Music Music and Cognition
by
Ian Goldstein
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0169

Introduction

Music and cognition refers to the study of musical thinking. In basic terms, it seeks to understand the mental processes involved in listening to, creating, and performing music. Musical thinking is, however, a vast, complex issue that also implicates memory, emotion, language, culture, and the thinking body. To address such a highly interdisciplinary topic, articles in this entry draw mainly from music psychology, cognitive science, ethnomusicology, and music theory, complemented by work in related fields. Though publications in music psychology and neuroscience of music greatly outnumber contributions from the humanities, it is the intention of this article to present a balance of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Moreover, while scholarly methods, goals, and discourse often differ radically from one discipline to the next, there has been an increasing interest in cross-disciplinary dialogue in music and cognition research. Grouping scholarship by theme in this bibliography, as opposed to disciplinary approach, echoes that same intent. A bibliographic suite of sections follows this introduction, covering General Overviews, Reference Works, Review Articles, Journals, and popular works for a General Audience. The remaining sections take up a number of prominent research themes within music and cognition. Given music’s cognitive and social intricacies, rarely do scholars consider any single theme or aspect of music in total isolation. Instead, music-and-cognition research and theory often delights in productive pairings, such as emotion and perception, experience and meaning, movement and metaphor, and so on. Therefore, a recommended strategy in navigating this site is first to proceed to the desired headings, then conduct a keyword search, as topics will often appear under various headings. While not all themes find resonance across multiple disciplines, many do, indicating current or potentially new avenues for interdisciplinary investigation.

General Overviews

By way of an introduction to music and cognition, Grove’s entry “Psychology of Music” (Deutsch, et al. 2015) offers a fine entry point. The earliest book-length overviews come from music psychology as well. Dowling and Harwood 1986 and Sloboda 1985 are foundational textbooks, each written from a cognitive psychology perspective, with the former addressing many of the same topics in perception covered by Deutsch, et al. 2015. Zbikowski 2002 merits inclusion for addressing a central theme in cognitive music psychology—categorical organization in mental representation. Snyder 2000 presents the most comprehensive discussion of musical memory for a nontechnical audience. Thompson 2009 is among the most up-to-date of undergraduate-level music psychology textbooks. It is worth noting that, for the most part, the body of introductory and overview literature takes Western, tonal music as the basis of theory and experimentation. Cross-cultural efforts in music psychology, as well as ethnomusicological approaches, receive relatively scant attention in these works.

  • Deutsch, Diana, Alf Gabrielsson, John Sloboda, et al. “Psychology of Music.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2015.

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    Multiauthor overview by a collective of leading researchers, with sections devoted to main themes within 20th-century research. Though a single section, entitled “Perception and Cognition,” addresses cognitive research into pitch, rhythm, timbre, and memory, in truth all other sections of the article fall within the purview of music cognition scholarship. Available online by subscription.

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  • Dowling, W. Jay, and Dane L. Harwood. Music Cognition. Orlando: Academic Press, 1986.

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    Equal parts textbook and reference work, covering key concepts in music perception. Oriented more toward listening than performance, reflective of the authors’ research interests. Originally included an audiocassette! No known electronic publication or later editions.

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  • Sloboda, John A. The Musical Mind: The Cognitive Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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    Landmark textbook in the early, foundational stages of cognitive psychology of music. Offers a highly readable narrative overview of linguistics-based and other conceptual theories of musical representation. Dated at this point, yet the topics—origins, music and language, performance, listening, development, cultural relativity—all remain quite relevant.

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  • Sloboda, John A. Exploring the Musical Mind: Cognition, Emotion, Ability, Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198530121.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Single-author collection, with chapter-length discussions of theoretical and practical concerns in music psychology research, by a seminal figure in the field. Both a curated compendium of the author’s work and an ideological guide to the field.

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  • Snyder, Bob. Music and Memory: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2000.

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    Really two books in one. The first half offers an overview of how memory conditions acoustic perception and perceptual organization. Sections on grouping, short- and long-term memory, and especially schema theory are highly valuable in understanding mental representation in music cognition. The second half reflects more of the author’s own application of these concepts, exploring ideas about memory’s role in processing rhythm and melody, and in understanding large-scale form. Available online by subscription or purchase.

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  • Thompson, William Forde. Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Highly readable textbook for a college course in music psychology, intended for the uninitiated. Wide coverage of major themes in music psychology, with one chapter on music and the brain. Companion website with audio examples.

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  • Zbikowski, Lawrence M. Conceptualizing Music: Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. AMS Studies in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195140231.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive overview applying linguistic and cognitive science-based theories of categorical thinking to Western tonal music, with examples from Western classical music and jazz. Appeals most directly to music theorists, cognitive scientists, and musicians, yet generally accessible for nonspecialists in each of these fields.

