The course will explore the tone combinations that humans consider consonant or dissonant, the scales we use, and the emotions music elicits, all of which provide a rich set of data for exploring music and auditory aesthetics in a biological framework. Analyses of speech and musical databases are consistent with the idea that the chromatic scale (the set of tones used by humans to create music), consonance and dissonance, worldwide preferences for a few dozen scales from the billions that are possible, and the emotions elicited by music in different cultures all stem from the relative similarity of musical tonalities and the characteristics of voiced (tonal) speech. Like the phenomenology of visual perception, these aspects of auditory perception appear to have arisen from the need to contend with sensory stimuli that are inherently unable to specify their physical sources, leading to the evolution of a common strategy to deal with this fundamental challenge.
Introduction to Music as Biology
Sound Signals, Sound Stimuli, and the Human Auditory System
An overview of the organization of the human auditory system, and how sound signals are transformed into sound stimuli.
The Perception of Sound Stimuli
An introduction to the sound qualities we perceive, and how and why these qualities differ from the information in sound signals.
Vocalization and Vocal Tones
A discussion of the nature of vocal sound signals, their biological importance and their role in understanding music.
Defining Music and Exploring Why We Like It
The tonal phenomena that need to be explained in any theory of music, and different approaches that have been take to provide answers.
Why a small number of basic scales are used in music worldwide, and how a biological framework explains this and related puzzles.
Music, Emotion, and Cultural Differences
How emotion is conveyed by vocal similarity in music across cultures, and how the speech of a culture and its music are related. A summing up of the major points in the course follows.
Additional demonstrations and commentaries by Ruby Froom on some of the musical issues considered in the course, as well as a glossary of terms and bibliography for references.
Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This course will give you a biological background of music - why do we like certain tones and scales, and how does it relate to our social and genetic background. The underlying idea is that music we like is similar to human vocalization patterns, and...
This course will give you a biological background of music - why do we like certain tones and scales, and how does it relate to our social and genetic background. The underlying idea is that music we like is similar to human vocalization patterns, and you'll get a nice idea of how we process different scales, which physical attributes are the most important ones, and how do animals do as well. Instructor gives clear lectures, and slides are useful, along with additional reading. Do note that this is a neuroscience course, not a musical theory course, but there will be some musical theory demonstrations, and additional material is available for your perusal as reading or video that demonstrate the musical-theory concepts used. All in all, an interesting and a quite different course.
Kristin Williams Henry
Kristin Williams Henry completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
Good course, and a very interesting overview of the human auditory system, the significance of the harmonic series, and a biological perspective on what attracts us to music and how we have developed a musical language. The instructor is very narrative...
Good course, and a very interesting overview of the human auditory system, the significance of the harmonic series, and a biological perspective on what attracts us to music and how we have developed a musical language. The instructor is very narrative in his lecture style, so I found it helpful to follow along with the transcriptions - he tends to talk on about a point, and it is easy to miss the main point in all of his clarification. I was not a fan of the quizzes; I found them to be confusing in verbiage, often focusing on obscure points within the lectures, or using terminology not addressed in the lectures at all. I also think the course would benefit by the inclusion of a Music Theorist to explain the musical concepts, as the Instructor is a Neuroscientist, and misspoke on music theory a few times; it also would have broken up the uniformity of mostly one speaker throughout a 6-week course. But overall, I thought that this course was very good, and covered some very interesting material, and that the Instructor was very knowledgeable on a variety of topics, and very engaging. He did a great job explaining difficult concepts until you GOT it, even without a scientific background.