- Is memory for musical tempo indeed absolute?
One of the ongoing questions in music cognition is what aspects of music are retained in memory. Are musical aspects such as pitch, tempo or scales part of our memory representation of music? The present project focuses on the aspect of tempo, investigating whether there is evidence for absolute tempo representation in songs from oral transmission.
Research has shown that perceived and imagined tempo are correlated , and that tempo is reproduced faithfully when singers are asked to sing the same song repeatedly . When singing popular songs, participants performed them close to the original tempo of the recordings .
For this study, recordings from the Dutch Song Database  will be used to find evidence for absolute tempo in oral transmission. The songs’ tempo will be determined with the support of audio analysis software (e.g. Sonic Visualiser ) and the resulting tempos will be statistically analyzed. Therefore, familiarity with audio and statistical analysis techniques, a good ear, and of course interest in music cognition are requirements for this project.
 Halpern (1988)
 Bergesson & Trehub (2002)
 Levitin & Cook (1996)
 Dutch Song Database
 Sonic Visualiser
Contact: B. Janssen
Starting date: Spring 2015.
- Can zebra finches distinguish between interval-based and beat-based rhythms?
Most existing animal studies on rhythmic entrainment have used behavioral methods to probe the presence of beat perception, such as tapping tasks (Zarco et al., 2009) or measuring head bobs (Patel et al., 2009). However, if the production of synchronized movement to sound or music is not observed in certain species (such as in nonhuman primates, seals or songbirds; Schachner et al., 2009), this is no evidence for the absence of beat perception. It could well be that while certain species are not able to synchronize movements to a rhythm, they do have beat induction and as such, can perceive a beat. With behavioral methods that rely on overt motoric responses it is difficult to separate between the contribution of perception and action.
Instead of testing for entrainment to isochronous rhythms measuring overt motoric behavior (Hasegawa et al., 2011), we will therefore use a perceptual task using a Go/No-go paradigm (Heijningen et al., 2012, Hagmann & Cook, 2010) to be able to test directly whether, first, zebra finches can distinguish between regular (isochronous pulse) and irregular rhythms (random intervals). And second, whether zebra finches can distinguish between beat-based and interval-based rhythms? A third issue that might be explored (if time permits) is how they do this (cf. Heijningen et al., 2012).
Contact: Prof. dr H. Honing
Starting date: Spring 2013. [position filled]
- Is absolute pitch (AP) indeed wide spread under ordinary people?
Absolute pitch (AP) is the ability to identify or produce isolated tones in the absence of contextual cues or reference pitches. It is evident primarily among individuals who started music lessons in early childhood. Because AP requires memory for specific pitches as well as learned associations with verbal labels (i.e., note names), it represents a unique opportunity to study musical memory.
AP is thought to differ from other human abilities in its bimodal distribution (Takeuchi & Hulse, 1993): Either you have it or you do not . Schellenberg & Trehub (2003) demystified the phenomenon of AP by documenting adults’ memory for pitch under ecologically valid conditions. Arguing that poor pitch memory of ordinary adults is an artifact of conventional test procedures, which involve isolated tones and pitch-naming tasks. They were able to show that good pitch memory is widespread among adults with no musical training .
In the current project the Liederenbank (see the Meertens Institute ) will be used as a source to explore the potential role of AP in the memory of songs transmitted in oral traditions. Since the 'tunes' in that database are grouped by tune family and partly available as sound files, they can serve as emprical support for the 'AP is wide spread' hypothesis. (Interestingly, this cannot be done on the basis of the available transcriptions since these are all transposed to the same key.)
- Familiarity with the methods and techniques from computational musicology, especially pitch tracking
- Familiarity with statistical software
- Interest in music cognition
 Takeuchi & Hulse (1993)
 Schellenberg & Trehub (2003)
Contact: Prof. dr H. Honing
Starting date: Spring 2013.[position filled]
- [to do]