How the subjectivity of music affects my research

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Project: The Effects of Attention on Music Performance

         For the days preceding the start of my research and the first 1-2 weeks of the project, I was fortunate not to run into too many complications. Starting my very own research for the first time was incredibly exciting! I was able to design my own study, do my own literature review on a topic that personally interested me, and decide myself how best to go about collecting data. I was able to experience what life as a music psychologist is like!

         The first days of the project mainly involved recruiting participants and setting them off on the task I asked them to complete, which went so much better than I would have thought. The first problems started to arise when I began pinpointing how to code my data. As I’m looking at the number of mistakes in my participants’ performances, I needed to decide what constitutes a “mistake”. I soon realized that it’s very difficult to lay down specific, objective definitions of an error in music, as it can be so subjective.

         I found myself devising over-complicated coding mechanisms that left me staring at my data for hours upon hours, only to have a meeting with my supervisor and realize that these methods were incredibly and unnecessarily complex. What you see in the photographs represents the biggest challenge in my research so far, which is having to restart my entire data analysis (hence all of the chaotic scribbles you can see on the sheet music). 

Re-analysing ALL of my data!

There was a good week where my table was more sheet music than anything else! 

         Scientific methods might sound simple on paper, but I learnt the hard way that it can feel impossible to leave no room for any kind of subjectivity. The biggest lesson I took from my experiences is that things are always different when put into practice, and that it’s okay if an outcome isn’t 100% like I imagined it.

Reviewing my coding to double-check that it matches the data

Yukiko Braun

Student and Freelance Writer

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