Friday, August 21, 2009

Brain & Hearing

We don't all hear the same thing the same way. Part of it has to be genetic. Part of it is also how our brains are programed by previous experience and social conditioning. Here's a neat example of that over on John Ericson's Horn Notes.

He's reviewing a model of horn no longer made that has a certain reputation among horn players. In this quote he's describing the results of a blind listening test.

>>The results . . .  show that when people did not know it was a Reynolds they loved the tone and when they did know it was a Reynolds they hated it.<<


  1. There's another explanation: too many people hear with their eyes. They don't see or hear past their prejudices. Lots of folks have rock-hard opinions about this horn or that wrap or when you should or shouldn't play on the Bb or F side of the horn, and so on. But when you strip away their ability to pre-decide about something, such as blind listening tests, there are always interesting results. I read about one such test where listeners heard a wide variety of horns and took a vote which they liked the best. The vote was unanimous; all agreed that one player/horn had to have played mostly on the F side, so lovely was the the sound. Curtain away, and voilá: the winner was playing a single Bb horn....

  2. Jeffrey - Thanks for that comment. What I find so tantalizing about this is wondering if there isn't some way use it in a positive way. Musicians spend a lot of time working on technique hoping to more deeply affect their audiences. What if there were some simple nonmusical way of helping the audience experience the music the way you'd like them to?

    Also, thanks for making the connection to the previous post about listening with eyes closed. The penny didn't drop until I read your comment.