Music of the Hemispheres

“Listen to this,” Daniel Levitin said. “What is it?” He hit a button on his computer keyboard and out came a half-second clip of music. It was just two notes blasted on a raspy electric guitar, but I could immediately identify it: the opening lick to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”

Then he played another, even shorter snippet: a single chord struck once on piano. Again I could instantly figure out what it was: the first note in Elton John’s live version of “Benny and the Jets.”

Dr. Levitin beamed. “You hear only one note, and you already know who it is,” he said. “So what I want to know is: How we do this? Why are we so good at recognizing music?”

This is not merely some whoa-dude epiphany that a music fan might have while listening to a radio contest. Dr. Levitin has devoted his career to exploring this question. He is a cognitive psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, perhaps the world’s leading lab in probing why music has such an intense effect on us.


– this is from the NY Times and they insist you have an ID and a password to look at their content. That’s the bad nows. The good news is you can get these for free and you only have to sign up with them once to do so.

– research thx to LA

2 Responses to “Music of the Hemispheres”

  1. Bruce says:

    A good way of dealing with web sites that insist on registration (like the NY Times) is

    You can find registration stuff there for many sites.

  2. Dennis says:

    Thanks, Bruce. I’ll start referring to this when I post from the NY Times.