Since 2009, the primary work of the laboratory has been associated with the AIRS project Advancing Interdisciplinary Research on Singing. This work remains connected to all the research that has gone before in the laboratory that focused on the acquisition of musical grammar, the memory for tone sequences , tonality, and the role of music in multimedia. The acquisition of singing reflects the acqusition of musical grammar, and singing entails the memory for tone sequences. Singing is not just an acoustical or auditory phenomenon; it involves other media, particularly vision and motoric information. The prior knowledge and methodologies acquired by the laboratory contribute to the ability to study singing, and the current studies of singing feed back knowledge about the original questions in which the laboratory had interest - how are tone sequences remembered, how is the grammar of music acquired, and how does the mind integrate information from music at the same time as it processes information from other media.
Alexandra Smith holds a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from the University of Prince Edward Island under the tutelage of Professor Sung Ha Shin Bouey and Stephen Bouey. She has also spent the past year studying at the University of Toronto with esteemed voice teacher and coach, Laura Tucker.
Her interests extend beyond music and singing to include linguistics, language acquisition, and psychology. She has taken courses in all of these areas both from the University of Prince Edward Island and the University of Toronto. Although her formal training has been in classical voice, Alexandra also performs across Prince Edward Island singing in various styles such as jazz and pop music.
In the fall, Alexandra will be attending Dalhousie University to begin her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. She hopes to be able to combine her love for music, linguistics, and psychology to aid singers struggling with vocal health issues, and to incorporate music into her practice in the future.
Analysis of singing of persons whose first language is Cantonese or Mandarin
Timon Elmer (Visiting undergraduate summer intern from Basel, Switzerland, 2011)
Timon worked on the following projects assisting the work of the laboratory, for which he received course credit from his home university. He has returned home in August to enter his 3rd undergraduate year of studies in computer science and psychology.
1. Analysis of pitch contours produced in the AIRS test battery component requiring memory for an unfamiliar melody. Calculation of the agreement (inter-rater reliability) statistics with similar judgments of another musician/rater. Identification of the level of reliability the resulting statistic (kappa) suggested. The data are useful as a second independent measure for the analysis of the effects of language background, music training, and language of lyrics presented (Chinese or English) as we seek effects of native language lyrics vs foreign language lyrics on learning a new melody.
2. Analysis of the frequency (in semitones) of sung major triads, comparing two pitch analysis programs and comparing the 2 sets of ratings with those of the 2nd rater (who used only one of the methods for rating); producing clear scatterplots showing the agreement of ratings and revealing that one method was superior for the bass range while both methods were excellent for the higher range. This was something of practical importance for all researchers working in the singing project, as it was not previously clear which method would be best to use for pitch analysis of the entire voice range.
Analysis of the errors per note for each of the three notes of the major triad (as above). The analysis at this level of sensitivity had not yet been done before by our project. Together, we also ran our first analysis of variance with the data of the two raters. so as to provide a more reliable result than that based on a single rater.
3. Also in regard to the study of singing acquisition, collection of data and becaming familiar with the testing procedure.
4. Following up on the original idea of administering a personality test (Big 5) to participant; handling all the ethical considerations by correspondence with the Department ethics board (this involved writing a letter of amendment detailing all of the issues and showing a complete understanding of the ethical considerations of confidentiality, compensation, etc). The study was successfully conducted over the Internet and engaged the interest of sufficient numbers of participants to run a preliminary correlation of the results of the personality test and performance on one of the singing tests. Evidence was obtained for an effect on the openness scale. Sisi Pan, a 2011-2012 honours student is now including the personality test in her study of the AIRS test battery, comparing Chinese and Canadian-born students.
5. Translating from the old German the classic study/report by Werner, H. (1917). Die melodische Erfindung im frühen Kindesalter [Melodic invention in early childhood]. Wien: Bericht der Kaiserlichen Akademie, 182.
Kuori Agaki (Visiting Undergraduate Intern from Kalamazoo College, Michigan, 2010)
Having completed his 3rd year of undergraduate studies specializing music and neuroscience, and being a singer as well as performer in Japanese drumming, Kuori fit into the activities of the laboratory and assisted in a variety of ways with the research on singing that was ongoing. However, his research focus was on the role of music on the segmentation of a film, following the prior work of Dalhousie graduate student Cindy Hammon-Hill and Dr. Cohen. Kuori compared the music used by the prior study with that of Japanese Drumming - quite an undertaking in regard to set-up, ethics, testing, and analysis. Kuori's goal is to enter a graduate program in clinical neuroscience.
Ruth Reveal (Visiting Undergraduate Intern from Agnes Scott College Decatur Georgia, 2010)
Ruth conducted a study analysing the improvised completions of melodies in one of the components of the AIRS test battery. She presented this work at the AIRS 3rd Summer Workshop and she also performed, accompanying herself on the Irish harp, in the evening concert. Ruth returned to Agnes Scott to graduate summa cum laude in music and neuroscience, and she is now enrolled in the one-year M. Sc. Program in Music, Mind & Brain at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is conducting her thesis using EEG to measure expectancy in melody, a topic related to the work she did at UPEI, work with EEG conducted with her supervisor at Agnes Scott the following year, and the work of her current mentors at Goldsmiths.
Lisa McLellan (undergraduate intern from Bates College), Lewiston, Maine)
With an interest in voice and psychology, Lisa McLellan joined AIRS for the summer of 2009 and assisted with the 2nd generation of the AIRS test battery, as well as supporting the first Annual Meeting of the AIRS project, for which she organized all of the conference abstracts and worked with Dr. Cohen on the conference program book. Returning to Bates, she tested whether children would be more responsive to a human singer as opposed to a video representation of the singer (and she found that they reponded well to both). Upon graduating from Bates with her undergraduate B. A. she worked with a boys and girls centre in Philadelphia. Her objective is to go on with graduate studies connected to the music field.