January 15, 2013

The Tunefulness of Crowds

When Francis Galton was 85 years old, he went to a country fair where there was a contest to guess the weight of a prize specimen of livestock. Galton loved getting his hands on data, which was far less abundant a century ago, so he tabulated all the slips upon which entrants had written their guesses. His initial assumption was that this would show what bad guessers random people are, but it proved the opposite. The average guess was quite close to exactly right. This became known as the Wisdom of Crowds. (How many other 85-year-olds have come up with a significant new concept that contradicted their initial impression?)

You can see something similar with a crowd singing. A crowd derisively chanting "Air-ball!" at a basketball game will hit the two notes well. The errors cancel out. (Of course, it helps that some people who know they can't carry a tune will silently lip-sync so that their friends will assume they are singing along correctly. Not me, of course, but I have a friend who does this.)

Here's a press release type article from 2008:
Despite the hilarity of early-season "American Idol" episodes, nearly everyone can carry a tune, new research shows. 
Of those who can't, there are two types — those that know they sound bad and those that think they sound fine. 
In a series of studies led by researchers at the University of Finance and Management in Warsaw and the University of Montreal, more than 150 people in Canada and Poland were asked to sing familiar songs — such as Quebec's version of "Happy Birthday" – as a capella solos. In the final study, 40 people were also asked to sing isolated notes after hearing them played once. 
To control for self-selection, the majority of subjects were initially unaware the study would involve singing. While none balked at the task, many joked about having a terrible voice. 
They needn't have worried. The researchers found that more than 90 percent of the participants could sing in tune.

Okay, but there's probably a Darwinian winnowing of which songs get to be universally sung and thus included in this study. I don't know what Quebec's version of Happy Birthday sounds like, but America's version of Happy Birthday is popular in part because it's easy for 3-year-olds to sing. In contrast, Bacharach and David's "I Say a Little Prayer" would never become universal because you pretty much have to be Dionne Warwick or Aretha Franklin to get through the chorus without running out of breath.
And almost 100 percent nailed each melody's timing. 
The results, most of which are detailed in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, will be presented July 2 in Paris at the largest ever meeting on the science of acoustics. 
Among out-of-tune singers, lead researcher Simone Dalla Bella explained, "there are two categories of people." The majority is tone deaf; they can't hear when a note is off and have no idea they are singing poorly. But there are also lousy singers with great hearing ability — those who can accurately say whether an instrument is properly tuned or a sung note is off-key. These squawkers know they are singing badly but, for some unknown reason, cannot correct themselves. They are, in a sense, tone mute. ...

I'm a little (or a lot) of both. I can usually approximate the first three to six notes of, say, "Old Man River," but then, inevitably, something goes noticeably wrong. But even if I get through a line in a manner satisfactory to my ear, when I ask my wife to sing it, it immediately becomes evident to me that I had only had a coarse notion of the melody in my head (usually, my notion of how to sing a song is something like "Start in the middle, go up, then down, down even more, up a little ...)

On the other hand, I can notice quite well when a bit of one song is lifted from another.
"I am not saying that most people are as good as professional singers in every task," Dalla Bella explained. The studies measured pitch and timing, but not timbre or musical expression. Also, many recreational songbirds are only in-tune when singing slowly. 

The popularity of "auto-tuning" among pop superstars today suggests that the ability to sing really well is  not super widespread. In particular, staying on one key throughout a live performance of a song is not easy, even for top amateurs, such as American Idol finalists. And, among the judges, only Randy was sure to notice a single lapse in key.
Evolutionarily speaking, carrying a melody's timing may be more important than its tune. Singing as a group is popular in cultures worldwide, and researchers hypothesize that singing together strengthens social bonds. While crooning off-key can be muffled by other voices, belting out when everyone else pauses is sure to garner unwanted attention.

I hate it when everybody in the audience starts to clap along with the song. I have to look out of the corner of my eye and watch my neighbor to avoid embarrassing myself. Oh, wait, that's not me, that's a friend of mine who does that, the poor bastard.

