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Back to Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why by Duke University

4.3
stars
616 ratings
159 reviews

About the Course

The course will explore the tone combinations that humans consider consonant or dissonant, the scales we use, and the emotions music elicits, all of which provide a rich set of data for exploring music and auditory aesthetics in a biological framework. Analyses of speech and musical databases are consistent with the idea that the chromatic scale (the set of tones used by humans to create music), consonance and dissonance, worldwide preferences for a few dozen scales from the billions that are possible, and the emotions elicited by music in different cultures all stem from the relative similarity of musical tonalities and the characteristics of voiced (tonal) speech. Like the phenomenology of visual perception, these aspects of auditory perception appear to have arisen from the need to contend with sensory stimuli that are inherently unable to specify their physical sources, leading to the evolution of a common strategy to deal with this fundamental challenge....

Top reviews

TT
May 16, 2020

This course helped me to see music from a different angle i.e through history and biology. Prof. Dales is a wonderful human being and has a beautiful gift of explaining things in a much simpler way.

MM
Sep 21, 2016

This course has helped me to understand biological psychology of humans towards music. Based on this knowledge i am confident to create music which will seem good to the ears of humans.

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1 - 25 of 156 Reviews for Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why

By Ronald L

Apr 16, 2018

The content of the course is absolute gold. The course provides some answers (or at least partial answers) to very intriguing questions in music: Why these notes and not others? Why is a minor scale "sad" ? and other related questions. The only real issue is the that the quiz questions are just garbage, so be prepared to be frustrated that after learning some new material and having some real "aha!" moments you will fail the quiz because the questions don't really seem to reflect the important points.

By Jerson L

Feb 12, 2021

This course is an amazing interdisciplinary approach of the phenomenology of music including mathematical, physical, historical and biological explanations abour why we humans develop and enjoy music, it gives refreshing views about the role of music in human society, aesthetics and variations of musical traditions among cultures. It introduces the student to the very basics of music theory in a way that gives solid foundations for further studies related to music theory and its relationships with neurosciences. Taking this course was an amazing experience which I highly recommend to everyone interested in the subject. Dale Purves and Ruby Froom are excellent teachers.

By Wong C K C

Mar 28, 2020

Highly recommended especially to musicians. Very interesting indeed. Before I enrolled, I read the one star reviews and read how 'bad' this course is. I might be wrong but I think if you are not a musician, you might not find this course as interesting/useful as musicians. I found that Duke University/Professor Purves/coursera are very generous in giving out such a high quality teaching for free. They could have charged some money and they deserve it. I feel so thankful to them. The second week test was the most difficult, I had to do it 6 times to get the pass rate! Anyway, I enjoyed this course a great deal. Thank you again!

By Vincent A

May 10, 2016

Note: I am coming in from the perspective of a dude wanting to create and compose music. I especially love module Week 6. It gave me a new insight on how to create newer types of sounds (I can't get enough). SPOILER ALERT: I would have never thought there would be a correlation between speech and music. I think Dr. Purves makes an excellent case for this connection. I'm sold! Very well organized course; and if you are a music junky like me, I'm sure you'll find tremendous value in it.

By Armando F V

Mar 8, 2020

It was just what I have been trying to lear about the relationship on music, speech and human evolution. I learned a lot from those topics and that I am already applying to my music compositions, and music phylosophy. Looking forward for more courses and books on this.

By Muhammad A M

Sep 22, 2016

This course has helped me to understand biological psychology of humans towards music. Based on this knowledge i am confident to create music which will seem good to the ears of humans.

By Angelina W

Mar 13, 2017

Natural scientific approach to music; this is definitely a new perspective on music and acoustics in general.

By Dadarkforce

Jun 21, 2018

Great course. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed his previous course "Visual Perception and the Brain".

By James A

Oct 17, 2017

This is an exceptional course, with very intriguing information about why we like the music we like.

By Alicja M

Nov 12, 2016

The course was quite difficult for me. The questions in quizes are sometimes hard to answer. Very often there is no simple solution. Or maybe my command of English was not sufficient to complete the course without several mistakes. Otherwise, topics were covered deeply and were thought-provoking.

By Rafail K

Sep 30, 2016

Great topic, but the course was less interesting and profound than I expected. The professor could be a little more motivating. Worth the time though!

By lisa B

May 10, 2016

It is odd that a course that concentrates so vehemently on speech tone, as a segue to music would be taught by a monotone and mostly unenthused professor. Often verbose, but never succinct, I had to listen to his drone twice to glean anything of value.

His tests were wrought with "gotcha" questions, having nothing to do with the important material of the course. As a physicist, I was very disappointed in his treatment of the important equations associated with the mathematics of music (mentioned as "too hard" to understand).

There was nearly no mention of rhythm and its importance in music, as relates to biology and/or emotion, and no mention of how those rhythms relate to heartbeat.

I am deeply disappointed, but I do hope this critique is seen as an opportunity to create a better course.

By Ben B

Jan 7, 2017

The course tackles an interesting topic: why do we enjoy music?