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Reference Works

As distinct from more General Overviews, the sources in this section are all edited volumes or coauthored works, either recently written or newer editions of important references. Chapter-length articles in these works are grouped thematically in their tables of contents for ease of quick reference. With its emphasis on development, Colwell 2006 is of most interest to music educators and child psychologists. Featuring highly technical empirical research more appropriate for a specialized audience, Peretz and Zatorre 2003 seeks to launch cognitive neuroscience of music as a distinct field. Despite its relative age in a field driven by rapid technological advances, it remains a valuable reference. By contrast, the other two works included display a multitude of disciplinary perspectives. Cross and Hallam 2008 is more inclusive than other references but still leans heavily toward cognitive psychology. Deutsch 2013 is the third and most recent edition of the definitive reference in music psychology. This updated edition reflects the rising tide of both cross-cultural and computational research. While this edition boasts overall improvement in breadth and thematic organization, the 1999 edition of this work still merits consultation.

Review Articles

The selections here come from psychology, ethnomusicology, and cognitive science, and each treats one or more aspects of music and cognition from its particular disciplinary perspective. Taken as a whole, they speak to a vast diversity in approaches, concerns, knowledge goals, and methodologies, both across as well as within disciplines. Krumhansl 2000 is among the most widely cited accounts of pitch and rhythm in cognitive psychology. The emphasis is overwhelmingly on listening studies, and exclusively concerns Western tonal music—both indicative of the field, at least until recent years. Eerola and Vuoskoski 2013 takes up emotion as a central theme in cognitive music research, statistically analyzing research trends in an attempt to make sense of the myriad ways in which researchers approach music and emotion. Pearce and Rohrmeier 2012 considers music research within the larger context of cognitive science. Rather than defending music research as valuable in and of itself, music cognition research is seen as a rich avenue for expanding our knowledge of the human mind more generally. Zatorre, et al. 2007 is a highly valuable review of two foci within cognitive neuroscience—neuroimaging studies of motor action and audition—in service of better understanding the links between musical thinking and action.

  • Eerola, Tuomas, and Jonna K. Vuoskoski. “A Review of Music and Emotion Studies: Approaches, Emotion Models, and Stimuli.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 30.3 (2013): 307–340.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2012.30.3.307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the most recent of several articles reviewing the vast, diverse terrain of music and emotion research, with statistical analyses of the studies surveyed revealing some of the limitations and problematic trends of current research.

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  • Krumhansl, Carol L. “Rhythm and Pitch in Music Cognition.” Psychological Bulletin 126.1 (2000): 159–179.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.1.159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review article summing up research into rhythm and pitch. Most research referenced dates from 1980s and 1990s, with some early and/or foundational works. As with most research within psychology of music, the referenced research treats solely 18th–early 20th century Western art music (i.e., tonal, harmonic).

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  • Pearce, Marcus, and Martin Rohrmeier. “Music Cognition and the Cognitive Sciences.” Topics in Cognitive Science 4.4 (2012): 468–484.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01226.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review tracing the arc of music research within cognitive science, highlighting three aspects of music: its universal human practice, its role in development, and its cognitive complexity—as reasons music should figure more centrally in cognitive science. Implies cognitive music research serves a larger purpose of understanding the human mind.

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  • Zatorre, Robert J., Joyce L. Chen, and Virginia B. Penhune. “When the Brain Plays Music: Auditory-Motor Interactions in Music Perception and Production.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 8.7 (2007): 547–558.

    DOI: 10.1038/nrn2152Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review of cognitive neuroscience literature—research involving neuroimaging—on both motor-action and human audition, suggesting connections meaningful to music research. Given the technical level, intended more for cognitive scientists than for social psychologists and humanists. Still, valuable for those interested in connections between sound and movement in musical performance.

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Journals

The academic journals included here reflect some of the varied forms that music and cognition research assumes. While there is significant overlap in coverage among many of these selections, each journal has a unique mission and scope. First published in 1973, Psychology of Music is geared toward a readership from music education and developmental psychology, with empirical research addressing questions of musical learning and development, performance, and emotional response. Indicative of many primary and secondary music education programs in the United States and Europe, the paradigm is nearly exclusively Western art music-centric. That same trend can be observed in Musicae Scientiae, begun in 1997 as the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. Here, though, the scope is significantly wider, claiming to encompass all systematic, empirical music research as well as related theoretical and critical scholarship, and publishing in German and French in addition to English. Perhaps closest in profile among US journals is Psychomusicology, from 1981, given a shared emphasis between the two journals that also extends to cognitive neuroscience. First published in 2006, Empirical Musicology Review stands out on several fronts, beginning with its format—it features online open access, unusual for a peer reviewed journal. Additionally, one or more response papers accompany each main article. These factors, as well as the international reach of this journal, are all meant to foster increased scholarly exchange. The longer-running Music Perception, begun in 1983, defines itself as An Interdisciplinary Journal. Indeed, the journal published some of the landmark, early efforts in cross-cultural music psychology research. Seminal examples include Bharucha 1987 (cited under Auditory Grouping), Kessler, et al. 1984 (cited under Cross-Cultural Empirical Studies), and more recently, Iyer 2002 (cited under Embodied Music Cognition). Computer science and new media research figure strongly in the Journal of New Music Research, from 1994, in broad engagement with music theory, psychology, and acoustics. First published in 1953, Ethnomusicology is the longest running of these selections, and the leading journal in its discipline, presenting mostly qualitative, ethnographic research on music-making practices the world over. More recently begun is the open-access, online journal Analytical Approaches to World Music, supporting musical analysis and theorizing of non-Western, traditional musical systems and practices.