I have a theory that a sense of rhythm is pretty much crucial for success in arts and entertainment, not just in music, dance, and comedy but perhaps even in media as far afield as political rhetoric, literature, or even drawing.

I wonder which celebrities don't have much rhythm or timing? Vince Vaughn comes to mind as an exception that supports the tendency, but maybe he has some genius sense of rhythm that I just don't get.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Of course, them folks in Galton's account prolly knew something about cows as society was more rural back then.

If modern people were asked the same question, who knows what the result will be?
We know more about prices of consumer items than weight of cows. And so, THE PRICE IS RIGHT.

We also rely more on the media to know what's happening in the world. It seems many Americans think 25% of Americans are gay. So, crowds can be manipulated into believing fairy-tales.

Anonymous said...

Whether one can sing in tune or not, some people have nice voices while others do not.

That makes all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Someone should right an article titled The Moral Superiority of Crowds. Start with the fact that thousands or millions of people are more right than one bourgeois lone wolf.

albert magnus said...

I bought the EarMaster Pro software because I've been a terrible singer my whole life and it was cheaper than buying a guiter. It has some nice ear training exercises and eventually moves to a microphone which measures the pitch. I've learned that I'm pretty good at hearing intervals, but haven't gotten farther than that.

mariachis forever said...

"Someone should right an article titled The Moral Superiority of Crowds. Start with the fact that thousands or millions of people are more right than one bourgeois lone wolf."

You could start by backing this assertion up with, well, anything at all. I'd say what you're calling the wisdom of crowds may closely resemble the relative pitch most of us have wrt music. If we are led down the tuneless path, we may have no choice but to descend into painful cacophony. Society can't do without those rare individuals who know the right pitch, moral action, etc, no matter what the so-called wisdom of group think may imply.

Such people may seem extremely wrong when in fact they offer an absolute measure of what is right or correct. I'd say a moral instinct is the purview of the few and not the many (i.e. the road less travelled...). Squelch such voices and you soon lose the beacons in the fog that allow people and societies to steer clear of disaster.

What you are really observing is that governments and civilizations can endure despite a great deal of blundering, moral or otherwise. Life is very forgiving that way.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you will find people generalize this finding into any judgement . So Galileo deserved his punishment .

Anonymous said...

something ive noticed: comedians who have really good range for spoken word (delivery, voices, impressions, etc.) are almost certainly good singers.


im thinking of the difference between dave chappelle and chris rock or eddie murphy and george carlin. all funny comedians but rock and carlin are tonally limited. on the other hand eddie murphy and dave chappelle could build killer bits around some amazing vocal switch (cosby impression, white guy impression, islander impression, woman, ghetto, etc.).

didnt surprise me at all that murphy could pull off a singing role in dream girls.


chris rock has to have timing and rhythm because he does deliver jokes but he doesn't have that musical quality that you immediately pick up from some comedians. im not sure how else to describe it.

Anonymous said...

If I had to guess, I'd say crowds are usually very good at estimating matters with which they have personal experience- the attendees at a country fair in 19th-century England probably have a lot of collective experience with different livestock, and knowing the weights thereof. Would the same crowd have done well if you put them on a modern version of "The Price is Right", guessing the cost of various modern inventions they've never seen before? Even after giving them an inflation table and a description of each device's function, I doubt it.

That's a major challenge for Democracies- unfortunately, for most people, voting is more like the second case than the first one. Voters are good at rationally evaluating, say, the education policies that affect what schools their children get to attend, or the merits of a new municipal sewage system, because these affect them directly and immediately. They aren't so good at evaluating, say, two Presidential candidates' respective positions on the ongoing dispute between Greater Ruritania and the breakaway Republic of East Krasnovistan, because the typical voters' knowledge of both countries is more or less limited to "Uh, that's someplace foreign, right- Eastern Europe, maybe?"

elvisd said...

