Over the past few years, Bob MacCallum has been focused on one question: can music evolve through natural selection? In this episode of Composer Quest, we discuss Bob's amazing evolutionary music project, DarwinTunes. In the DarwinTunes experiment/game, participants rate and "mate" short sound loops to breed new musical offspring. Although it started with randomly generated sine waves and noise, the evolved sounds are now surprisingly musical. Also in this episode, we talk about Bob's scientific analysis of over 70,000 Billboard hit songs from the past half-decade, which has revealed three major revolution years in music history: 1964, 1983, and 1991.
After a failed dolphin keyboard experiment, Seth Horowitz decided to change roles from dolphin trainer to biopsychologist, neuroscientist, aural therapist, and author. In this Composer Quest episode, Seth explains how echolocation works, and how he used his knowledge of bats to sound design an alien race for a sci-fi show by the producers of The Walking Dead and Heroes. We also talk about his aural therapy recordings engineered to induce sleep, improve focus, and even relieve pain.
Music Psychologist Victoria Williamson is an expert on earworms - songs that stick in our heads. In this episode of Composer Quest, she reveals her findings on what makes a melody sticky. Vicky also answers my other pressing music psychology questions.
I think of the Shepard tone illusion as the musical equivalent of the infinite staircase. Play this video, and then replay it. Do you hear the tone continue to creep up?
Does where you grew up have an impact on how you hear music? It appears so, according to experiments by Dr. Diana Deutsch on how people hear her Tritone Paradox.
Walking through Times Square on my first trip to New York City, I noticed some strangely musical sounds coming from under the grate in the sidewalk. What might seem like subway noise or a mechanical hum to the average passerby is actually a sound installation that's been playing almost constantly since 1977. It's kind of like an oasis of peaceful ambient tone in a desert of commercial noise.
I've always been amazed by technology that can turn our brainwaves into something tangible. I remember learning about a special brainwave-sensing headband that lets you control a computer mouse by thinking thoughts like "taco" or "hamburger" for the different mouse movements. There are also some brainwave dueling games, like Mindflex, where you have to out-concentrate your oppenent. I just found out about these special headphones that choose music for you based on your brainwaves.
I was thrilled to talk with Dr. Diana Deutsch, a pioneer in the field of music perception and psychology (she literally wrote the book on music psychology). Diana has discovered a number of famous musical illusions. Prepare to have your mind blown by the octave illusion, the scale illusion, the tritone paradox, the mysterious melody, and the speech-to-song illusion "Sometimes Behave So Strangely," made popular by Radiolab. Diana also explains how composers can benefit from studying these perceptual illusions.
My girlfriend Maia, also an audio nerd, gave me one of the best birthday presents ever - a tour of the "World's Quietest Room"! The Guinness Book of World Records bestowed this title on the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As we found out in our tour, no one makes a microphone sensitive enough to accurately measure the decibel level of the room, since there's virtually no sound at all.
Take a listen to this recording of shaking matches and you will certainly be creeped out by the three-dimensional audio effect created by using a binaural dummy head microphone.