Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week 14

Here is a summary of my thoughts on the reading for Week 14, the introduction of The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures.

Temperley makes the statement that music students and musically inclined people know and recognize music structure such as tone, scales, and key. They are generally agreed upon and much research has been done legitimizing each of them. Temperley wants to explore the cognition of these musical structures, meaning he wants to know how the human brain processes and allocates this musical information.

Music must be analyzed as it goes, as it swells and changes throughout and Temperley's research model reflects that. It is explained that music cognition not only requires theories and disciplines from psychology and musicology, but linguistics as well. Part of this involves studying the syntax and notation of music. Temperley's study will determine how people read, determine, and interpret musical input such as tone and key into cognitive functions in their brain. This will partially be studied by trying to differentiate between "experienced" listeners, those who are familiar with music theory, and inexperienced listeners.

It seems that Temperley is trying to nail down how different people hear the same piece of music and how their experience and cognition affects that. Interestingly, Temperley reminds us that one can sing and remember a melody if he or she hears it enough, so perhaps we innately have the ability to hear pitches and pitch changes at the least.

Temperly also explains the difficulty in studying certain aspects of music. Dynamics, for example, can be quantified in numbers and computers, but timbre is a different element altogether. The "richness" of a sound can't exactly be measured, so Temperley acknowledges this weakness. He also explains the necessity of studying one's reactions and cognition throughout a musical piece, following the "route" they take by listening to it. By taking only one part of one's understanding of a musical piece, one can only deduce a small part of the listener's reaction.

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