Archive for the ‘music’ tag

Hooked – Can’t get that song out of your head? Here’s how you find out why!

By November 21st, 2013 at 10:49 am | Comment

The hills are alive with citizen science. More musical projects for your ears and brain.

This morning, I woke up after a good night’s rest, ready to take on the world. I was still lying in bed, thinking about how great it would be if I could just lace up and go out for a run. I imagined myself getting ready like Rocky Balboa in his now famous training montage (never mind that I’m closer to Kung Fu Panda than Rocky in the physical fitness department). After a few moments, I realized I was humming the tune to ‘Eye of the Tiger’. Before I knew it I had the tune stuck in my head and couldn’t get it out all day long. What is it about this song that’s so ‘sticky’ I wondered and so when I got back home, I listened to the full song a few times. And then it hit me. It was the guitar riff at the beginning that had me hooked.

#Hooked - Citizen science and catchy tunes

#Hooked – Citizen science to understand what makes music memorable

If you hear that song right now, you’ll see that the riff and the chorus (“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight…”) are the parts that have a penchant for getting stuck in your head. Not surprisingly, that’s what you’d call the song’s hook. And it isin’t just me trying to find out where the hook is. Singers and songwriters are always looking for that perfect hook that creates the next chart topping hit. And scientists like Dr. Henkjan Honing and Dr. John Ashley Burgoyne at the University of Amsterdam are looking deeper, trying to decipher how our brains process these catchy tunes (the science of musical cognition). When Dr. Erinma Ochu, an expert in citizen science engagement at the University of Manchester got to know about this research, she did what she does best. She made a citizen science project out of it.

And so #Hooked was born. Launched in October this year at the Manchester Science Festival, the project was a big hit. It kicked off by asking about 700 people what they thought was the catchiest tune and analyzed the results. Now the project moves on to the next phase where anybody in the world can participate in this exciting experiment. To take it to the masses, the #Hooked team has created a game that can be played online. The game is set to launch in early 2014 and as the team explains on their webpage,

 “We’ve designed a name-that-tune type game where people need to first recognise a tune then identify the hook in that song. By comparing the results from lots and lots of people who play the game, we will be able to look at the musical elements of the hooks to see what common factors, if any, create the most noticeable part of the tune.”

If you’re asking yourself why you should participate, apart from being a whole lot of fun playing this on the ride home from school or work, the project could end up adding significantly to brain research. By analyzing the results of this experiment, scientists hope to understand how your grey cells respond to colorful tunes. That knowledge in turn can be applied to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, whose memories are failing. Ready to jump on this groove train? Sign up to receive alerts about the project and know when the game is released (we’ll be sure to update it here as well!).

And oh, the tune voted the catchiest at the Manchester Science Festival? Fittingly, it was ‘I Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue.

Arvind Sureh is a graduate student in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. For his thesis, he has been studying the molecular mechanisms behind uterine contraction during pregnancy. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera.

Categories: Citizen Science,Sound


Perfect Pitch: Citizen Science for Your Ears

By November 5th, 2013 at 11:54 am | Comments (2)

perfect pitchAbsolute pitch, also known as “perfect pitch” is the ability to instantaneously identify a musical note or recreate that note without an external reference. It is not fully understood why some people have perfect pitch and others do not, but it seems to require both an innate predisposition as well as musical training.

Do you think you have absolute pitch? It so, try out the project Perfect Pitch. This project, conducted through the University of Toronto, examines if the timbre or source of a sound affects how accurately we identify that pitch. So, though the frequency of a note might be the same, that note produced by a piano might be easier to identify than that if that same note was produced by a digital synthesize. Why? That is what researchers hopes to understand.

In this study, participants complete a brief questionnaire about their musical training and background before starting the sound test. There are four rounds. In each round, 24 pitches from A3 to Gb5 are played in random order. You have three seconds to identify the note before another pitch is played. In each round, the source of the sound will differ. The whole test only takes about 15 minutes.


