Research
Last updated: 2019.03.15

"We are all born with a predisposition for music, a predisposition that develops spontaneously and is refined by listening to music. Nearly everyone possesses the musical skills essential to experiencing and appreciating music. Think of “relative pitch,”recognizing a melody separately from the exact pitch or tempo at which it is sung, and “beat perception,”hearing regularity in a varying rhythm. Even human newborns turn out to be sensitive to intonation or melody, rhythm, and the dynamics of the noise in their surroundings. Everything suggests that human biology is already primed for music at birth with respect to both the perception and enjoyment of listening.

Human musicality is clearly special. Musicality being a set of natural, spontaneously developing traits based on, or constrained by, our cognitive abilities (attention, memory, expectation) and our biological predisposition. But what makes it special? Is it because we appear to be the only animals with such a vast musical repertoire? Is our musical predisposition unique, like our linguistic ability? Or is musicality something with a long evolutionary history that we share with other animals?" (from: Honing, 2019)

The research of the Music Cognition Group (MCG) has a special focus on the temporal and melodic aspects of music using theoretical, empirical and computational methods. The current research program addresses the following research questions:
  1. What makes us musical animals? Cognition, biology and the origins of musicality (Awaiting funding, 2019-...)

    Research shows that all humans have a predisposition for music, just as they do for language. All of us can perceive and enjoy music, even if we can't carry a tune and consider ourselves "unmusical." The Music Cognition Group applies interdisciplinary perspectives on the capacity to perceive, appreciate, and make music. And asks: what music is for and why every human culture has it; whether musicality is a uniquely human capacity; and what biological and cognitive mechanisms underlie it. The research program aims to identify the basic neurocognitive mechanisms that constitute musicality (and effective ways to study these in human and nonhuman animals) and to develop a method for analyzing musical phenotypes that point to the biological basis of musicality.
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  2. What is shared (and what unique) in music versus language processing? (NWO-Horizon, 2013-2018)
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  3. What are the music structural and cognitive components that contribute to the memory, recall and transmission of melodies? (NWO-CATCH and KNAW-Tunes & Tales, 2012-2016)
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  4. What are the cognitive mechanisms and neurological correlates of rhythm perception? (UvA-CSCA, 2011-2015)
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  5. What are the cognitive and biological building blocks of musicality? (KNAW-Muller chair and Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship, 2010-2014)
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Current Funding
  • NWO-Horizon Knowledge and Culture | New Methods for the Humanities: Empirical, Computational and Mathematical advances (2013-2018)
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Unsuccessful Funding
  • In period of 1991 to 2018, 21 of the 38 submitted research proposals were rejected.
Past Funding / Main Grants
  • NWO-CATCH COGITCH (COgnition Guided Interoperability beTween Collections of musical Heritage) (2012-2015)
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  • KNAW-Computational Humanities Tunes & Tales. Modeling Oral Transmission (2012-2015)
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  • UvA-CSCA The role of neural plasticity in conscious perception (2011-2015)
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  • NIAS/Lorentz Center Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship (2013-2014)
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  • KNAW-Hendrik Muller chair (2010-2013)
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  • EU-COST TIMELY (Network Grant) (2010-2013)
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  • NWO-GW Music matters: On music and the cognitive sciences (2008-2009)
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  • EU FP6-IST Emergent cognition through active perception (EmCAP), a three-year research project in the field of music cognition (2005-2008)
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  • NWO-STW Practice Space: exploration and training of music performance skills (realized at RU, 2005-2009)
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  • NWO-GW Foundations of the Humanities: a cognitive revolution in musicology (2005-2007)
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  • EU FP5-IHP MOSART: European network on music technology (2001-2003)
  • NWO-GW/MAGW Music Mind Machine (MMM) PIONIER project (1997-2003)
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  • NWO-STW Quantization of temporal patterns by neural networks (1997-2001)
  • NWO-SION Disclosure of large musical databases using a metric for temporal patterns (1997-1998)
  • KNAW A formalism for knowledge representation in music (1992-1997)



www.mcg.uva.nl