All I Want For Christmas Is You

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It was Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic All I Want For Christmas Is You, but as you have probably never heard it before.

Earlier this week, someone converted the song to MIDI – a digital way to record sound – and posted it on Tumblr.

The post has generated thousands of notes and intense curiosity.

Another blogger shared: “I’m driving myself up the wall because I swear I can hear the vocal line, but I don’t know how that could be if it was truly converted to MIDI.”

The MIDI music standard is simple, and can’t capture the full richness of the human voice (or any other real instrument). But in this song, Carey’s voice was heard.

Deutsch specialises in auditory illusions: tricks of sound that make people hear words or melodies that aren’t there.  Explains Diana Deutsch, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, San Diego.

Diana added, I waited on the phone as Deutsch opened up the MIDI Mariah file and listened to the song for the first time. And then, I was crushed to hear her say: “Actually, I don’t hear it.”

The fact was that Deutsch hadn’t ever heard the original.  That’s why the illusion worked for Diana and failed for Deutsch.  It’s an example of what psychologists call top-down processing. When the brain uses information it already has to try to understand the world around it.

“I already knew the song: my brain had a template saved that it could match the new sounds to, filling in the non-existent,” said Diana.

Source: New Scientist

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