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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
568 ratings
147 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 17, 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 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.

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101 - 125 of 143 Reviews for Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why

By Michelle C L

Aug 11, 2016

I feel this course is designed in a way that may be too challenging to those who know nothing about music, sound, or biology. The quizzes dont really match the material covered and some of the questions are too ambiguous. The explanations are a little hard to follow as well. It does cover some interesting information about the relationship of music to speech. However, for someone a little more advanced in music and biology, I was hoping for more to be covered. I would have enjoyed more discussion of the history of modes and tuning systems, including more discussion of the Pythagorean comma (and how adjusted need to be made to intervals, especially in a chorus) and Kepler's work. I also would have enjoyed more discussion of rhythmic entrainment, the social cohesion hypothesis of the evolution of music, the roles music plays in human life, the way that bodies synchronize, and more about the relationship of music to emotional regulation, meaning, and personality. Im sure there is more as well. Giving this course 3 stars is generous in my opinion.

By Maksim O

May 04, 2016

A five-week class on biological mechanisms of perception of speech and music by humans. The topics include sound signals and sound stimuli and their perception with the human auditory system, differences and likelihood in the perception of vocalization and vocal tones in speech and of music, biological interpretation of scales, and the impact of cultural differences onto music.

The course is rather a prolonged description of the research field than a proper part of general education. Its real subject is certain topics in biology, not music. Only a number facts discussed may be of interest for most music student, and these are contained in any decent introductory textbook of music anyhow.

By Aniruddha J

Jan 17, 2019

For the hypothesis regarding biological explaination of consonance, it would have been useful to present detailed statistical analysis. Without that, the theory presented was not very convincing. According to the theory presened (slide 17 in defining music...), notes m2, M2 and M7 should not be consonant at all. However, they are wonderfully consonant, at least in Hindustani Classical Music. Secondly, the theory does not explain why notes in the lower octave (less than 256 Hz) sound consonant in vocal music though such frequencies are almost absent in normal speech. As far as I am concerned, the course, while making an honest attempt, does not answer many questions.

By Andrés M

May 01, 2018

Great topic, great information, poor structure design. IMHO this course should focus more on the theory of how biology explains music, and not in music theory itself. I think it was done in a way to allow people with no music knowledge to take the course, but i also think that is ambitious to pretend that these people follow up from ground up until modes and scales in a 6 week course, and for those who already know the music theory, it gets slow and cumbersome. However, i got some really good info on the topic, and is a good appetizer to start digging in the field. Thanks.

By Meylien D H

May 17, 2016

The course was alright in the sense that it was descriptive, however, the level of critical thinking suggested for the course was not actually indicative of the material presented.

A lot of the material presented was great, but when the quiz came around, questions regarding the material were unequal. For example, in one quiz, there was a question about Galileo, but there was no mention of Galileo in the lecture for that week, and, a lot of the PDF'S were repetitive and not diverse in the material being taught.

By Sithara G

Sep 10, 2017

The video lessons weren't very helpful except in the case of where a certain musical concept was explained and demonstrated. The quiz questions weren't always answered very clearly in the lessons so it would come down to my inferences most of the time. The fact that I am a student who studies music in high school helped me, but if you don't have an advanced understanding of music before you start the course you may find it more challenging.

By Laura F

Apr 01, 2016

The material in this course is very interesting, and many of the musical demonstrations are extremely helpful. I am glad I took it. However, much of the most interesting material is poorly explained; I would loved if fewer ideas were covered in more depth. The quizzes were for the most part poorly written, and only somewhat correlated with the presentation of material in the lectures. So there is definitely much room for improvement.

By Arman S

Jun 15, 2017

The whole course is beneficial for someone with just rudimentary knowledge of physics of sound. The physics modules and some music theory parts were not useful for me, because I already had enough knowledge. I expected the course to deliver more biological information - as the title indicates - so that I could learn professional methods of interpretation of music from biological viewpoint.

By Andy L

Dec 27, 2018

The content of the course itself was engaging and presented well-enough, with some interesting data analysis whether or not you find the ultimate interpretations convincing. From a logistical perspective though, there were serious issues with the coherency of the quizzes and some minor issues with the organization and editing of video content (i.e. segments repeated multiple times).

By Ric E

Jun 14, 2016

Potentially interesting and useful material presented in boring and sometimes unclear manner. Quizzes failed to correlate to the material in the lectures. Got something out of the course but the potential was there for much more.

By Stefan D

Mar 08, 2016

This course fills a gap that is rarely taught by explaining biological origins of musical experiences. The material is very easy to follow. I wish there were more practical exercises or home works to play with the concepts.

By Donna N

Dec 31, 2016

Interesting material but the instructor was so monotone and spoke so slowly, I had to play the videos at a faster speed to stay awake. I'll bet it came in handy for those whose English was not as fluent, though.

By Selim Ö

Aug 01, 2017

Superb topic... Very interesting, but insufficient content... Videos are difficult to follow and comprehend. So is true for tests.

Moderately recommended because of these teaching imperfections...

By Taym A

Oct 04, 2017

This course needs a whole lot of editing. Many confusing mistakes both in lessons and in quizzes. Some fundamental concepts were not explained properly/sufficiently.

By Jairo A A B

May 08, 2020

It is interesting but it is slow and at some point in my opinion the class becomes boring. Any way it is worth to do it if you want to learn some things.

By Lillian L

Feb 05, 2018

Interesting, but has an evolutionary basis which was a bit disappointing. The piano and mbira demonstrations were both enjoyable and interesting.

By Adam L

Jun 28, 2017

Quiz choices should be more carefully put together. I noticed typos, erroneous grading, and MANY answers that are not mutually exclusive.

By Mieke d B

Jun 28, 2016

I did enjoy the course enough to see it through but it could use help on presentation correlation of lessons and tests

By Willian d S L

Jun 21, 2016

The second part of the course is very good. But first part, with introductions and definitions were very "heavy".

By Alexandra P

Sep 26, 2017

An overview of lots of topics, but the answer to the question in the title can be given without any of that.

By Lianis O

Mar 18, 2017

It was an interesting class but the quizzes did not reflect the class material.

By Jecca J

Feb 25, 2019

Great Professor and content but poorly designed quizzes.

By Grace M

Aug 08, 2016

The instructor is very dry and the mat

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 Dave S

Nov 30, 2017

Caveat: I am not a music major or minor, and have no music theory background...I'm a computer scientist and polymath, but not deep in music. My low rating is due to unclear and rambling lectures, many small errors in the text and one very large one in week 5 lesson 1. This isn't up to the par of other Coursera courses I've taken. He could use more visuals to present the concepts, and speak more concisely to make the points. There are tons of materials available in this area of knowledge, and he didn't use that many of them, so it wasn't that great of a learning experience for me since I learn visually and he used only a small set of visuals.