Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Post 2: Unlocking Music with Neuroscience

In a TED talk, Ardon Shorr explains that people use working memory in order to process and remember things.  We mainly do this by splitting things up into groups, making it easier to remember.  Grouping things creates fewer items that we must process.  For example, a phone number is split into 3 groups, making it easier for a person to process and remember.  If a phone number is just a sequence of 10 numbers without any segmentation it would be much more difficult to remember.  Shorr states that music is constructed in the same way.  Pop music introduces a theme in the beginning, repeats it, introduces a different theme, and then brings back the theme from the beginning.  Almost every pop song is presented in this way so it is easier to understand upon the first listening.  This is called binary form.  Classical music on the other hand is a more complex melody.  Many people see this type of music as boring, and this is because it is more difficult to process and understand.  Classical music is not presented in binary form like the infectious pop songs that dominate our culture.  Because of this, people have to listen to classical music multiple times in order to completely understand it like they understand pop songs.  Classical music introduces a theme, but then manipulates it to make a different but related theme.  It is easier for people to perceive pop songs because it is predictable and split into sections which are easily understood and remembered.  Classical music is harder to perceive because it is more complex and not as predictably split.  Music is designed in such a way that it is easy to understand and therefore pleasant to listen to.      

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