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Psych Club: Cognition of a Musical Mind

Release date: March 03, 2008

Michael Schutz is well-known for his innovative blend of performances and research and presented his musical research entitled, "The Mind of the Listener:  Acoustics, Perception, and the Musical Experience."


Sound becomes music only within the mind of the listener,” based on our own perceptual system, and he has been investigating whether gestures and their length play a role in shaping the sound of a musical note.


Schutz recorded a world-renowned percussionist performing notes using long and short gestures on a marimba (similar to a xylophone).  The participants then rated the length of each note twice, once with a gesture (audio-visual), and once without (audio-alone).  In the audio-visual condition, Schutz instructed the participants to ignore visual information and base their ratings on the sound of the note alone.  The results were quite significant.  Even though the notes produced by long and short gestures sounded the same with audio alone, those same notes were rated to be very different when presented with the corresponding gestures.  Schutz found that while gestures fail to alter the sound of the note, it does alter the way the note sounds in our perceived mind.


While that was just one of the experiments Schutz shared, students were still amazed by the results, as well as the other demonstrations Schutz presented.  One in particular was the ‘McGurk Effect’ where it was apparent that lip movements really do affect the way we hear sounds.  Schutz went on to discuss how CDs sound differently in our mind than the same music played in a concert because of the gestures and movements the musicians display.


Overall, the presentation by Michael Schutz was a great way to start off the semester for the Goucher College Psych Club.  Schutz remained afterwards to answer the many questions that the students and professors alike had for him.  He even left us with some recommended reading, one of which is the famous author in psychology, Oliver Sacks for Musicophilia:  Tales of Music and The Brain..