately afterwards how they sound. Consequently, each day of the workshop is organized in three parts: (1) lecture, (2) demonstrations and computer-based exercises, and (3) discussion.

Workshop structure The lectures will cover classical and recent findings in auditory and music perception as well as basic experimental procedures that led to those results. They will also talk about some of the most important implications of the research that led to those findings and present the major theories of hearing and music. In particular, the lectures will present auditory dimensions – loudness, pitch, timbre, duration, spatial location – and auditory patterns in time, frequency, and space. Other lectures will describe the anatomy and biology of the auditory system and talk about neurophysiological functions responsible for the perception of auditory dimensions. Finally, lectures will talk about how sounds represent musical systems: how we perceive musical concepts such as melody, harmony, intervals (e.g., the octave), tuning, tonality, rhythm and meter. They will also talk about musical learning and expectation, priming, statistical learning, as well as brain plasticity related to musical experience.

Audio demonstrations will expose the participants to the dimensions of sounds and, using Matlab and various toolboxes, will let them play with diverse auditory signals, learn to use frequency analysis and perform basic sound synthesis. Other demonstrations will show how to apply psychophysical methods and paradigms to measure an individual’s ability to hear and discriminate sounds. At the end of the workshop a participant will be able to design his/her own sound and music material and run a simple psychoacoustic experiment. There will be also demonstrations of musical illusions.

The workshop is intended for any musically and technologically versed person interested in learning about how we perceive sounds.  For background, elementary high school-level algebra and physics are necessary and familiarity with computer use is desirable. No prior programming skills in Matlab are required.