Grad Students

Graduate Students

Jo Spyra

Jo is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour studying the effects of musical characteristics on memory. Seemingly a permanent student, Jo started at McMaster in 2004, completing an Honours Degree in Music Education with a Diploma in Performance on the flute a few years later. In a brief stop at the University of Western Ontario, she completed a Master’s in Music Performance. Unfortunately for her music career, science was too fascinating and lured her back to McMaster for another Bachelor in PNB with a Music Cognition Specialization and a Master of Science. When not immersed in science or music, Jo likes to go hiking and traveling or spending a quiet night at home working on pieces for her art shop.

“Key” finding: we forget musical keys over time.

Melodies and rhythms help create a stronger memory for a musical piece.

Melodies and rhythms help us remember a musical piece for much longer than we would remember a string of chords.

Hearing something in a natural timbre (the characteristic of a sound) builds a stronger memory for a musical key than an artificial sound.

Does harmonic structure influence memory for musical sequences?

Upcoming. How does language influence memory for a nonadjacent musical key?

Konrad Swierczek

Konrad began at the Digital Music Lab as a volunteer and completed his undergraduate thesis exploring a theory of tritone substitution based on perception. He completed a Bachelor of Music with a specialization in Music Cognition at McMaster University in 2018, studying jazz double bass with Clark Johnston. During his graduate studies, he will investigate tonal attraction and cognitively informed music theory. Konrad is also an active audio engineer and musician, and continues to perform, record, and mix in Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area. 

Tonal attraction is the magnetism between two notes or chords. Modelling the perception of tonal attraction can help explain the musical experience without relying on theoretical descriptions.

Maya Flannery

Maya joined the Digital Music Lab in 2019 with interests in music theory, audio feature analysis, and music-preference relationships. Her Honours Thesis investigated the relationships between personality and preference for low-level musical features. Maya has worked as an assistant at McMaster’s LIVE Lab, providing demonstrations of their facility and assisting with public events and research projects. Outside of the lab, Maya is an aspiring musician, currently learning piano and occasionally performing in the community. She also enjoys the outdoors, computer programming, and rolling dice with more than six sides.

Personality and music-related acoustic features play a role in our musical preferences.