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6292Music and the Mind
- Jul 28, 2008Steven Brown discusses how he experiences music in his JCS article: "The
Perpetual Music Track: The Phenomenon of Constant Musical Imagery." (JCS:
Volume 13, Number 6 .)(1)
In what follows, I briefly describe how I experience music:
I often listen to recordings of music. When I "playback" these recordings
mentally, the mental playback sounds exactly like the physical recording.
Tempo, rhythm, dynamics, harmony, orchestration, etc. sound exactly as they
do on the physical disc (i.e., the compact disc).
I do not always "hear" the playback in the original key, however. I often
"hear" the playback in a transposed -- i.e., a different -- key. (The brain
seems to be flexible in the way that it represents and stores pitch and
When I "listen" mentally to a transposed playback, it sounds identical to an
untransposed playback. (The only difference that I hear between the two
"performances" is the difference in pitch.)
Musical instruments sound different in their different "registers" (i.e., in
their different "pitch-areas").
Let us consider the flute, for example.(3) As all flute players know, the
low notes on the flute sound very different from the high notes on that
instrument. For this reason, a transposed performance of a flute composition
sounds different from an untransposed performance.
However, I find that if I mentally playback a flute composition that I've
heard, the transposed version sounds the same as the untransposed version!
I believe that when the brain mentally transposes a piece of music, it tries
to preserve the timbre of the original, untransposed version. The brain
preserves the original timbre by "creating" and "hearing" tones that are
never produced in the outside world.(4)
1. List-members interested in the subject of auditory information processing
may wish to read C. Tart's article on PMT:
(jcs-online, msg# 4411,
2. The brain does not generate the mind. However, as we know, brain and
mental events are correlated.
3. The middle-pitched notes on the flute do not sound as "rich" as the
4. The brain can "create" and "hear" middle-pitched flute notes that sound
as "rich" as the low-pitched notes.
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