I wonder which celebrities don't have much rhythm or timing?

Eric Clapton. His hook has always been his vibrato. He was the first white boy to really get that down, and he has a good melodic sense, but rhythmically, he's pretty weak. Seriously, all those plodding walkdowns in Cream seem pretty embarrassing now, though having the cardboad box beater Ginger Baker didn't help.

roundeye said...

Anon, are you forgetting Eddie Murphy's big hit in the 80s' Party All the Time?

Nice low falsetto, terrible song.

But who am I to judge. At that time I was wearing out the grooves of Zen Arcade.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with rhythm. It's probably some kind of zen thing. No matter how hard I try to stay in the present, I always find myself in the future or in the past.

Gilbert Pinfold.

AllanF said...

Too funny, Steve. I have, um, "a friend" just like yours. Very good at recognizing lifted riffs and when something isn't quite right. But ask, um, "my friend," to do it himself, and forget about it.

He can't even march in time 10 feet behind a drum corps. It's absolutely hopeless. There's some auditory cable that didn't make it all the way down to the cerebellum. Ran out of CAT5 or something.

elvisd said...

From Eddie Murphy's first album, a rap from the heart.

chucho said...

It's funny to watch people in public who are listening to music on headphones and tapping away. Either a lot of people are listening to crazy polyrhythmic stuff on their iphones, or a lot people have trouble with 4/4.

If you can talk, you can sing. Whether you can sing well or if anyone would like to listen to you sing are other matters entirely.

dearieme said...

My wife says that she can recognise every song I sing - but always from the rhythm, not the melody.

alonzo portfolio said...

We know more about prices of consumer items than weight of cows.

In 1991 my secretary told me she mistakenly assumed the guy she married was rich, because he owned a dinette set.

Anonymous said...

1:41 anon, hilarious

Anthony said...

I can sing "Happy Birthday" in tune. However, if I'm at a birthday party, and people are being shy about singing it, I'll start singing it loudly and off-key. That gets other people singing it enthusiastically enough to drown me out.

Anonymous said...

I've spent my entire life thinking about this [and observing the folks around me], and the percentage of the population who truly "grok" [what we now call] "classical" music is damned near infinitesimally small.

Even on college campuses [i.e. even amongst the very high-IQ crowd], most students & professors listen to shit for "music".

My guess is that appreciation for [or just the capability to appreciate, prior to any exposure to] "classical" music probably correlates fairly strongly with IQ, but even up in the stratosphere, with the 3-sigma/4-sigma crowd, you still get shocking numbers of dudes who are tone deaf.

agnostic said...

"I have a theory that a sense of rhythm is pretty much crucial for success in arts and entertainment, not just in music, dance, and comedy but perhaps even in media as far afield as political rhetoric, literature, or even drawing."

I don't know about drawing, but it's no theory as far as rhetoric and literature are concerned.

Meter is central to any kind of poetry, not just the little things like the number of units to a foot, but especially the number of beats in a "measure".

Even changing from 5 beats per line to 4 stands out and lets you know it's meant to evoke something different, like the "Double, double toil and trouble" chant from the witches in Macbeth. It just sounds like it comes from some other world than where the rest of the dialog has come from. (He also switches the beat from the second unit of a foot to the first one.)

Classical works on rhetoric devote just as much attention to rhythm as poetry does. "Rhetorical devices" included not just things like metaphor, apostrophe, etc., but rhythmic devices like putting a conjunction into every clause to draw things out, or eliminate all conjunctions to make it choppier.

And how to alter words to make them longer or shorter, to fit them into the rhythm. E.g., use "morn" if "morning" is too long, or "lov-ed" if "loved" is too short. It takes skill to use this without it sounding Procrustean and waking the audience up from their captive state.

agnostic said...

I wonder how many pop music critics are tone-deaf and rhythmically awkward.

