Metaphors & Images

Playing With Sounds in Your Head


A fascinating new tidbit and marvelous news of actual experiments as well! This is from WiredNews and is just a fun bit to share with those of you interested in how sound and music effects humans. The news is of new scientific experiments using acceptable protocols for this research rather than “mere anecdotal” evidence.

Playing With Sounds in Your Head

By Katie Dean | Also by this reporter Page 1 of 1

02:00 AM May. 01, 2004 PT

The sound of fingernails scraping a dusty chalkboard makes a listener immediately squirm and cover her ears.

One company believes that there is real science behind such a reaction to sounds. NeuroPop http://www.neuropop.com is integrating neurosensory algorithms into music to create a certain mood and evoke more intense responses from listeners. The company hopes to market its compositions to the movie industry and video game companies.

Today’s the Day. Its first CD, Overload: The Sonic Intoxicant, contains tracks ranging from “chill out,” meditative music to a piece that generates a feeling of motion sickness in some.

“I want to do something that messes with people’s heads,” said Lance Massey, a longtime composer of commercials and the creative director of NeuroPop.

“We’ve gone through all the data to find what kind of sounds or signal gets a specific response, and then we can merge it back into an existing piece of music or sound,” said Seth Horowitz, chief technology officer of NeuroPop and an assistant research professor at Stony Brook University in New York.

Horowitz said that if he wants to get a certain response from a listener to a piece of music, he looks at what part of the brain is responsible for the desired response. Then, using his own data or other published literature, he looks to find what kind of stimulus makes that part of the brain active.

Audio

Hear a sample from NeuroPop’s CD, Overload: The Sonic Intoxicant.
Listen to the ear-brain toy Ghost Room http://a1112.g.akamai.net/7/1112/492/07312000/www.wired.com/news/audio/ghostroom.mp3 “By analyzing the connectivity pattern of parts of the brain sensitive to sound with other non-auditory parts of the brain — parts of the brain responsible for attention or fear, for example — you can put together a library of sounds that will evoke these specific responses,” he said.

Horowitz said he hasn’t published any studies related to his work yet, but expects to do so in about a year.

In the past, the company tried to work with advertisers, but to no success.

“In hindsight, it’s a shady area,” Massey said. “They are already pummeling us with manipulative messages and they really don’t need much more help.”

Dr. Mark Tramo, director of The Institute for Music & Brain Science http://adams.mgh.harvard.edu/brainmusic/tramowebsite/homepage.htm, isn’t convinced that NeuroPop’s product is supported by solid science.

“As a rule of thumb, until the empirical work is done — the unbiased, experimental work — anything that’s sold could be snake oil,” Tramo said. “First comes the (research and development), then comes the product.”

The connection between music and neuroscience is a field that is ripe for study, Tramo said. So far, most of the evidence has been anecdotal.

“Humans, from infancy, acquire music as effortlessly as they acquire language,” he said. “By understanding how the brain processes music, we will understand how the auditory system, how memory, how development, how learning, how talent, how creativity, how all of this works in the brain.”

Tramo’s institute is gearing up to study the effects of music on anxiety and depression in cancer patients and critically ill infants in intensive care units. The institute plans to conduct rigorous clinical trials similar to the types of trials done when drugs are tested for Food and Drug Administration approval.

Despite the skepticism about the physiological effects of NeuroPop’s music, listeners like what they hear and see potential for interesting developments.

“It’s got a really beautiful unusual texture that you can hear,” said Lucas Gonze, creator of Webjay, who has added a clip of the piece to one of his playlists.

“I can imagine NeuroPop’s algorithms making bright instruments fade into the mix, intensifying climaxes, giving woodwinds a more cutting sound, and a lot of other musical effects,” he said.

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And here’s another fascinating use of live technology! Concert in the Key of EEG
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,58193,00.html?tw=wn_story_related

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This entry was published on May 2, 2004 at 4:45 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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