Montag 21.02.2022 16:00 — 18:00
Online Event

Virtual IDEA Lecture with Aniruddh Patel:
Is music a kind of sound, or a kind of perceptual experience?

Music often has salient acoustic differences from spoken and environmental sounds, especially with respect to patterns of pitch and timing. Research has shown humans can discriminate spoken and musical sounds within a fraction of second, and neuroimaging research has found distinct neural populations that respond to speech and music. These findings support the notion that music is a kind of sound, with distinct acoustic features and modes of neural processing. In this presentation I explore a phenomenon which challenges this view, and which suggests that music is a kind of perceptual experience, not a kind of sound. In the “speech to song illusion” certain spoken phrases, when played repeatedly, begin to vividly sound like song. Crucially, not all phrases transform in this way, and there are substantial individual differences in how strongly people experience the illusion. I will present research addressing why certain phrases transform more than others and why some listeners hear the illusion more strongly than others. While we have made some progress in answering these questions, much about this illusion remains mysterious, raising questions about why certain sounds are experienced as music.

Aniruddh D. Patel, is Professor of Psychology at Tufts University, Massachusetts

Dr. Patel's work focuses on music cognition: the mental processes involved in making, perceiving, and responding to music. Areas of emphasis include music-language relations (the topic of his 2008 book, Music, Language, and the Brain, Oxford Univ. Press) rhythmic processing, and cross-species studies of music cognition. A wide variety of methods are used in this research, including brain imaging, behavioral experiments, theoretical analyses, acoustic research, and comparative studies with nonhuman animals.


The IDEA Lectures bring together internationally renowned voices taking up questions of musical production and reception from a wide variety of perspectives. Musicologists from all disciplines are involved as well as musicians, psychologists, cognitive scientists, sociologists, philosophers and ethnologists.

The talk will be held in English.

External guests are welcome. Please contact