General Audience

Numerous books have appeared in the last twenty-five years addressing music and the mind for a general audience. Among the included works, the emotional and transformative power of music figures in all, but is a central theme in two works from the 1990s, beginning with Anthony Storr’s Music and the Mind (Storr 1992), which combines the psychiatrist/author’s personal insights into the origins and emotional power of music with an impressive array of scholarly references in psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and beyond. Jourdain 1997 balances an explanation of concepts in music psychology and cognitive science with anecdotal stories of extraordinary musical experience. In this millennium, Levitin 2006 manages an exceedingly accessible overview of major topics in music psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Sacks 2007 builds on the author’s long history of presenting in deeply humanistic terms the clinical tales of patients with neurological conditions. This time he focuses attention on the peculiar and powerful workings of music in the human mind and brain, both in everyday experience and in the rare cases of neuropathology. Levitin and Sacks have extensive credentials as researchers—Levitin is a professor of neuroscience, psychology, and music; Sacks was a professor of neurology and a practicing clinician. The most recent work cited here, Mannes 2011, comes from a documentary filmmaker, whose engaging interviews with neuroscientists and musicians scaffold a series of universalist-oriented questions that veer from a solid grounding in cognitive science to more pop-oriented theories of the cosmos.

  • Jourdain, Robert. Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination. New York: William Morrow, 1997.

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    Exploration of emotion in music, touching on perceptual organization, neuroscience of music, and basic principles in music-psychological theories of expectation. Critiqued for some inaccuracies, but overall still of value for a general audience, and still widely read. Reprinted in 2002.

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  • Levitin, Daniel J. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York: Dutton, 2006.

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    Best-selling overview of major themes in the neuroscience of music, intended for a popular audience. Despite a very conversational narrative style, manages to cover a lot of ground, with engaging, lucid chapters on perception and perceptual organization; rhythm, timbre, dynamics and harmony; musical categorization and expectation; and emotion, evolution, and aesthetics.

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  • Mannes, Elena. The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song. New York: Walker, 2011.

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    The author ranges over a number of universalist tropes in music science research, from biological origins and evolutionary advantage to infant development, citing both neuroscientists and iconic musicians. Cognitive science research sits at times uncomfortably alongside metaphysical theories of the cosmos in what is undoubtedly a work meant for a popular audience.

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  • Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York and Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

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    The author, a clinical neuropsychologist, narrates in engaging detail the unique capacity of music to affect people, in particular patients suffering from neurological disorders. He presents neurological insights in an easily understood prose. Footnotes throughout offer an extended conversation of the cognitive neuropsychology, which is more technical, yet no less accessibly rendered.

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  • Storr, Anthony. Music and the Mind. New York, Toronto: Free Press, 1992.

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    The author, a psychiatrist, muses on the origins, emotional power, and meaning of music, densely quoting from a wide panoply of sources across anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and Western art music composers. Accessible to a general audience.

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Cognition of Musical Elements

How the mind organizes basic components of sound into meaningful musical information is a foundational topic in music psychology. While some music theorists and cognitive psychologists have elaborated grand theories for tonal music that incorporate both pitch and temporal dimensions, empirical efforts in music psychology have traditionally divided perceptual organization into discreet units that map onto the elements of Western music, such as pitch, intervals, scales, timbre, rhythm, and meter. The subheading Auditory Grouping connects foundational works in both auditory perception/perceptual organization and tonal theory. The ideas in these landmark works address many components of music, and have greatly influenced research into the cognition of specific musical elements, subsumed under three subheadings: Pitch, Scales, Melody; Rhythm, Meter, Timing; and Timbre. It is important to bear in mind that empirical music research in psychology is overwhelmingly oriented toward Western, tonal music—what an average Western listener might term “classical music.” To the degree that these categories apply to music making on a more global scale, ethnomusicologists have also focused on rhythmic, melodic, and timbral dimensions of music making within and across various music-cultural systems.

Auditory Grouping

Auditory grouping refers to related sets of ideas about how the mind perceptually organizes sound and creates mental representations, or schemata, in order make musical sense of auditory information. These selections mark a few of the key works linking auditory perception to cognitive theories of tonal music. Helmholtz 1912 (originally published in 1859) stands as the foundational work on psychoacoustics, exploring how the perception of pitch, understood in terms of frequency, gives rise to scales, chords, and Western tonality. First published in 1859, it is an important, albeit distant, precursor to later cognitivist approaches in music theory and psychology. Bregman 1990 is the most significant work in auditory perceptual organization to follow Helmholtz’s work, benefitting from several important developments in the 130-year interim, most importantly Gestalt psychology. Gestalt principles inform Bregman’s empirically supported theory of “auditory scene analysis,” which describes how, on a basic level, the mind streams sound into distinct, recognizable units (e.g., pitch, melody, rhythm). Closely related is Handel 1993, which provides a full treatment of acoustics before addressing similarities in the perception of auditory events between speech and music. With the development of hierarchical models of mental representation, auditory grouping moves from basic perceptual organization more squarely into the realm of music cognition. By far the most comprehensive theoretical articulation of tonality as a system of hierarchical structure comes from Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (GTTM), which takes a linguistic, syntactic approach that extends beyond pitch, melody, and harmony to encompass rhythm, meter, and form. The joint venture of a composer and a linguist, it would be hard to overstate the impact the authors’ work has had on music theory and the psychology of music. Prior to, but especially in the wake of, GTTM, researchers have pursued an understanding of the cognitive-psychological processes that give rise to, and dynamically reshape, mental representations of music, exemplified by Bharucha 1987. The computational models of Temperley 2001 and others have provided a rich direction for exploring hypotheses about the cognition of musical structures, from the most basic functions of pitch spelling to robust models of meter and harmony. These references barely scratch the surface of work on mental representation, which is further addressed under various themes throughout this bibliography. In addition to the subheadings on musical elements, see relevant sources especially in the context of Memory for Music, Music for Memory; Emotion and Musical Meaning; Embodied Music Cognition; and Language and Music in Cognition.

