March 23, 2009

From Kay Walker:

Re: Language of music may really be universal (March 20): This is comes from some very intriguing research- it seems intuitively right, although the computing involved is a bit beyond me these days! The neurologist/physician, Oliver Sacks, has always noted the effect of music on humans, especially those with different brain configurations from the usual- the recent book “Musicophilia” provides a lot of qualitative “evidence” for the culture-free effects of music. As a naive student, I did a little experiment to see whether time was perceived to pass differentially according to the amount of dissonance (to Western ears) of music played during a set time interval. My reasoning was that more traditional Western classic scales might sound more harmonious and “relaxing” in mood, so time would seem to pass more quickly than with more “dissonant” and 12-tone scales as the bases for the pieces I chose.

Sure enough my student subjects estimated that more time had passed with the dissonant pieces. I’ll have to examine the literature to see if someone has had a go at this using the computational biology paradigm!

Kay Walker
Adelaide, S. Australia


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