If this sounds fun, be sure check out the other music themed projects highlighted in this week’s newsletter!

Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

Categories: Citizen Science,Sound


Songs From the Citizen Science Frontier

By October 13th, 2013 at 1:11 am | Comment


Citizen science has its own song! Monty Harper, the musician behind “Citizen Scientist,” needs help from you to compile a slideshow for the piece. If you have photos of you or others participating in citizen science, you can submit them to be included in a slideshow music video for his song! The deadline is November 12, 2013.

Listen to “Citizen Scientist” and learn more about how you can contribute to this citizen science project for a song about citizen science!

About the Project

Each participant will receive a complimentary copy of the “Citizen Scientist” song. Five participants will also receive a copy of Monty Harper’s Songs From the Science Frontier CD. More details here.

About the Song

“Citizen Scientist” was written by Monty Harper for his Born to Do Science café, a program that features scientists explaining their research to kids in 3rd – 8th grade. The song was inspired by Dr. Janette Steets at Oklahoma State University and her research on mixed gardens (ornamental flowers with vegetables) and pollinators. Listen to it here!

Monty Harper performing “Citizen Scientist” on Youtube:

What’s the Score?

By December 10th, 2012 at 9:45 am | Comment

Music on the mind!

The hills are alive with the sound of citizen science (and music)!

Calling all music enthusiasts–the Bodleian Libraries are enlisting the help of the public in order to improve access to their music collections. About sixty-four boxes filled with unbound, uncatalogued sheet music from the mid-Victorian period has been digitized for public access. Although this particular genre of music was considered to have little academic value in the past, it has recently come into new light as a window of insight into amateur music making as well as social practices during the Victorian era.

For instance, the “Cleopatra Galop,” written by dance-master Charles d’Albert, was advertised as “new dance music” in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay Herald in September 1878. Archival gems like these are not uncommon in the Bodleian collection. What’s even more fascinating is that the Bodleian team has partnered with the University of Oxford to make recordings of some of these works available so that users can aurally experience the pieces that they’re helping to describe. Listen to the “Cleopatra Galop” in the extensive recordings collection.

In order to help with the project, participants simply submit descriptions of the music scores by transcribing the information they see. There’s no pre-requisite of being able to read sheet music to take part, and the Library provides a superb step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 6.33.17 AM

The metadata collected from this project will eventually feed into a database, making the music collection ultimately more searchable online once it’s made available. By participating in this project, you’ll gain access to tons (all right, maybe pounds or kilos) of sheet music that has never been released to the public. Not only that, but the artful covers are worthy of a study in themselves.

Most importantly, the Bodleian Library has partnered with Zooniverse, a world leader in crowdsourced technology and a platform for various citizen science projects like Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, and Bat Detective (many of which are searchable in SciStarter’s Project Finder).

Music enthusiasts, history buffs, archive divers, or those simply curious are all invited to take part in this sonically stimulating citizen science project. Help the Bodleian keep score!

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Image: Musical Notes, NSF
Image: Bodleian tutorial,

An ode to you: a citizen science theme song!

By February 8th, 2012 at 8:13 am | Comment

Monty Harper - Born to Do Science (Photo: Tony Thompson)Citizen scientists around the world finally have their own anthem!

Monty Harper, an Oklahama-based educator and entertainer, has released his latest song, “Citizen Scientist,” featuring SciStarter! We’ve adopted this as our theme song. Harper drew inspiration from the research of Dr. Janette Steets, a botanist at Oklahoma State University. And the best part is that Monty is a citizen scientist himself! He has personally participated in most of the projects mentioned in the song.

If you like the song as much as we do, please share with your friends, family, and anyone who else you think might be interested in learning about real science projects they can do.

Monty has been educating and entertaining children with his music about reading, creativity, and science since 1992. He’s the host of Born to Do Science, a live program and podcast that uses music to connect kids and families with scientists and their work. If you’d like to listen Monty’s other songs, selections from the program are featured on Harper’s Songs From the Science Frontier CD.

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