May 7, 2013

A Meetup Conversation — Inside the Music Inside Us, With Marina

by Herb Klitzner

Our talk group met in a coffeehouse in Yorkville — about five or six people. The title was “Let’s Talk about Music;“ the intriguing topic focused on the underlying nature of music and its perception and cognition.

Our plans to use the center table were defeated because it was taken, the result of a snafu on the part of the management that had previously agreed to hold the table for us. Eventually a single person sitting at a table for 4+ gave us his table and moved to a smaller one. By this time one of our group had left.

Once settled, Marina Korsakova-Kreyn, our moderator — a researcher and piano professional — began engaging with us in a cycle of explanation and discussion of music, moving from the topic of overtones in the structure of the musical notes (and the importance of the strongest overtones, when they are shared by two tones, to create a sense of stability and security we can feel) to topics in emotion and cognition. Specifically she told about her doctoral research in responses to tonal distances, which tapped into the source of emotion in music.

She also indicated that the mathematics that describe physical space and time are insufficient to describe internal emotional space and time.

From there, Marina described, and we discussed, her research in “melodic rotation,” which proposed a hypothesis of supramodal (i.e. sensory-modality-independent) processing in music and predicted that that mental rotation of physical objects and mental rotation of musical melody ”lit up” adjacent regions of the brain, in the neighborhood comprised of visual spatial processing and its next-door neighbor, attentional control. This prediction has recently received supporting evidence in an imaging study that used fMRI.

Along the way, we each had a chance to describe our own musical interests and commitments, as well as our knowledge and opinions of various aspects of cognitive research.

I remember how important it was for one person in the group, older than most of us, to share his professional CD cover designs with us. He was fairly recently retired by his company from engaging in this craft with them, and he was feeling discouragement and regret. He came to life when circulating his CD covers and commenting on them.

People by and large found our discussion and joint analysis of the research questions interesting and stimulating, including a specialized mathematical topic I introduced called quaternion operators, used today to help program the rotations of objects in video games.

This discussion later led me to help introduce Marina to several organizations that could invite her to give talks on her research. These groups included general scientific research, specialized attention/awareness research, and holistic studies.

These conversation outcomes occurred because Marina provided us with a well prepared, well motivated, and inclusive conversation that pushed its topic to its boundaries without losing its essential focus, because of balance-seeking efforts by both group and moderator.

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