About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Repetitive sounds and music on the brain


I was listening to the radio as I was driving into work last week and I heard a story about a research study that showed how the brain can turn any repetitive sound sounds our speech into music. This could be just any sound when it is repeated, like the sound of dripping water or a shovel scraping or a phrase in a speech, that gets morphed into a musical phrase by your brain. I guess it is not really that surprising, but I just hadn’t really thought about it objectively before. I didn’t hear the full story and tried to find it online but was not able to do it. I did, however, find a similar page here. A short way down that page is a strange example of what they call a speech to song illusion. When ordinary speech played repetitively transforms into music when heard in its normal context.

I was thinking of these stories of repetitive sounds and how your brain interprets it as music as I was searching YouTube for a duet that I could play on my saxophone. The songs that I kept getting drawn into were ones that seemed fairly simple but had a repetitive, hypnotic sound to them. A perfect example is demonstrated with this nice performance of a flute and saxophone duet. Now I have to look up the sheet music for this one because I've heard it so much I want to play it.

I’m also going to start thinking more objectively about the pieces we are playing in the MSU New Horizon Band and why some seem fun to play and others are just not. Just thinking about the past semester, I am realizing that the most fun songs to play were the ones that had some easily recognizable internal repetition or were songs that I had heard many times before. Even something like the MSU Fight Song is a series of short repetitive phrases. Maybe this was obvious to everyone else but I had never really thought of it as a structural design feature of music or the reason why some songs become hits and others don't. It takes some of the mystery out of music interpretation and helps me understand what is going on. As I am writing this my neighbor is shoveling the snow off the sidewalk but I am hearing music as he shovels. I am hearing music in the repetitive scraping.

Flute and Alto Saxophone Duet YouTube video:  https://youtu.be/vQ84c06XWD4
Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html
At one time, everyone was a beginner http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/music-monday-at-one-time-everyone-was.html
Am I too old to join a band? http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/am-i-too-old-to-join-band.html
The perfect saxophone sound. http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/musicmonday-perfect-saxophone-sound.html 

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