Thinking in Sound
Sound waves arise from the interactions of objects and must be processed by the brain for us to understand what is happening in the world. Listeners can separate multiple sounds into distinct auditory images, store these images in memory, learn implicitly the way sounding objects behave and learn the rules and patterns that govern the structuring of complex sound sequences, such as speech and music. Dr. Stephen McAdams explores the perception and understanding of this sonic realm, from the short sound of an impacted metal bar to a large-scale piece of orchestral music. As the Canada Research Chair in Music Perception and Cognition, he is extending his previous laboratory work on sound event and musical structure perception to more naturalistic settings that also involve listeners' other modalities, such as vision and action. McAdams explores sound source perception in complex environments that are real or artificially created by digital technologies. One of his goals is to understand more fully how humans grasp the sense of what is happening in the physical world by judiciously combining information from hearing, vision and haptic (vibratory) senses during active behaviour. McAdams also studies the nature of the learning processes in auditory perception of sound sources and new musical grammars. In addition, he is interested in the dynamics of hearing in an ever-changing world. The human brain continually processes sensory information and interprets it on the fly, making use of knowledge that has been acquired through past experience. To study these dynamic processes, McAdams is developing new methods for measuring perception, emotional reaction and understanding in real time.