Society for Music Perception and Cognition
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Psychology Today

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Science News (special issue: A Mind for Music)

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Acoustics Research Letters Online

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APA Journals

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Computer Music Journal

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SMPC Achievement Awards: 2011

The 2011 Achievement Awards were presented to Eugene Namour and Carol Krumhansl at the annual SMPC conference in Rochester. Below is the text of the awards speech, presented by Edward Large.

When the Society for Music Perception and Cognition was founded in 1990, its by-laws stated that there should be, quote,"an Awards Committee, to give awards periodically to recognize outstanding contributions to the field," unquote. It was only in 2009 that the SMPC awards committee was actually created by the SMPC board. The committee consists of Andrea Halpern, David Temperley, and myself.

We decided to create an SMPC Achievement Award, to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of music perception and cognition. The award will carries lifetime membership in SMPC. Anyone is eligible for the award, except current SMPC board members. Awards are to presented at SMPC meetings, and the very first awards will be presented here today.

Before continuing, we should note two very special awards that were given by SMPC in the past. In 1999, the society awarded a lifetime membership to Diana Deutsch, and in 2001, Leonard Meyer was awarded a lifetime membership. In recognition of the unique contributions of these two individuals to music perception and cognition, we decided to let their honorary lifetime memberships stand as a special category, separate from the SMPC Achievement Award.

We decided that recipients of the SMPC Achievement Award must be nominated by at least three SMPC members. Nominations were first solicited in November 2009 and were accepted until March of this year. Nominators were invited to include a statement explaining why the nominee was worthy of the award. While a number of names were put forward in nominations, the committee unanimously agreed that two individuals stood out as being especially deserving of the award.

Our first award recipient was one of the founding members of SMPC and has been an active participant and mentor in the society since its inception. He has been an incredibly productive scholar with three groundbreaking books in print and three more in the works, along with numerous articles, chapters, and reviews, all of which reveal deep insights into music perception and cognition. He is one of the very few music theorists who has developed a theory which has both deep musical significance and clear empirical implications leading to testable hypotheses. His seminal work on melody perception provides a alternative to Schenkerian analysis, and has inspired many psychologists to investigate the dynamic process of melodic implication. The scope of his work is astonishing: melodic structure, musical architecture, performance, orchestration, and expression. No other music theorist of his generation has engaged such a range of topics, and few of any generation have done so in such depth and detail. His body of research spans musical analysis from a cognitive perspective, empirical observation, and meta-theoretical commentary on both disciplines. He has helped open the field of music theory to the study of music cognition and helped the field of psychology understand the importance of music theory. Through his scholarship and his mentorship, he has inspired all of us. The first recipient of the SMPC Achievement Award is Eugene Narmour.

Eugene Narmour and Carol Krumhansl

Our second recipient is likewise an early member of SMPC and has served the organization as President. Coming from a background in mathematical psychology, our recipient was one of the earliest people in our field to apply rigorous quantitative approaches to both experimental design and analysis to illuminate the perceptual and cognitive principles underlying the experience of music.

This quantitative approach has been applied both to perception of simplified music in the laboratory as well as to fully realized music in its everyday context. Part of this quest to understand the full experience of music has led to a number of collaborations involving cross-cultural investigations of non-Western musical systems. In the words of one nominator: "It is rare to find a scientist who is simultaneously concerned with the rigor of experimental science and the rich diversity of human musical experience."

Our winner has published in nearly all the top-tier psychology journals, comprising both empirical and theoretical reports and influential review articles and chapters. The 1990 book Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch continues to be an important influence in our field; two admiring reviews at the time of publication independently used the word "landmark" to describe the work. That judgment has been vindicated in the years since, with over 1000 citations listed in Google Scholar. We are inspired by a career that embodies energy, vision, and the highest standards of research. We are delighted to present the SMPC Achievement Award to Carol Krumhansl.