Kind of like how so many Ashkenazi Jews got all into non-representational art because it was visually dumbed-down enough for someone with poor spatial skills to "get".

I don't think pop music critics are incredibly tone-deaf, but you have to wonder why they consistently gloss over or sneer at the infectiously melodic and catchy music of the 1980s. Not only obscure songs, but mega-hits like "Hungry Like the Wolf" have more intricate melodic phrasing and a more through-composed structure than the stuff from the '60s that we're still supposed to blindly worship.

Like, yeah we get it -- it's better than '50s music. Which it is. But it was just the beginning. For genealogical reasons, it's worth focusing on the '60s. But if we're just evaluating how great songs are, let's focus on the peak rather than on the humble beginnings.

Whether or not they get melodies that well, the critic nerd types definitely strike you as rhythmically challenged. Why do they hate dance music so much -- not like they think it's OK but not their favorite. They positively despise it.

I don't think it's an insecurity, like "I hate that music that reveals my poor coordination on the dance floor." They aren't ever *out* on the dance floor. It's more like it just doesn't resonate with their body in the first place, like color-blindness.

Their glib "I don't get it" dismissal of danceable music probably goes even farther to explain why they over-evaluate the music of the '60s vs. the '80s.

Shoot, even heavy metal from the '80s has a driving, aggressive rhythm that makes a normal person want to bang their head, punch the air, or pound their chest.

Anonymous said...

In 1991 my secretary told me she mistakenly assumed the guy she married was rich, because he owned a dinette set.

Let me guess, a 5'9" 105 pound buh-LONDE?

Let's! said...

On the other hand, I can notice quite well when a bit of one song is lifted from another.

Interesting you should say that, because when you praised "Stand" as your favorite REM song, you didn't mention how its melody blatantly ripped off the guitar riff from "La Bamba," which Los Lobos had remade just 18 months prior.

Douglas Knight said...

If you think rhythm might be relevant to drawing, why not talk about it?

Rhythm is obviously important to political rhetoric.

Some kind of rhythm is important to prose meant to be read silently, but is it the same skill? I have heard descriptions of pictures that talk about pacing, but this seems likely to be even further afield.

Steve Sailer said...

How different are La Bamba and Stand from Twist and Shout?

Auntie Analogue said...


Not too long ago it was generally true that Catholics had a great deal of trouble with - and from - rhythm.

Eric Clapton did not and does not have trouble with rhythm: his breathtakingly paced acoustic strumming on "Deserted Cities Of The Heart"
will put that notion to rest.

Rhythm is innate but it's also taught & learned, as even the most cursory survey of the hand-clap songs which feature prominently in pre-school and Kindergarten reveals.

In my boot camp company there was one recruit who simply could not march in step. For whatever reason this individual was dreadfully uncoordinated, not just in marching, but also in all the other physical exercises, such as the 16-count manual, calisthenics counts, and Drill Under Arms. Literally, then, I've known one human being who could not walk a straight line and simultaneously chew gum...or, actually, perform either one, or the other, of those activities alone without bungling it.

There is a great deal more to singing than just pitch and rhythm. Breath control is the single most underappreciated aspect of singing as it affects every element of vocals. Then there's resonation (involving use of seven different elements of the anatomy: not just the larynx, but also the sinuses, chest, cheeks, lips, tongue, &c.), volume, timbre, vibrato, phrasing (which has only a little to do with rhythm; Sinatra, for example, is renowned for his phrasing), interpretation (cerebral and instinctual and all combinations thereof), and several other elements. Then there's microphone technique which, in this age in which almost all music is performed via amplification, is indispensable; go to any karaoke get-together and you'll hear mike technique ranging from pain-provoking nonexistent to astute.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Rhythm is the essence.

If you play any sort of improvisational music, or even music in general, you quickly learn that it is far better to play a wrong note but with good timing rather than a correct note but with poor timing.

True tone deaf people, like true perfect pitch people, are exceedingly rare.

