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Special issue of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain honours Leo Beranek at 100

| Research

As Canada made plans in the early 1960s to build The Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, it sought the input of one of the world’s foremost thinkers in the area of architectural acoustics to help design the main performance stage. Dr. Leo Beranek, a founder of the internationally known Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN), took on the job, creating, with his team, a multi-purpose main stage capable, even a half a century later, of thrilling audiences with versatile acoustic experience. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, a journal edited by UPEI’s Dr. Annabel Cohen, pays tribute to Dr. Beranek in his 100th year in a special edition with the aim of bringing together the fields of architectural acoustics and musical psychology.

In the journal’s editorial, Dr. Cohen harkens back to a presentation she attended at the 2013 International Congress of Acoustics in Montreal. Dr. Tapio Lokki of Aalto University in Finland explained his new method for evaluating concert hall acoustics by asking listeners in a great concert hall to carry out psychological judgments of the symphonic sound created by a virtual orchestra of 35 synchronized loudspeakers located on the stage. Each audio speaker produced the highly controlled prerecorded performance of an individual member of the orchestra. The virtual orchestra allowed acoustics of different halls to be compared while holding the orchestral production constant, avoiding the variability associated with the same symphony orchestra performing in different halls.  

“During the talk, it had occurred to me how little attention music psychology research pays to performance space, this all-important variable in the music-listening experience,” wrote Dr. Cohen. “Such research that requires behavioral science methods and architectural and musical acoustics knowledge places a heavy demand on researchers generally trained in only one or the other area. It seemed that a special issue of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain might provide an opportunity to build bridges between the two fields.”

The special issue of Psychomusicology was a joint effort of Dr. Cohen and guest editors Ingo Witew of the Institute of Technical Acoustics, RWTW Aachen University (the largest technical university in Germany); Pamela Clements of Clements Acoustics Design Associates, New South Wales, Australia; and, Dr. John S. Bradley, recently retired from the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. The issue includes a fascinating autobiography/biography of Dr. Leo Beranek written jointly by Dr. Beranek and Dr. Cohen, and over 20 international contributions on concert hall design and the listener response—including one by Dr. Beranek himself.

Details on the special issue of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain can be found at or Annabel Cohen, Department of Psychology. 


Dave Atkinson
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