But there are two problems with this course:

1) It fails to provide convincing evidence for its claims; the evidence is circumstantial and flimsy.

2) The lecturer is, how shall I say this politely, monotonic. He lacks enthusiasm.

My recommendation: if you are interested in the topic, take this course and make your own mind up. Maybe it will convince you. If not, you will have learnt a bit about human perception a sound perception.

By Catherine S

Apr 3, 2016

The content was interesting, but the quizzes didn't relate to the lectures very often. It was as if there was a major piece missing in this course. One of the questions even referenced a book that was never mentioned or made available. Also, several of the musical sections seemed to be in the wrong place. I think maybe this is one of the classes that doesn't work well in this format.

By roma g

Dec 29, 2016

Very dry and uninspired.

The lecturer monotonically reads off some material.

The explanations don't usually make any sense.

The quizzes are a guessing game, arbitrarily connected (or not) to the lecture material.

In retrospect: a waste of my time.

By Vincent G

Feb 8, 2017

Very interesting subject. I was really wainting for a course like that but, with all due respect and aknowledgement to the instructors, their is many ways this course could have been an inspiring and exciting journey. Vincent

By Jordan H

May 20, 2017

The entirety of this course has been awful. The instructor gives no vocalization to emphasize the importance of any material, and the quizzes honestly seem to have questions based off of his opinions rather than any real definitions or fact at times (and if they were, what he says and what is written are always two different statements, which leads to confusion and uncertainty of material). After failing almost every single quiz in the entire course, I would always return to the material and never find any sort of clear answer, leaving me to continuously guess and hope for the best. I did stick it through to the end of the course, and even though I personally thought it would get better every time I progressed through one lesson to the next, I was always disappointed. The instructor made everything seem so unimportant that you can never really tell what actually has any true meaning to the class, and again, a portion of it was honestly opinion based as far as I can tell. The later lessons (such as 5 and 6) were honestly the whole reason I wanted to do this course, however, I was thoroughly disappointed with the entire experience. I would not recommend this course to anyone.

By Janis F

Jul 21, 2016

I didn't understand very much of this course. Instructor relies heavily on the use of various charts. They were seldom explained in a way I could understand. Instructor seemed to believe that underlining things in the charts served as an explanation. After completing the entire course & listening to many of the lessons several times, I can't tell you "what we like to hear and why". Instructor speaks in a monotone with no emotion. Seems bored stiff. Seems like he's just talking, but his mind is elsewhere. Quizzes frequently contained questions for material to be covered in a future lesson

By Beatriz A S

Oct 9, 2018

I'm very grateful of this course because it's help me a lot. I'm an adult beginner and I've tried understanding music theory with poor results. It wasn't enough for me just repeating memorizing techniques or 'cooking recipes' in order to dominate some topics of Music Theory. Even I got frustrated. This course hit the nail and open my mind to new questions and dimensions about the music. And the most important is that it let me see that not everything is said in music. After the third module I could come back to music Theory and get easier concepts. Even I could found some of them by myself. I mean, I was not memorizing anymore but figuring out by myself how it works.

I highly recommend this course. I like the way Professor Dale explains, keeping it easy and organized. Additional material is super useful for music students and Ruby's participation was suitable. I'd like that last module would've been longer.

By Faisal R S

Jun 29, 2020

The takes a biological approach to understand what we like to hear and why along with mathematical and physical approaches. The illustrations give by Professor Purves were in accordance with the topic going on. I want thank Ruby Froom for her excellent playing throughout the course and making me aware of different types of music among which the nursery rhyme 'Twinkle Twink;e lil' Star' by Mozart was very striking.

Lastly I want to thank Professor Purves, Duke University and Coursera!

By Pule

Apr 4, 2021

Dear Prof Dale Purves,

Thank you for taking your time to compile this course. I loved it from the time I read the Subject line, I knew I had to do it. Amongst other things, I am a dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher, and as such "Musicality" is a subject liner on my teachings. This course has tremendously enhanced my skills in this regard.

Thank you once more!!

By LAVANYAH A A

Nov 24, 2020

The material was very thought out and out together with much effort. It was made simple to understand with ample examples. It was extremely interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought that I would loathe the discussion prompts but soon, I found myself liking them a lot. The questions drove the point home and helped me understand/remember better. Thank you.

By Sharon V

Jun 10, 2020

Absolutely loved this course! Would recommend to anyone with a musical background wanting to know a bit more about the origins of music. Dale Purves is a fantastic teacher. I had not studied biology prior to this course (only music), but found his lessons informative and easy to follow. Give it a go, it will fascinate you!

By Vinod L G

Sep 13, 2017

I used to believe that the concept of music is purely mathematical and physical.

But this course has made me realize the biological aspect of music perception, and how it has been effected by emotional evolution of humans.

Thanks a lot.

By Tim G

Feb 29, 2020

A window into why music has the appeal that it does, and also into how neuroscientists work. Professor Dale Purves' own interest in music is obviously very genuine as is his respect for the constraints of the scientific process.