Friday, December 09, 2005

Harmonious Music Helps You Keep Control

(SLIDE) Norman Cook's recent book Tone of Voice and Mind: The Connections Between Intonation, Emotion, Cognition, and Consciousness is examined chapter by chapter in this article by Klaus R. Scherer and David Sander, appearing in the journal Music Perception. (CHANGE SLIDE)
First, a quick look is taken at Cook's previous book entitled The Brain Code, and Scherer and Sander say that the expectations are high for the new book. They say that Cook is "a thoughtful and provocative author in the surging domain of the neurosciences," or dealing with the nervous system. Cook is said to find new ways to think about things, as opposed to the traditional, "inside-the-box" thinking of some modern scientists. (CHANGE SLIDE)
The main argument in Cook's book is the fact that the human brain does not contain two completely different hemispheres, but rather two parts that have complimenting components. A musical example would be that the right side of the brain picks up on pitch, harmony, and melody, while the left side focuses on processing rhythm and tempo of tones. Cook uses another example of how humans digest language to support this idea.
One thing that the authors disagree with Cook about is the fact that Cook says that this asymmetry of the hemispheres is not true in the case of animals. Cook says that this fundamental principal dictates human nature, while the authors point out that animals also share this, specifically pointing to songbirds. (CHANGE SLIDE) Studies have shown that canaries display song control with the left hemisphere and harmonic control with the right hemisphere. (CHANGE SLIDE) Pointing this out, the authors make the amusing comment that this conclusion doesn't only point out "what it means to be a human but also…what it means to be a canary." (CHANGE SLIDE)
The next chapters are focused on the affective, or emotion causing, properties of pitch in spoken words. What is suggested is that when in high spirits and good moods, the intonation of someone's speech will reflect this by generally outlining major triads, and when in low spirits and bad moods, the triads will be minor. The author's may agree, but they believe that this information is provided in a sketchy and unclear manner. For example, they discuss that Cook referenced the general consensus that major chords are linked to happiness, while minor tones are linked to sadness. There is little reference to examples dealing with speech, however, according to the authors. (CHANGE SLIDE)
Cook's reference deals with animal calls. He says that higher, shriller animal calls are associated with inferiority in status, whereas lower, stronger calls display dominance. The authors point out that Cook does not take into account that a lion's low and high pitches are much different in range than a monkey's low and high pitches. Also, threats meaning to display dominance may sound gruff, while high pitched, shrill alarm calls do not sound minor and dark.
Another main argument is that all of these moods revolve around the fact that minor scales are differentiated from major scales by harmonic ambiguity or tensions. The authors note this several times, referring to Cook's work and following back to the previous situations, such as animal calls. It is not merely the pitch that determines whether or not the call is dominant or submissive, but the subtle changes in the tones, creating harmonic consonances, or pleasing sounds, or harmonic dissonances, or unsettling, incomplete sounds. However, the authors find inconsistencies in this thought as well. Cook does not explain a reason why a decrease in one of the pitches of the chord, normally creating dissonance, actually creates a bright, happy sound, while the change in the fundamental frequency, or bass pitch, is foreboding when animals are trying to scare or dominate others. (CHANGE SLIDE)
The authors tend to agree with Cook's ideas, but frequently find them to be incomplete or contradictory. There are a few more chapters, but they are breezed through in the article toward the end, only stating a few facts about the last part of the book. In general, Scherer and Sander are saying that Cook is on the right track, but his ideas, at least in this book, are not yet complete enough to be taken seriously by the neuroscientific community.


Blogger Anna said...

I enjoyed your presentation aside from some slightly distracting music in the second half. Your tone was very good and attention keeping.

Friday, December 09, 2005 3:43:00 PM  
Blogger violinbrunetka said...

The presentation was really good. I liked the music, but it was a bit distracting.

Friday, December 09, 2005 9:27:00 PM  
Blogger TheloniusFunk said...

Sorry I missed the presentation...sounds like you had everything under control. I did the same thing as far as adding ( ) to let myself know when to change slides and such.

Friday, December 09, 2005 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger TheloniusFunk said...

By the way, clever title

Friday, December 09, 2005 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger hollywoodhottie said...

I'm sorry I missed it! But I'm guessing there was some music involved? I think that's a good idea, as long as it's not too loud.

Saturday, December 10, 2005 4:34:00 PM  
Blogger Conrad said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Saturday, March 28, 2009 3:49:00 AM  

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