As a researcher, most of the projects I work on result in either prose, a software repository, or a talk. You can find summaries the projects I work on below.
There should be a corresponding blog post for many of my completed projects. I also blog about things I am thinking about to keep up my practice of writing regularly.
Many people who have gone to music school have to learn a very difficult task called melodic dictation. Melodic dictation requires a listener to be able to hear a melody, then without the help of any external reference, write down what they are hearing in a limited time in musical notation. It’s very hard to do (especially if you don’t have absolute pitch) and you could imagine that figuring out what is going on inside of someone’s head when they do this involves a lot of moving parts.
In my PhD dissertation, I did my best to take a first pass at looking at these moving parts with the hopes of being able to help teachers teach this skill better and give students who have to learn it more tools at their disposal to make the process easier. Of course, trying to tackle such an ambitious process has led to more questions than answers.
These questions serve as the foundation to my main program of research. To help answer these questions I employ tools from statistical analysis, corpus studies, and computational modeling. You can read about my work on this topic under the aural skills tag on my blog.
Music and Working Memory
When taking in information, you can’t remember everything. This is especially true for music and this perceptual bottleneck limits how much information we can cram into the spotlight of attention.
Cognitive psychologists have been investigating this for a few decades now and the flavor of the phenomena that I am interested in falls under the umbrella of working memory. During my time in Louisiana, I became very interested in working memory, especially as it intersects with all things music.
Working memory is involved in the learning of new melodies, is a powerful predictor of performance on musical tasks, and also crops up in questions of causation regarding the idea of cognitive transfer. You can read about my work thinking about this problem under the tag cognitive abilities or working memory.
You learn a lot in a very short time about someone when they tell you what music they like (and don’t like!) to listen to. Sometimes what you learn really resonates with you, sometimes it’s a total turn off.
In a similar way, companies and brands communicate a lot to you when they integrate sounds and music into your interactions with them. And unlike being able to just press skip when your friend winces at your musical choice, brands are kind of stuck with the sounds they associate with so it’s important to be able to get it right.
My work in the world of audio branding combines synthesizing human intuitions about music with empirical methods to interrogate those intuitions. This work combines my humanistic training as a music theorist with my empirical training as a psychologist to generate deliverables that satisfy both creative and technical stakeholders. You can read more about this work under the audio branding tag on my blog.