Guest speaker, liberal sciences harmonize with music to illustrate musicalization

Braelyn Swan, Staff writer

Psychologists have been “finding implicit ways to peer underneath the hood (of the human brain),” Elizabeth Margulis, professor of music at University of Arkansas, said.

Searching for the ways in which music and cognition are related is the goal of the music cognition lab at the University of Arkansas.

Margulis, director of the music cognition lab, held an interactive talk Tuesday night in Delkin Music Hall about her research.

The lab has been studying the impact of repetition on human behavior found in music, and how connections can be made to language and learning.

She first demonstrated the effects of musicalization, or the ability of the human brain to turn speech into song, for the audience. She played a person saying a sentence and then a small section of that sentence in repeat. After that, she took a pause and replayed the entire sentence where the section that had been repeated sounded more “sing-song” than before.

It was apparent that most of the audience had indeed experienced musicalization from their small laughs and smirks as they heard the tune. However, Margulis explained that about 85 percent of people are able to hear this; meaning that if someone was unable to pick up on the tune, they fit into the other 15 percent.

She later explained another experiment in which they would have students listen to a piece of music and rate where the music was the most tense. This research was conducted multiple times and each time a participant would listen to the song, their response would occur earlier and earlier until they were reporting the tensest part of the song before it actually started.

Sophomore Hannah Terrell said, “I think that there is a clear connection between science and music that we haven’t yet embraced. I think there is a lot we can learn from how innately musical humans are and how naturally it come to everybody as much as people may try to deny that.”

Margulis explained that when students were played different pieces of music, they would describe strikingly similar stories that came to their minds.

When a specific piece was played for them, there was an impressive number of students who described a story of a cat and mouse or Tom and Jerry.

Although much of her research is conducted on college students, her team has been working to research more people from other demographics, including people of differing ages and cultures.

Margulis also wants to study whether a person’s cultural background or generation has an impact on responses, particularly in the storytelling study.

Sophomore Audrey Collen said, “In the Linfield community, one really cool thing about this lecture is that we incorporated four different departments: the psychology department, the education department, the music department, and the communication arts department. And I think it’s really important for a liberal arts education because our studies are constantly intertwining.”