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Empirical evidence for musical syntax processing? Computer simulations reveal the contribution of auditory short-term memory

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Abstract
During the last decade, it has been argued that (1) music processing involves syntactic representations similar to those observed in language, and (2) that music and language share similar syntactic-like processes and neural resources. This claim is important for understanding the origin of music and language abilities and, furthermore, it has clinical implications. The Western musical system, however, is rooted in psychoacoustic properties of sound, and this is not the case for linguistic syntax. Accordingly, musical syntax processing could be parsimoniously understood as an emergent property of auditory memory rather than a property of abstract processing similar to linguistic processing. To support this view, we simulated numerous empirical studies that investigated the processing of harmonic structures, using a model based on the accumulation of sensory information in auditory memory. The simulations revealed that most of the musical syntax manipulations used with behavioral and neurophysiological methods as well as with developmental and cross-cultural approaches can be accounted for by the auditory memory model. This led us to question whether current research on musical syntax can really be compared with linguistic processing. Our simulation also raises methodological and theoretical challenges to study musical syntax while disentangling the confounded low-level sensory influences. In order to investigate syntactic abilities in music comparable to language, research should preferentially use musical material with structures that circumvent the tonal effect exerted by psychoacoustic properties of sounds.
Keywords
modeling, musical brain, musical syntax, auditory short-term memory, expectancy

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Chicago
Bigand, Emmanuel, Charles Delbé, Bénédicte Poulin-Charronnat, Marc Leman, and Barbara Tillmann. 2014. “Empirical Evidence for Musical Syntax Processing? Computer Simulations Reveal the Contribution of Auditory Short-term Memory.” Ed. Isabelle Peretz. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 8 (94): 1–27.
APA
Bigand, E., Delbé, C., Poulin-Charronnat, B., Leman, M., & Tillmann, B. (2014). Empirical evidence for musical syntax processing? Computer simulations reveal the contribution of auditory short-term memory. (I. Peretz, Ed.)FRONTIERS IN SYSTEMS NEUROSCIENCE, 8(94), 1–27.
Vancouver
1.
Bigand E, Delbé C, Poulin-Charronnat B, Leman M, Tillmann B. Empirical evidence for musical syntax processing? Computer simulations reveal the contribution of auditory short-term memory. Peretz I, editor. FRONTIERS IN SYSTEMS NEUROSCIENCE. 2014;8(94):1–27.
MLA
Bigand, Emmanuel, Charles Delbé, Bénédicte Poulin-Charronnat, et al. “Empirical Evidence for Musical Syntax Processing? Computer Simulations Reveal the Contribution of Auditory Short-term Memory.” Ed. Isabelle Peretz. FRONTIERS IN SYSTEMS NEUROSCIENCE 8.94 (2014): 1–27. Print.
@article{4411878,
  abstract     = {During the last decade, it has been argued that (1) music processing involves syntactic representations similar to those observed in language, and (2) that music and language share similar syntactic-like processes and neural resources. This claim is important for understanding the origin of music and language abilities and, furthermore, it has clinical implications. The Western musical system, however, is rooted in psychoacoustic properties of sound, and this is not the case for linguistic syntax. Accordingly, musical syntax processing could be parsimoniously understood as an emergent property of auditory memory rather than a property of abstract processing similar to linguistic processing. To support this view, we simulated numerous empirical studies that investigated the processing of harmonic structures, using a model based on the accumulation of sensory information in auditory memory. The simulations revealed that most of the musical syntax manipulations used with behavioral and neurophysiological methods as well as with developmental and cross-cultural approaches can be accounted for by the auditory memory model. This led us to question whether current research on musical syntax can really be compared with linguistic processing. Our simulation also raises methodological and theoretical challenges to study musical syntax while disentangling the confounded low-level sensory influences. In order to investigate syntactic abilities in music comparable to language, research should preferentially use musical material with structures that circumvent the tonal effect exerted by psychoacoustic properties of sounds.},
  author       = {Bigand, Emmanuel and Delb{\'e}, Charles and Poulin-Charronnat, B{\'e}n{\'e}dicte and Leman, Marc and Tillmann, Barbara},
  editor       = {Peretz, Isabelle },
  issn         = {1662-5137},
  journal      = {FRONTIERS IN SYSTEMS NEUROSCIENCE},
  keyword      = {modeling,musical brain,musical syntax,auditory short-term memory,expectancy},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {94},
  pages        = {1--27},
  title        = {Empirical evidence for musical syntax processing? Computer simulations reveal the contribution of auditory short-term memory},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2014.00094},
  volume       = {8},
  year         = {2014},
}

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