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A graduate student in our program asked me the question below. I
would appreciate any suggestions you have to offer, to get him
I want to look into how people perceive and generate meaning from
speech in songs. The way I've thought of to get at this involves
looking at how people process noisy signals of various kinds with
regard to understanding their meaning. I've also been thinking about
an analogy to the hidden pictures used in visual perception: Take the
spotty picture that becomes a dalmatian sniffing at the ground. Once
you know what the picture is of, you can't avoid seeing the dog.
Similarly, after I've listened to songs with the lyrics in front of
me it becomes difficult to hear the speech as anything but what's
written. It isn't impossible though, because sometimes when I've done
this I retain memory for an incorrect interpretation that I generated
from earlier listenings, one that can compete with the correct one on
the same and later listenings. Additionally, I've looked at lyrics
that were incorrect while listening to a song, and they served as
kind of an anchor point for me to compare the written words with the
speech in the song, allowing me to determine that the words sung were
not what I had in front of me (while I think it would be unlikely
that I could have determined the actual words at all or as easily
without the written lyrics).
I hope this is clear enough to help others help me.