  • Bharucha, Jamshed J. “Music Cognition and Perceptual Facilitation: A Connectionist Framework.” Music Perception (1987): 1–30.

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    Explores how mental representation schemata might be activated and reshaped through musical experience. Argues for a bidirectional cognitive communication between sensory input and structural organization. Influential article both for its use of computational modeling and for its cross-cultural approach, with parallel experiments using Western harmonic and Indian musical examples.

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  • Bregman, Albert S. Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1990.

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    An 800-page treatise on auditory perception and its organization in both music and speech. Critical reference, with the most in-depth discussion of schema theory to date. However, it is highly technical, and quite challenging even for scholarly audiences in psychology, acoustics, or music. Available online by subscription or purchase.

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  • Handel, Stephen. Listening: An Introduction to the Perception of Auditory Events. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1993.

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    Introduction to auditory perception, exploring the shared strategies in perceptual organization between speech and music. For the most part accessible to a lay audience. Today, the idea that we cognitively process music and speech (or language) has come under criticism, though Patel 2007 (cited under Language and Music in Cognition) sides convincingly with Handel.

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  • Helmholtz, Hermann von. On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. 4th English ed. Translated by Alexander J. Ellis. London and New York: Longmans, Green, 1912.

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    Landmark study in acoustics and auditory perception, elaborating a theory of Western music grounded in the physics of sound. Despite much new research invalidating Helmholtz’s ideas on music theory, it remains a valuable reference in sonic perception. First English edition published in 1875. German original in 1859. A reprint of the 3rd (revised) edition is available online from the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Several other editions are freely available online. The most accessible printed version is the 2nd English edition (Dover Publications, 1954).

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  • Lerdahl, Fred, and Ray Jackendoff. A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1983.

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    Groundbreaking theory of Western tonal music based on Chomskian linguistics and notions of musical intuition, arguing that listeners construct a mental hierarchy of structural components, creating something akin to a linguistic syntax. Despite critiques, aspects of the theory remain influential in cognitive psychology, computational musicology, and music theory. Reprint, 1996. Available online by subscription or purchase.

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  • Temperley, David. The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2001.

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    This music theorist’s computational models of musical structure based on a preference rule system have been widely influential, particularly as applied to musical rhythm.

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Pitch, Scales, Melody

The work of a preeminent scholar in her field, Krumhansl 2000 lays out the music psychology scholarship on both pitch and rhythm, considered the two central building blocks that give rise to scales, melody, harmony, meter, and larger form in Western music. Krumhansl 2001 offers a book-length treatment of the topic of pitch, foregrounding the author’s own, considerable contributions. Regarding tonal relations, musical scales, and melody, three influential works address how a sense of melody emerges from the perception of sequences of pitches in time: Longuet-Higgins 1976, by a pioneer in computer modeling of music; Dowling 1978, whose psychological focus extends to memory; and Palmer and Krumhansl 1987, concerned with parsing out how melodic phrases derive from both pitch- and time-based mental representations.

  • Dowling, W Jay. “Scale and Contour: Two Components of a Theory of Memory for Melodies.” Psychological Review 85.4 (1978): 341.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.85.4.341Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influential study on how people remember melody, based on the theory that scales constitute a constant, and independent, reference in memory.

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  • Krumhansl, Carol L. “Rhythm and Pitch in Music Cognition.” Psychological Bulletin 126.1 (2000): 159–179.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.1.159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review article summing up research into rhythm and pitch. Most research referenced dates from 1980s and 1990s, with some early and/or foundational works. As with most research within psychology of music, the referenced research treats solely 18th–early 20th century Western art music (i.e., tonal, harmonic).

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  • Krumhansl, Carol L. Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch. Oxford Psychology Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195148367.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview of this leading researcher’s influential work, alongside other notable scholarship, on the perceptual organization of musical pitch and rhythm in Western tonal music. Though centering on Western tonality, or musical key, chapter 10 discusses atonal and seminal cross-cultural research. Empirical studies of listeners’ experience.

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  • Longuet-Higgins, H. C. “Perception of Melodies.” Nature 263.5579 (1976): 646–653.

    DOI: 10.1038/263646a0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Article detailing one of the earliest computer programs designed to transcribe live musical performance. Groundbreaking in its use of a software program to model a human’s perceptual organization of musical melody. Significantly, it is limited in scope to classically trained, Western musicians.

