full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis: Why we love repetition in music

Unscramble the Blue Letters

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? And, take a moment to think, how many temis have you linetesd to it? Chances are you've heard that chrous repeated dozens, if not hredudns, of times, and it's not just paoplur songs in the West that repeat a lot. Repetition is a feature that music from cultures around the world tends to srahe. So, why does music rely so heavily on repetition? One part of the answer come from what psychologists call the mere-exposure efecft. In short, people tend to prefer things they've been exposed to before. For example, a song comes on the radio that we don't particularly like, but then we hear the song at the grocery store, at the movie teather and again on the street corner. Soon, we are tapping to the beat, singing the words, even dlanwoindog the track. This mere-exposure effect doesn't just work for songs. It also works for everything from shapes to sepur Bowl ads. So, what makes repetition so uniquely prevalent in music? To investigate, psychologists asked people to listen to musical compositions that avoided exact repetition. They heard excerpts from these pieces in either their oagrniil form, or in a version that had been digitally altered to include repetition. Although the original versions had been cpmooesd by some of the most respected 20th century composers, and the rtitvpeeie versions had been assembled by butre force adiuo etiidng, people rated the repetitive vrenioss as more enjoyable, more interesting and more likely to have been composed by a huamn atisrt. Musical repetition is deeply cmlpoinelg. Think about the Muppets clasisc, "Mahna Mahna." If you've heard it before, it's almost impossible after I sing, "Mahna mahna," not to respond, "Do doo do do do." Repetition ccntoens each bit of music irresistibly to the next bit of music that follows it. So when you hear a few ntoes, you're already imagining what's coming next. Your mind is unconsciously singing along, and without noticing, you might start humming out loud. Recent studies have shown that when pepole hear a segment of music repeated, they are more likely to move or tap along to it. Repetition invites us into music as imagined participants, rather than as passive listeners. Research has also shown that listeners shift their attention across musical repetitions, focusing on different aptescs of the sound on each new listen. You might notice the melody of a phrase the first time, but when it's repeated, your attention shifts to how the giusirtat bends a pitch. This also occurs in lganugae, with something called semantic satiation. Repeating a word like altas ad nauseam can make you stop thinking about what the word means, and instead fcuos on the sounds: the odd way the "L" follows the "T." In this way, repetition can open up new worlds of sound not accessible on first hearing. The "L" following the "T" might not be aesthetically relevant to "atlas," but the guitarist pitch bending might be of critical expressive ipraotmcne. The speech to song illusion captures how slmipy repeating a sentence a nembur of times shifts listeners attention to the pitch and temporal aspects of the sunod, so that the reeetpad spoken language actually begins to sound like it is being sung. A similar effect happens with random sequences of sound. People will rate random seuqcenes they've heard on repeated loop as more musical than a random sequence they've only heard once. Repetition gives rise to a kind of orientation to sound that we think of as distinctively miauscl, where we're listening along with the sound, engaging iitaimngaelvy with the note about to happen. This mode of listening ties in with our sebsiiclupitty to musical ear worms, where segments of music burrow into our head, and play again and again, as if stuck on repeat. ctriics are often embarrassed by music's repetitiveness, finding it ciilhdsh or regressive, but repetition, far from an embarrassment, is actually a key feature that gives rise to the kind of experience we think about as musical.

Open Cloze

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? And, take a moment to think, how many _____ have you ________ to it? Chances are you've heard that ______ repeated dozens, if not ________, of times, and it's not just _______ songs in the West that repeat a lot. Repetition is a feature that music from cultures around the world tends to _____. So, why does music rely so heavily on repetition? One part of the answer come from what psychologists call the mere-exposure ______. In short, people tend to prefer things they've been exposed to before. For example, a song comes on the radio that we don't particularly like, but then we hear the song at the grocery store, at the movie _______ and again on the street corner. Soon, we are tapping to the beat, singing the words, even ___________ the track. This mere-exposure effect doesn't just work for songs. It also works for everything from shapes to _____ Bowl ads. So, what makes repetition so uniquely prevalent in music? To investigate, psychologists asked people to listen to musical compositions that avoided exact repetition. They heard excerpts from these pieces in either their ________ form, or in a version that had been digitally altered to include repetition. Although the original versions had been ________ by some of the most respected 20th century composers, and the __________ versions had been assembled by _____ force _____ _______, people rated the repetitive ________ as more enjoyable, more interesting and more likely to have been composed by a _____ ______. Musical repetition is deeply __________. Think about the Muppets _______, "Mahna Mahna." If you've heard it before, it's almost impossible after I sing, "Mahna mahna," not to respond, "Do doo do do do." Repetition ________ each bit of music irresistibly to the next bit of music that follows it. So when you hear a few _____, you're already imagining what's coming next. Your mind is unconsciously singing along, and without noticing, you might start humming out loud. Recent studies have shown that when ______ hear a segment of music repeated, they are more likely to move or tap along to it. Repetition invites us into music as imagined participants, rather than as passive listeners. Research has also shown that listeners shift their attention across musical repetitions, focusing on different _______ of the sound on each new listen. You might notice the melody of a phrase the first time, but when it's repeated, your attention shifts to how the _________ bends a pitch. This also occurs in ________, with something called semantic satiation. Repeating a word like _____ ad nauseam can make you stop thinking about what the word means, and instead _____ on the sounds: the odd way the "L" follows the "T." In this way, repetition can open up new worlds of sound not accessible on first hearing. The "L" following the "T" might not be aesthetically relevant to "atlas," but the guitarist pitch bending might be of critical expressive __________. The speech to song illusion captures how ______ repeating a sentence a ______ of times shifts listeners attention to the pitch and temporal aspects of the _____, so that the ________ spoken language actually begins to sound like it is being sung. A similar effect happens with random sequences of sound. People will rate random _________ they've heard on repeated loop as more musical than a random sequence they've only heard once. Repetition gives rise to a kind of orientation to sound that we think of as distinctively _______, where we're listening along with the sound, engaging _____________ with the note about to happen. This mode of listening ties in with our ______________ to musical ear worms, where segments of music burrow into our head, and play again and again, as if stuck on repeat. _______ are often embarrassed by music's repetitiveness, finding it ________ or regressive, but repetition, far from an embarrassment, is actually a key feature that gives rise to the kind of experience we think about as musical.

