Soundstreams showcases the work of Canadian and international composers through innovative musical experiences.


Introduction to Salon 21: Hearing Music

Join us on Friday, February 20, for an ear-opening Salon 21 experience, at Salon 21: Hearing Music. With audiologist Dr. Ross Harwell, we will be examining the tricks our ears play on us when listening to music.

To get your brain moving in anticipation of this event, check out this curious auditory illusion, from Diana Deutsch, Professor of Psychology.

Mysterious Melody

This musical brain teaser shows how our knowledge of a piece of music influences how we hear it. In this example, a well-known piece of music is played, but the notes are played in different octaves than the original piece. Without any clues what the piece is, it becomes difficult to follow along and guess what piece it is. But once they know what to listen for, the melody becomes easy to follow.

Listen to clip #1, and see if you can identify the popular melody being played, with the notes played at different octaves than the original.

Clip #1 – LISTEN

Clip #2 is almost identical to the first, except the notes are in their proper octaves, which makes it instantly recognizable. 

Clip #2 – LISTEN

Once you know what to listen for, listen to clip #1 again, and see if you can follow the notes this time.

The Mysterious Melody illusion provides a striking example of ‘top-down processing’, or the use of previously acquired knowledge, in sound perception. Other examples occur in vision. For example, when you first view the picture above, all you see is a jumble of blobs. But when you are told that it is a spotted Dalmation dog against a dappled background, you begin to see its ears, nose, tail, and so on, until the entire outline of the dog emerges.

Our stored knowledge of thousands of dogs that we have seen in the past enables us to reconstruct this image correctly. Likewise, once we are told the name of this Mysterious Melody, we can draw on our knowledge of what it normally sounds like, so that we can recognize it.

For more of Diana Deutsch's aural illusions, visit her website.

Tickets are now sold out for Salon 21: Hearing Music on Friday, February 20, but general admission is still accepted on the night of, with seating first come, first serve. Check out our Salon page for more information.


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