The Meaning of Harmonies and why Some People Like Heavy Metal

Two interesting links to post today, both about music. The first link is a look at the research of Ann Fernold at Stanford’s Center for Infant Studies. Anne has been exploring the cross-cultural characteristics of the way that humans speak to their infant children. Evidently she has discovered regularities in the harmonic patterns people use when encouraging a baby to do something or demanding that they stop doing something. This is interesting because it provides an initial ladder for the symbol grounding process. Rather than expecting children to be able to find meaning in any sequence of arbitrary linguistic utterances, phonological meanings could be established in relation to these base cases.

The second link looks at the neuroscience of musical preference. Jonah Lehrer looks at how Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ just about caused a riot when initially performed in 1913, but had much more tranquil affects when played some time later. Lehrer proposes an interesting theory about the way in which human beings learn to appreciate discordant sounds and could explain a lot about the individuation of taste in general.

Both ideas are talked about in the ‘Sound as Touch’ podcast on Radiolab’s website:


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