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  • Palmer, Caroline, and Carol L. Krumhansl. “Independent Temporal and Pitch Structures in Determination of Musical Phrases.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 13.1 (1987): 116–126.

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    Experiment investigating people’s opinions of what constitutes a melodic phrase, comparing the effect of temporal and pitch structures, and finding that time and pitch distinctly affect what participants judged to be a complete phrase. Complicates prior hierarchical theories of perceptual organization, and especially encouraging for later computational work on feature extraction.

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Rhythm, Meter, Timing

Musical time holds a particular fascination for music scholars, as the phenomenological sense of time is so central to human cognitive experience. Given the massive literature on rhythm, meter, and timing, the strategy adopted here guides readers to a few key works and presents a plurality of theoretical perspectives from psychology, neuroscience, and ethnomusicology. Readers should first consult the works under Auditory Grouping for more general principles in the perceptual organization of music, ideas that crucially inform most of the work presented in this section. Clarke 1999 remains one of the most widely cited overviews, providing a comprehensive discussion of the psychology of musical rhythm and timing, and incorporating theories and research in neurophysiology and biomechanics. Vuust, et al. 2014 brings the literature up to date while offering a neurologically grounded theory of metrical expectation. The authors’ theory builds on what has become the mainstream cognitive-psychological view of rhythm, meter, and timing, wherein rhythm is seen as sensory input that the brain then seeks to organize into small, regular, metric structures. This idea of a mental representation for meter is developed in several earlier works, including Palmer and Krumhansl 1990 and Clarke 1987. As Clarke notes, temporal deviations in this view are seen as either accidental “errors” or as expressive gestures, a somewhat reductive and problematic notion taken up in Iyer 2002 (cited under Embodied Music Cognition) and shared by many other scholars of jazz and non-Western musics. All of the aforementioned works (save Iyer) reflect a strong emphasis on listening and an overall Western orientation in music psychology. A host of other sources expands the scope of research to include experiential, performative, and non-Western art music perspectives. Gabrielsson 2000 complements Clarke’s overview, shifting the focus to expressive and nonmetrical timing in performance. London 2004 offers a book-length treatment of meter that accounts for both listener and performer experience. Meter for London involves a behavioral process of mental and physical entrainment, subject to “metric well-formedness constraints” that delimit the cognitive-psychological possibilities, a theory intended to apply broadly to music making on a global scale (cf. Clayton, et al. 2005, cited under Cognitive Ethnomusicology). It is thus productive to read London alongside Locke 2011, which articulates a concept of “simultaneous multidimensionality” for the multitude of rhythmic feels that can arise in consciousness when participating in West African drumming. Avorgbedor 1987 is another ethnographically and phenomenologically informed analysis of rhythm in African musical systems. Avorgbedor offers a qualitative rejoinder to objective, structuralist, and isolated analyses of rhythm and timing, emphasizing instead the social contexts, functions, and experiential dimensions that inform and give meaning to music-makers’ own cognitive concepts of musical time. See also Agawu 2006 (cited under Cognitive Ethnomusicology) and Clayton 2007 (cited under Gesture and Communication).

  • Avorgbedor, Daniel. “The Construction and Manipulation of Temporal Structures in ‘Yeve’ Cult Music: A Multi-Dimensional Approach.” African Music 6.4 (1987): 4–18.

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    Presents an analysis of musical time for the Anlo-Ewe of Ghana. Argues against objective, quantitative analyses devoid of social context, instead presenting a more complex picture of rhythm and timing as they relate to other musical elements, like timbre, and moreover to social function in ritual. Available online by subscription.

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  • Clarke, Eric F. “Categorical Rhythmic Perception: An Ecological Perspective.” In Action and Perception in Rhythm and Music. Edited by Alf Gabrielsson, 19–33. Kungl. Musikaliska Akademiens Skriftserie 55. Stockholm: Royal Swedish Academy of Music, 1987.

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    Applies Gibson’s ideas on affordance in ecological perception to musical listening, arguing that listeners organize temporal information in stable groups of two or three units, and filter sounds that don’t fit into a realm of expressive or accidental microtiming.

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  • Clarke, Eric F. “Rhythm and Timing in Music.” In The Psychology of Music. 2d ed. Edited by Diana Deutsch, 473–500. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1999.

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    Very useful overview chapter, perhaps most valuable for its subsection on “rhythm, timing, and movement.” Highlights therein include models of meter perception, debates as to whether people move to an internal clock or in response to external musical properties, and the possibility that our auditory system engages with two distinct motoric subsystems, at fast (foot-tapping beat or pulse level) and slower (bodily sway) levels.

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  • Gabrielsson, Alf. “Timing in Music Performance and Its Relations to Music Experience.” In Generative Processes in Music. Edited by John A. Sloboda, 27–51. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Extended theoretical discussion of timing in performance, especially as it affects emotional communication. Marks an intervention in the context of music psychology’s general orientation to the listener’s perspective, as the author is a leading researcher of action and performance in music psychology. First published 1988.