A truly tone deaf person could not be able to tell if you played a scale ascending or descending or tell that there is any difference between a scale played ascending first, then descending second.

the ability to recognize music precedes the ability to create/express music. This is very similar to language, wherein recognition, listening, reading, always leads being able to get up and speak in real time time. No big mystery there.

A little training on rhythm goes a long way with most people. Just getting people to count 1,2,3,4, (for 4/4) or 1,2,3 (for 3/4) is pretty easy when you consciously lead them through it. It doesn't take long before most people figure out where the 1 beat lands in relatively straightforward music.

Same with intonation and singing. A little training goes a real long way. What isn't amazing is that some people don't get some aspects of music without any training; rather, it is amazing and significant that so many people do, to a reasonably competent degree, "get" music, whether rhythmically, melodically, w/out any training whatsoever. Suggests that music, rhythm, melody are like sex in that while they are broadly enjoyable in their own right to people, the mechanism/phenomena has a much more critical purpose than merely entertainment/gratification

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Eric Clapton did not and does not have trouble with rhythm: his breathtakingly paced acoustic strumming on "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" will put that notion to rest.

I don't have much interest in Clapton one way or another. However, I never heard of this, so I just went and listened to it. Maybe I missed something, but while I suppose it is competently executed, I didn't hear anything I'd consider "breathtakingly paced" or even rising much above "pedestrian".

Maybe you could explain this a little more?

ben tillman said...

Eric Clapton did not and does not have trouble with rhythm: his breathtakingly paced acoustic strumming on "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" will put that notion to rest.

What about Badge?

Anonymous said...

it's funny you use "happy birthday" as an easy song to sing. In a music theory sense, it is amazingly complex and it's really odd such a strange song caught on. Strange scale, unresolved tonics etc. It's actually a pretty avante guard song. Singing it used to be an audition test, as just about anyone can approximate it but singing it *right* is truly challenging

Foreign Expert said...

I read once that singing ability is NOT hereditary. Is that true? Any speculation why?

Auntie Analogue said...

Okay, why did I write that Clapton's strumming on "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" is breathtakingly paced?

If you play acoustic guitar and have tried to sustain fast rhythmic strumming, you'd know why. It's difficult not only to stay in rhythm, but also to avoid having your forearm muscles tighten so that you're forced to try to relax them while still strumming; and the attempt at relaxing those muscles while playing throws your strum off the rhythm. Another hazard is that during such energetic strumming it's very easy to lose the grip on your pick (especially onstage under hot lights, when you're perspiring like Niagara Falls), so that your pick then either pivots in your grip to a useless angle or depth, or it flips clear out of your fingers. To sustain such strumming involves a coordinated effort of concentration and an act of will not to be thwarted by the tightening of your forearm muscles or the shifting or loss of your pick. It takes a great deal of repeated, sustained practice to be able to execute prolonged rhythmic strumming (try playing one of Richie Havens's fast numbers - same thing). This is why most songs that include fast, continuous strumming often also include passages that allow relief breaks from such strumming.

Sorry, ben tillman, I can't speak of the work on "Badge" because it's been ages since I've heard it.

On another note, as the Anonymous commenter lamented, I too mourn the increasing absence of Classical music from mass media (and I also rue that Classical music is nowadays too often pitched with some sort of pop culture angle to persuade pop-saturated youngsters to like it and listen to it). To my aging, seasoned ear, most pop is just rubbish ("It's got a good beat, Dick, and you can dance to it, so I give it an 85!") to bump-&-grind to; or pop consists of "See Things MY Way" preachy songs or evermore saccharine Wall Of Sound Big Buildup Ballads. Add the stagey - often "shock" - visuals of pop productions, and it's all about sensation or being/looking "cool" - and to this I find Classical music to be the pleasant and rewarding antithesis.

De gustibus non est disputandum, of course.

Just another guy with a 1911 said...

Re: Clapton and rhythm,or the lack thereof, and thoughts on The Who.

