Colloquium: Sensory Dissonance Models

The Colloquium for Interdisciplinary Music Research has started again. We have currently two sub-colloquia, one for empirical music research and another that focuses on music and emotion.

The Empirical Colloquium convened last Thursday to discuss Tuukka Tervo’s work on sensory dissonance models. Sensory dissonance is the sensation of roughness or discord that we can have when hearing two or more notes. The “sum”, or compound of the notes can sound unpleasant or tense, instead of pleasant and clear like in the opposite case of consonance. Traditionally, intervals such as octaves, fifths and fourths have been considered consonant, while sevenths, seconds and even thirds have been dissonant.

There are two aspects in this perception of dissonance, the cultural one (we are used to certain kinds of tone combinations and tuning systems, and judge those we find pleasurable as “consonant”, and those that we find tense or unfitting in the context as “dissonant”) and the sensory, psychoacoustical one. The latter, where the degree of dissonance can be measured from the acoustical components of the sound stimulus and the physical properties of our auditory perception system, was on the table last Thursday.

There are many models of how to calculate how dissonant a certain compound of notes, or a certain passage of music is. This is considered an important factor in how the piece of music would be perceived, remembered or categorised, and therefore an interesting topic for music research and for instance the applied field of music information retrieval.

Tuukka has tested various models of sensory dissonance by comparing their results with the judgements of dissonance made by music students. He used real musical material; chords, drone music and piano jazz, and has now performed the experiment and a preliminary analysis. You can read about both in the embedded presentation. This work is part of Tuukka’s master’s thesis, due for completion next year.

Music & Emotions – methodological issues

darwin_expression_cover(Apologies for the delay in posting this…) At last week’s colloquium we talked about studying music and emotions. To guide us through some of the conceptual thickets and around methodological potholes concerning music and emotions, Jonna Vuoskoski had prepared a presentation. The presentation (see below) did start a lively discussion, some of the topics can be seen on Jonna’s last slide. After Jonna’s presentation, Ezekiel Brockmann reported on his progress in studying emotion expression and perception, linked to timbre.

I couldn’t do justice to the conversations we had, if I tried to summarise them here – I’ll just elaborate on a couple of points that were made.

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Music and consumer behaviour

The theme of this Thursday’s Empirical Music Research Colloquium was Music and Consumer Behaviour. We had a presentation by Sam Down (his brief below) and also progress reports by Sanna Toivola and Saara Kuukka.

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Empirical Music Research Colloquium – first meeting

There’s an earlier post in Finnish about this new colloquium, but perhaps a brief intro in English is in place. The theme of this colloquium, empirical music research, is almost all-encompassing. In fact, one can argue that there is no other kind of music research. The aim, however, is to focus on sources of empirical data, methods of obtaining and analysing it. Kind of in the spirit of what Eric Clarke and Nicholas Cook outline in the opening chapter of their book Empirical Musicology – we can, and should make a move towards data-rich research.

The first meeting drew a very good group of people. There is a very nice variety of interests and expertise represented in the group, which is great, because it gives us the opportunity to learn from each other. The theme in the first meeting was Last FM. Last FM and other social music services in the internet are a rich source of data for music research. Rafael Ferrer is The Man when it comes to hoovering data from Last FM. He had the honour of giving the first EMR-colloquium presentation (and we had the honour of him giving it to us ūüôā ), which is embedded below. A lively discussion followed, and according to the finest academic traditions, this discussion was continued over drinks at Sohwi.

Next meeting will be in three weeks, and the theme is music and consumer behaviour. We’ll be looking at ways in which music is used to influence our behaviour in restaurants, cafes, shops etc., take a brief look at music in advertisements.

If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions, please use the comments box below.