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  • Locke, David. “The Metric Matrix: Simultaneous Multidimensionality in African Music.” Analytical Approaches to World Music 1.1 (2011): 48–72.

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    Drawing on his experience as a performer, student, and teacher of Dagomba and Ewe musics of Ghana, Locke outlines his idea of “simultaneous multidimensionality,” the coexisting, ever-metamorphosizing, variety of temporal organizations or rhythmic feels of which West African dance-drumming is generative, within what he terms a twelve-beat “metric matrix.”

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  • London, Justin. Hearing in Time: Psychological Aspects of Musical Meter. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195160819.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A theoretical account of meter as an embodied-psychological process of entrainment to the rhythms that one encounters in the world (musical and otherwise). The author argues that musical meter is subject to a set of human physiological and cognitive, as well as mathematical, constraints. Generally accessible for the mathematically inclined, aside from some technical terminology. Analyses of West African and Indian rhythmic systems, jazz, and Western art music.

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  • Palmer, Caroline, and Carol L. Krumhansl. “Mental Representations for Musical Meter.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 16.4 (1990): 728–741.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.16.4.728Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two prominent figures in music psychology research argue that rhythmic perception involves, as in perception more generally, a process of mentally structuring sound to fit a regular pattern. Draws on foundational work by Cooper and Myer, Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983 (cited under Auditory Grouping), and Longuet-Higgins and Lee. One of the most widely cited and influential references on musical meter.

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  • Vuust, Peter, Line K. Gebauer, and Maria A. G. Witek. “Neural Underpinnings of Music: The Polyrhythmic Brain.” In Neurobiology of Interval Timing. Edited by Hugo Merchant and Victor de Lafuente, 339–356. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 829. New York: Springer, 2014.

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    Neuroscientists present an expectation-based theory for the cognition of complex musical rhythm grounded in the brain’s evolutionarily adapted need to predict future events. Includes a cogent review of the rhythm and timing literature. Worthy of inclusion for the excellent reference list alone, despite some omissions, most glaringly Huron 2006 (cited under Expectation and Everyday Experience) in a theoretical discussion of pleasurable musical expectation.

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Timbre

Studies concerning the perception of musical timbre (aka tone color, or tonal quality) take root in the 19th-century psychoacoustic investigations of Herman von Helmholtz, who viewed timbre in terms of the relative dynamics of a sound’s harmonic partials, or overtones (see Helmholtz 1912, cited under Auditory Grouping). Major advances in the understanding of timbral perception came much later, with the rise of digital music synthesis in the 1960s and 1970s. Taking into account not only spectral, but also temporal dimensions of musical timbre, computer musicians and researchers created timbre-space models representing timbral perception in two- and three-dimensional graphs (e.g., Grey 1977, Wessel 1979). These models could then be used to inform the creation of new synthesized sounds, as well as in sound analysis. Risset and Wessel 1999 contextualizes this history, providing a thorough account of timbre in musical synthesis and the use of synthesized sounds in timbral analysis. A more general overview can be found in McAdams and Giordano 2008, which brings the literature more up to date. The authors also discuss studies of timbre in the context of identifying musical instruments, as well as addressing the role of timbre in larger-scale musical form. Among the few studies of timbre perception in neuroscience, Samson and Zatorre 1994 explores the diminished music-perceptual abilities of patients with brain lesions or lobe excisions, seeking to map where music-timbral perception occurs in the brain. While the aesthetic value of timbre has figured in ethnomusicological literature, Fales 2002 argues that its importance in musical experience has been heretofore neglected, a situation Fales’s theoretical and ethnographic work aims to redress.

  • Fales, Cornelia. “The Paradox of Timbre.” Ethnomusicology 46.1 (2002): 56–95.

    DOI: 10.2307/852808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Valuable and rare intervention in ethnomusicology exploring the significance of timbre in musical experience. A theoretical explanation precedes the author’s account of timbral manipulation in Burundi’s Whispered Inanga, a vocal genre recorded by Alan Merriam in 1950.

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  • Grey, John M. “Multidimensional Perceptual Scaling of Musical Timbres.” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 61.5 (1977): 1270–1277.

    DOI: 10.1121/1.381428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Groundbreaking work in the analysis of musical timbre. For those new to timbral studies or the role of computer analysis, provides a lucid explanation of multidimensional scaling and the kinds of experiments that researchers have used to generate three-dimensional maps of timbral space.

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  • McAdams, Stephen, and Bruno L. Giordano. “The Perception of Musical Timbre.” In The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. Edited by Ian Cross, Susan Hallam, and Michael Thaut, 72–80. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199298457.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview of the perception of musical timbre, describing two approaches in the empirical study of timbre: a timbre-space model that graphically maps out listener’s ideas about perceived timbral similarity across a set of sounds, and studies that test listener’s perception of an instrument’s identity. The list of works cited is a valuable reference for formative literature on timbre in music psychology and computer synthesis.

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  • Risset, Jean-Claude, and David Wessel. “Exploration of Timbre by Analysis and Synthesis.” In The Psychology of Music. 2d ed. Edited by Diana Deutsch, 113–169. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1999.

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    Overview of research on timbre by two pioneers in computer music. From the second edition of The Psychology of Music, the article was not included in the third edition.