I play have played guitar in bands since high school. The set list has usually included some of Clapton's stuff, including "Wonderful Tonight."

I would agree that compared to, say, Hendrix's "Bold as Love" a song like Clapton's "Sunshine of Your Love" does not have as much, for lack of better word, depth. That being said Clapton's stuff from that era it is still driving and lively. It is just not exceptional.

Where Clapton soars is in his phrasing (which is tied to the rhythm but can hide in it) and his tone (the unique color to the notes he plays as noted above). He is also aided by his masterful vibrato, and the great equipment he was using. It's how he puts the notes together that makes him an exceptional guitarist. I have tried to learn the solo for Crossroads for years without that much success. But I don't feel bad. I have heard lots of guitarist with more technical skill than myself, and maybe more than Clapton, fail to capture it.

The solo on "Wonderful Tonight," however, not so hard. One time when we were playing out a drunk was all "itsh my burthdays couldya play some Clapshton." So I played "Wonderful Tonight" for him. Yes, sometimes I can be a jerk.

For an example of a great rhythm guitarist listen to Pete Townshend. Now, I used to dislike The Who because, for some reason, I found them rhythmically weird. The music was driving, and in time, and Dalrty had an amazing voice, but it was like the rhythm was hiding somewhere daring you to find it.

Then, I joined a band whose drummer had actually got in a fight at one point in his life defending the honor of Keith Moon. Really. Anyway, he is an awesome drummer, but I have, on occasion, found his playing to be really distracting because, while the rhythm is in there, it is hidden in flourishes, runs, and builds, sort of the way it can be hidden in the phrasing of a guitar solo. It does not help that the bass player, self taught, with a great ear, also tends to prefer floating bass lines and not locked in ones. Were a trio. Drives me crazy.

One day, the drummer and I go to see a documentary on Quadrophrenia. He's very excited about it. At one point, the interviewer asks Pete about Moon's drumming. Basically, Pete states he can't stand that style of drumming, finds it annoying, hard to play along to, and proceeded to do a mock version of Keith's drumming. It was all I could do to keep from cracking up.

Anonymous said...

"Not too long ago it was generally true that Catholics had a great deal of trouble with - and from - rhythm."

That's just silly. You ever tried to dance a polka without having any rhythm?

Anonymous said...

"while the rhythm is in there, it is hidden in flourishes, runs, and builds"

a little o/t, but both drumming and guitar in the Who's 'Circles' is magnificent. "flourishes, runs, and builds" is it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XfGKh-BEuo

Is singing ability heritable? My mother sang beautifully, but I'm terribly off key. You rarely seem to find great singing voices in multiple generations, though singer-instrumentalists who've played with the folks - Rufus Wainwright, Eliza Carthy - don't do too badly.

Suburban_elk said...

Clapton does not have rhythm?

Motherless Child: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoFKYsRj7Gk

And his use of different voices here, dramatic perfection.

(This song was selected for purposes exemplary not emotive.)

Anonymous said...

"Not too long ago it was generally true that Catholics had a great deal of trouble with - and from - rhythm."

That's just silly. You ever tried to dance a polka without having any rhythm?


That's not what he meant.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

I have tried to learn the solo for Crossroads for years without that much success. But I don't feel bad. I have heard lots of guitarist with more technical skill than myself, and maybe more than Clapton, fail to capture it.

I read/heard somewhere that Clapton hates that solo because he was off a whole beat, coming in on the second. The damn thing is so random, I find it hard to hear it that way; almost have to force myself to imagine it. I also think the main Crossroads riff is hard to play really well.

Thinking out loud, another person I find really hard to figure out is Keith Richards. A good example is his "solo" (really just a chord riff) on Monkey Man.

Let's! said...

How different are La Bamba and Stand from Twist and Shout?

The original "La Bamba" predates "Twist and Shout" of course, but "Twist and Shout" only follows "La Bamba"'s chords and rhythm, while "Stand" goes further, with Stipe essentially singing its guitar solo note-for-note, beat-for-beat. Yay public domain!

lightreadingguide said...

