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Development of Music Perception and Cognition Research: An Autobiographical Account from a Canadian Perspective

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT - There were not many opportunities for music perception and cognition research during the first half of the 20th century. The author traces the development of the field from a bare landscape to a discipline with journals, laboratories, institutions, meetings and societies worldwide, with particular emphasis on developments in Canada. The story is told from the personal viewpoint of the author describing her education and experiences in music and psychology. The author discusses the influence on her own work of early researchers in the field, as well as her collaborations with many prominent music perception and cognition researchers.

EARLY YEARS (1939"!95O)

When I started out in the field of psychology, the landscape for music perception and cognition was very bare. There were no dedicated journals, laboratories, institutions, meetings, and societies world wide as there are today. Canada has been a foremost component of this development. I have been asked to relate my personal experiences from these early times in Canada to present times.

I was brought up in a musical household in Winnipeg, Manitoba where music has always held a central place in the city's cultural activities. Since the turn of the 20th century, Winnipeg had developed a strong choral tradition under the influence of many British choirmasters, organists and composers who chose to settle in the city. Later, after World War II, arriving European musicians enhanced the instrumental scene with solo performance and chamber music. Musical theatre was also important. My mother, a choreographer, worked with Winnipeg theatre groups including university operetta productions - all of the Gilbert and Sullivans, even the least well known, and later, Broadway musicals. My aunt was director of music for the Winnipeg school system, director of the Daniel Mclntyre Alumni Choir, and at a later time, president of the Canadian Music Educators Association. The music program in the schools, both choral and instrumental, was extensive.

My father, a Winnipeg lawyer and alderman, died when I was five and my sister Melba was two. I do remember him well; the offices of Sullivan and Cuddy overlooked one of the main streets of Winnipeg and as children we were taken in winter to watch civic parades in relative comfort and warmth. The Cuddys, with a few notable exceptions such as Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame, were not professional musicians. However, love of music, singing, and church choirs were of foremost importance. When I visit relatives in Ireland, I am delighted to see the younger generation gaining top marks in music exams.

A major activity was participation in the annual Manitoba (now the Winnipeg) Music Competition Festival, the first Canadian music competition affiliated with the Federation of British Music Festivals. In those days, by tradition, the adjudicators were brought from Britain. The festival was, and still is, held over several weeks and is one of the largest music festivals in Canada. I recall that the evening competitions of finalists attracted an enthusiastic authence that packed the Winnipeg Auditorium.

My piano teacher was Miss Jean Broadfoot, who had studied with Leonard Heaton (of the Busoni line of piano pedagogy) and in London with Harold Samuel (of the Moscheles line). "Broadie" was demanding but fiercely supportive of her students. Through her mentoring, I won the Intermediate Piano trophy and I accompanied numerous choirs, instrumentalists and voice students at the festival. I also performed solo pieces at various concerts and performed with Bill Cuddy (also a Jean Broadfoot pupil) the Carnival of the Animals with the Winnipeg Symphony in the season of 1954/55.

Another influence on my early life was a great aunt - a Victorian lady who had decided after marrying at 18 that she was in permanently frail health. At some point before she was married Auntie studied virtuoso technique with a pupil of Leschetizky; I well remember her flawless home performances of Liszt, Chopin, numerous orchestral transcriptions, and so on. …