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  • Samson, Severine, and Robert J. Zatorre. “Contribution of the Right Temporal Lobe to Musical Timbre Discrimination.” Neuropsychologia 32.2 (1994): 231–240.

    DOI: 10.1016/0028-3932(94)90008-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among the relatively few empirical studies of timbre in neuroscience, suggests a neural basis for timbral processing, citing evidence that the right temporal lobe serves a dominant role in processing timbre. One of a series of articles coauthored by Zatorre and various colleagues in cognitive neuroscience exploring the loss of musical and speech functionality following temporal lobectomy or brain lesion.

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  • Wessel, David L. “Timbre Space as a Musical Control Structure.” Computer Music Journal 3.2 (1979): 45–52.

    DOI: 10.2307/3680283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Early work in digital synthesis on the novel use of timbre as a music-compositional tool. Additionally valuable for a brief, accessible account of timbral space.

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Memory for Music, Music for Memory

Whether listening, playing, composing, or imagining, memory is implicated in our every musical action and thought; as such it figures at least indirectly in all music cognition research. Memory has also been a rich site for direct investigation, specifically as it relates to mental imagery of music. Snyder 2000 provides one of the more comprehensive book-length theoretical treatments of musical memory, applying ideas about auditory perception and perceptual organization to an account of how adult listeners process musical structures of melody, rhythm, and larger-scale form. Saffran 2003 discusses these memory mechanisms in the context of infant development, highlighting infants’ surprising, long-term memory for melody. Memory for pitch sequences (i.e., melodic memory) and the phenomenon of absolute pitch have been especially fruitful areas for empirical research, as discussed in Levitin 1994 and Dowling 1978 (cited under Pitch, Scales, Melody). Other scholars have pursued greater understanding of memory in performance. Caroline Palmer is a leading figure in this area, with Finney and Palmer 2003 marking an important early contribution. Like Palmer and others, David Rubin is interested in skilled and expert memory—how people learn and recall long sequences of information. In his classic study of epic poetry and other oral traditions, Rubin 1995, he develops a theory for serial recall that considers the cognitive constraints imposed by human memory. A good deal of the literature on memory, from infant development through to listening and performance research, reflects ongoing, larger scholarly debates about similarities and differences in the neurological pathways and mental structures and processes that underlie Language and Music in Cognition. Looking beyond memory for musical tasks, ongoing music-language debates and (largely debunked) claims of a “Mozart effect” on spatial reasoning and general intelligence have sparked a resurgent wave of scholarly and popular interest in what music can do for memory more generally. Earlier precedents date at least to Paul Whiteley’s work in the 1930s. Chan, et al. 1998 is one of several early studies suggesting that musical training improves verbal memory. A more recent review, Schulze and Koelsch 2012, brings up to date both neurological and behavioral research on music and speech processing in short-term, or working memory. In the interim, music-and-memory research has argued more persuasively for the value of music in a variety of non-music-learning contexts, as well as in the potential treatment of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Insights by Janata 2009 and others into the brain’s interrelated processing of music, autobiographical memory, and emotion, are beginning to illuminate the neurology that underpins the most intimate, affective dimensions of musical memory, offering other possible avenues for cognitive music therapy. See also Music and Cognitive Disorders.

  • Chan, Agnes S., Yim-Chi Ho, and Mei-Chun Cheung. “Music Training Improves Verbal Memory.” Nature 396.6707 (1998): 128.

    DOI: 10.1038/24075Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the several early fMRI-based studies of memory, this brief article describes an experiment that compared the relative sizes of brain regions for musicians and non-musicians with a test of verbal memory, finding that the musicians had superior recall for spoken words. The suggestion that musical training may improve memory has spurred a wealth of subsequent research into the educational and therapeutic potential of musical listening and learning.

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  • Finney, Steven A., and Caroline Palmer. “Auditory Feedback and Memory for Music Performance: Sound Evidence for an Encoding Effect.” Memory & Cognition 31.1 (2003): 51–64.

    DOI: 10.3758/BF03196082Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empirical study of a pianist’s memorization of musical pieces from written notation, and later recall, suggesting that auditory feedback (i.e., hearing what you play, as you play) is a significant aid in learning. Interestingly, auditory feedback appears to be less critical to performance, supporting the idea that music performance principally involves motor memory.

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  • Janata, Petr. “The Neural Architecture of Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories.” Cerebral Cortex (February 2009).

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    An fMRI-based study in which participants heard popular music from their youth suggested that music and autobiographical memory are linked in the brain. According to the author, the key to this connection is that music cues “emotionally salient” memories from our past. Though nonspecialists will skip the technical passages, the article is of value to all interested in music, memory, and emotion. Open access online.

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  • Levitin, Daniel J. “Absolute Memory for Musical Pitch: Evidence from the Production of Learned Melodies.” Perception & Psychophysics 56.4 (1994): 414–423.

    DOI: 10.3758/BF03206733Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experiment testing extent both musicians’ and non-musicians’ ability to sing back a pitch from melody, based on popular songs familiar to the participants. Separating out the ability to name a heard pitch from the ability to sing it from memory, the study suggests that absolute pitch memory may be more common than previously suspected.