"Rhythym" is a form of birth control, which does not use methods that physically close off
the possibility of transmission of life, but which uses the timing of fertility in rough relation to
the female spouse's menstural cycle, and which is
considered by some or most Catholics, including "officials", to not be
an illicit form of birth control. It gives rise to much unfunny
humor among certain types of Catholics and anti-Catholics.

lgthreadingguide said...

By the way I didn't mean to imply that either one of the pair of rhythm anonymouses at 8:16 and 3:00 were unfunny ... especially if they are the same person

Darfur Miller said...

Eric Clapton has a moderately good sense of timing as a vocalist, but much better as a guitarist. The two do not seem to be linked as one would assume. Clapton is a first rate rock guitarist: his limitations are those of most rock guitarists, which are their lack of rigorous harmonic training as compared to the better jazz guitarists. (Fellow former Yardbird) Jeff Beck, by comparison has a sense of harmony and an understanding of the structure of the guitar (i.e., where chords and progressions lie on the fretboard, given its tuning in fourths with one strategic major third between the G and B strings, assuming "concert tuning") that is at least as good as that of the average working jazz guitarist.

Jimmy Page cheats: he uses odd open and modal tunings.

My beef with Clapton as a solo performer is that he is a mediocre vocalist as compared with his excellent rock guitar playing. That's also true of, say, Glen Campbell, except that Campbell is also a good songwriter. Clapton is mostly a complete hack at that. For example "Wonderful Tonight" is a cheap and cheesy rifacimento (gee, Professor Oliver, I like that word!) of the far better Jerome Kern warhorse,"The Way You Look Tonight". (Elton John's "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" is also, but not nearly so cheesy.)

Jeff Beck solves these issues by not singing. That hasn't made him nearly as much money, obviously.

Cornelius said...

I'm happy to see that this was actually studied.

I definitely fall into the tone mute category. I've always been a music lover and usually wake up in the morning with a song in my head, but I can't sing to save my life.

What fraction of instrumental musicians are tone mute? Now that's an interesting question.

neil craig said...

The equivalent of part of the crowd lip-synching when testing for crowd wisdom would be not just taking their answers but asking them to express their confifence in the answer on a 1 to 10 scale.

Then the wrinkle would be to find if the 10s who are sure their answer is right, are right. Would the highest level of accuracy come from multiplying everybody's answer by their confidence score or would it work better by adjusting the 10's confidence level to 3 or 4.

Basically do loudmouth know it alls actually average knowing more than the quiet types? I have no idea which is why it would be worth doi8ng.

Anonymous said...

Was the catholic rhythm thing a birth control joke? You try having sex to polka.

Anonymous said...

It's a lot easier to "do it" to polkas than to waltzes. The key is to be able to ignore either the upbeat or the downbeat and treat it as though it were in 4/4 at half the speed. That can be quite pleasant once you get the hang of it.

I learned this growing up in Tinley Park, but having a Polish family on m mother's side from just outside Calumet City.

Jeff Chang said...

"Even changing from 5 beats per line to 4 stands out and lets you know it's meant to evoke something different, like the "Double, double toil and trouble" chant from the witches in Macbeth. It just sounds like it comes from some other world than where the rest of the dialog has come from. (He also switches the beat from the second unit of a foot to the first one.)"

Neither Shakespeare or Milton composed that many lines in strict iambic pentameter, which much of the time sounds anodyne and clunky. You'll find that much of their poetry had only four beats to a line - closer to the measure pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon verse.

Pope and Dryden did tend to write in strict iambic pentameter, and I suspect that this has much to do with the fact that they're little read today.

English poetry is strange - while the actual daughter of the Latin language all devised meters to suit their distinct phonetic qualities, only the English decided to apply antique meters wholly unsuited to the rough-hewn vigour of a Teutonic tongue.