ICMPC 12 Day 1: Second morning session

In the second part of the morning on Day 1 I visited 4 poster presentations (the new 5 minutes oral pre-presentations), the first of which was from one of our Music, Mind and Brain masters students. It is great to see them coming into their own on the world stage!

Alex Billig did his masters project with Daniel Müllensiefen, comparing models of melodic contour in music and speech.  He compared and contrasted four different models of contour that increase in complexity by nature of the degree to which they did not compress the melodic contour information. Participants listened to both short melodies and speech-like (filtered) sentences and pointed to one of four images to identify which best represented the sound to them. All the images were from the same model but only one accurately represented the stimulus.

So which contour model did best? The most complex model, in most cases, lead to the highest accuracy. Accuracy was better overall for melodies as opposed to speech (although people still did pretty well matching the filtered sentences to contours), and musicians were better at the melody contour accuracy test compared to the nonmusicians.

Next on was Elisa Carrus, who was presenting the results of her latest work looking at the effect of melodic expectation on language processing at different levels of task difficulties and under the influence of a working memory load.  She found that participants responded well to congruence in music and language, as in previous studies – but in this case, interestingly, unexpected notes facilitated processing of unexpected but not expected sentence constructions.  The presence of an increased cognitive load (i.e. the working memory task) minimised this effect. She postulated that the memory task pushed down people’s ability to process of the music, thereby minimising its influence on the task.

I then did my road runner act again and moved across to a different session to catch some more interesting work on music and emotion. There is a lot of emotion stuff at this conference! It must be going through a boom time.


The first study I saw was by Ai Kawakami who hypothesised that the link between perceived and felt emotions may be weaker in dissonant music. Participants in this study listened to 21 newly composed pieces and rated both perceived and felt emotions. The results supported the hypothesis especially in musicians who often rated felt emotion as less unpleasant than perceived emotion. This study may have some interesting insights for the question of why people chose to listen to sad music.

The final poster presentation I listened to was by Ryo Yoneda who studied the emotional content of computer game music from the title ‘Resident Evil’. I know a lot about this particular game as an ex-boyfriend of mine used to play it all the time! The authors plotted the emotional attributes of the musical pieces of this title over time (there are many versions of the game) and showed remarkable consistency, demonstrating that the composers were very successful in maintaining the original emotional ‘flavour’ of the game and creating a lasting sense of identity for the genre.

At this point the actual poster presentation began and I was able to move around the posters that I had heard about and see those that I had not. All in all there was a very high standard and I particularly enjoyed the innovative use of technologies, real world music listening scenarios and the creative use of composition.

The end of the session took us into lunch! I avoided the initial huge queue and came up to my room to type up these summaries for you, before heading down for some yummy lamb and potatoes, followed by watermelon. Watermelon really does taste so much better in sunny countries! I shall be having plenty more in the next few days before I head back to the cloudy UK 🙂

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