Solution

  1. composed
  2. childish
  3. classic
  4. share
  5. hundreds
  6. critics
  7. versions
  8. aspects
  9. focus
  10. editing
  11. susceptibility
  12. super
  13. sequences
  14. language
  15. number
  16. connects
  17. sound
  18. imaginatively
  19. atlas
  20. downloading
  21. musical
  22. repeated
  23. brute
  24. listened
  25. audio
  26. repetitive
  27. compelling
  28. people
  29. times
  30. importance
  31. artist
  32. chorus
  33. theater
  34. original
  35. popular
  36. human
  37. guitarist
  38. notes
  39. effect
  40. simply

Original Text

How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? And, take a moment to think, how many times have you listened to it? Chances are you've heard that chorus repeated dozens, if not hundreds, of times, and it's not just popular songs in the West that repeat a lot. Repetition is a feature that music from cultures around the world tends to share. So, why does music rely so heavily on repetition? One part of the answer come from what psychologists call the mere-exposure effect. In short, people tend to prefer things they've been exposed to before. For example, a song comes on the radio that we don't particularly like, but then we hear the song at the grocery store, at the movie theater and again on the street corner. Soon, we are tapping to the beat, singing the words, even downloading the track. This mere-exposure effect doesn't just work for songs. It also works for everything from shapes to Super Bowl ads. So, what makes repetition so uniquely prevalent in music? To investigate, psychologists asked people to listen to musical compositions that avoided exact repetition. They heard excerpts from these pieces in either their original form, or in a version that had been digitally altered to include repetition. Although the original versions had been composed by some of the most respected 20th century composers, and the repetitive versions had been assembled by brute force audio editing, people rated the repetitive versions as more enjoyable, more interesting and more likely to have been composed by a human artist. Musical repetition is deeply compelling. Think about the Muppets classic, "Mahna Mahna." If you've heard it before, it's almost impossible after I sing, "Mahna mahna," not to respond, "Do doo do do do." Repetition connects each bit of music irresistibly to the next bit of music that follows it. So when you hear a few notes, you're already imagining what's coming next. Your mind is unconsciously singing along, and without noticing, you might start humming out loud. Recent studies have shown that when people hear a segment of music repeated, they are more likely to move or tap along to it. Repetition invites us into music as imagined participants, rather than as passive listeners. Research has also shown that listeners shift their attention across musical repetitions, focusing on different aspects of the sound on each new listen. You might notice the melody of a phrase the first time, but when it's repeated, your attention shifts to how the guitarist bends a pitch. This also occurs in language, with something called semantic satiation. Repeating a word like atlas ad nauseam can make you stop thinking about what the word means, and instead focus on the sounds: the odd way the "L" follows the "T." In this way, repetition can open up new worlds of sound not accessible on first hearing. The "L" following the "T" might not be aesthetically relevant to "atlas," but the guitarist pitch bending might be of critical expressive importance. The speech to song illusion captures how simply repeating a sentence a number of times shifts listeners attention to the pitch and temporal aspects of the sound, so that the repeated spoken language actually begins to sound like it is being sung. A similar effect happens with random sequences of sound. People will rate random sequences they've heard on repeated loop as more musical than a random sequence they've only heard once. Repetition gives rise to a kind of orientation to sound that we think of as distinctively musical, where we're listening along with the sound, engaging imaginatively with the note about to happen. This mode of listening ties in with our susceptibility to musical ear worms, where segments of music burrow into our head, and play again and again, as if stuck on repeat. Critics are often embarrassed by music's repetitiveness, finding it childish or regressive, but repetition, far from an embarrassment, is actually a key feature that gives rise to the kind of experience we think about as musical.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
repetitive versions 2
random sequences 2

Important Words

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