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  • Rubin, David C. Memory in Oral Traditions: The Cognitive Psychology of Epics, Ballads, and Counting-Out Rhymes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    Groundbreaking book applying theories about how memory works to a study of epic poetry and other oral traditions. The author’s main contribution, a theory of how people recall sequences of information through a series of cues, has found reception among musicologists and theorists, as it has important implications for understanding how music is structured, composed, memorized, and recalled in performance.

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  • Saffran, Jenny R. “Mechanisms of Musical Memory in Infancy.” In The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music. Edited by Isabelle Peretz and Robert J. Zatorre, 33–42. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198525202.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author, a child development psychologist, presents an overview of recent research on infant memory for music, considering possible overlaps in how infants process musical and speech sounds. Most exciting is the suggestion that infants seem to possess incredible long-term memory for musical pieces, and can recognize them even in transposition to a new key. Clear prose, accessible to an undergraduate audience in child development, general psychology, or music.

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  • Schulze, Katrin, and Stefan Koelsch. “Working Memory for Speech and Music.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1252 (2012): 229–236.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06447.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Thorough review article on the relationship between music and language in working memory (WM), or short-term memory, based on Baddeley’s widely embraced WM model and referencing Berz’s adaptation of the model for music. Valuable for covering both behavioral and neuroscientific research.

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  • Snyder, Bob. Music and Memory: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2000.

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    Detailed and rich discussions relating theories about how human memory functions to ideas about musical structure. Despite the technical complexity of some cognitive theories, the text is engaging and accessible to musicians and non-musicians alike. Focuses on cognitive experience of listening, rather than addressing memory as deployed in musical action. Valuable as an introduction to cognitive theories of memory and mental representations of musical structure. Available online by subscription or purchase.

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Embodied Music Cognition

The embodied approach to cognition is informed by the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty and others in the philosophy of mind, whose ideas reject the Cartesian dualism dividing mind and body, instead arguing that people think, experience, and derive meaning in the world through a bodily engagement with the world. Part of the aim of embodied cognition is to put philosophy in dialogue with psychology and cognitive science. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s work on metaphor has been influential in this realm, with Johnson 1987 (The Body in the Mind) a touchstone inspiring the embodied approach across many disciplines, including music. Embodied music cognition can also be seen in terms of a departure from music psychology’s focus on fixed structures of perception, in favor of a more inclusive model for integrating sensory/perceptive and performative/motor aspects of music cognition. While Reybrouk 2001 and Leman 2008 address embodied cognition in musical listening, and Hahn 2007 reflexively considers embodied mind in the learning of dance, much of the scholarship centers on movement in musical performance. This is especially true within ethnomusicology. Iyer 2002 is just one example answering the call of Baily 1992 (cited under Motor Action and Movement), Walker 2000 and others for whom the embodied paradigm suggests a rich site of mutual engagement for ethnomusicology and cognitive science. Such calls echo John Blacking’s earlier appeal, in Blacking 1977, to foreground the role of the body in ethnomusicology, and anthropology more generally. (See also Culture in Music Cognition.) Along with the aforementioned scholarship, works under the subheadings Motor Action and Movement and Gesture and Communication encapsulate some of the main directions an embodied approach has taken. Together they highlight input from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

  • Blacking, John. “Towards an Anthropology of the Body.” In The Anthropology of the Body. Edited by John Blacking, 1–28. London, New York: Academic Press, 1977.

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    A pioneer in ethnomusicology draws from phenomenology and Durkheimian social theory to lay out a theoretical charter for anthropology and ethnomusicology where bodily thinking, movement, and nonverbal communication predominate. He balances interest in biologically and cognitively shared universals with strong cultural relativism. Largely predates the field of embodied cognition.

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  • Hahn, Tomie. Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007.

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    Ethnography investigating the role of the moving, sensing body in knowledge and transmission of the Japanese traditional dance form nihon buyo. Connects sensory knowledge to cultural norms of expression and conduct. A highly personal, self-reflective, engagingly narrative example of participant-observation methodology. Includes a DVD of video examples.

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  • Iyer, Vijay. “Embodied Mind, Situated Cognition, and Expressive Microtiming in African-American Music.” Music Perception 19.3 (2002): 387–414.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2002.19.3.387Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Both theoretical essay and case study. Clearly articulates an overview of theories of embodied and situated cognition as they apply to music perception and performance. Using computational methods alongside music transcription in written notation, analyzes the micro-rhythmic expression in two jazz pieces, culturally contextualizing an embodied-cognition approach to rhythm-and-timing music research.

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  • Johnson, Mark. The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Paperback ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

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    Landmark work in embodied cognition, building on earlier and equally influential work on the centrality of bodily-derived metaphor in human cognition and meaning making. Influential far beyond philosophy of mind, and part of the theoretical scaffolding for most work on embodied music cognition across cognitive science, ethnomusicology, and psychology.

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  • Leman, Marc. Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008.

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    Robust theoretical treatise on embodied music communication, centering on the human body as the heretofore missing link, or “mediator,” between subjective accounts of cognitive experience and objective observations of sound. Challenging on technical and philosophical levels.

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  • Reybrouk, Mark. “Musical Imagery between Sensory Processing and Ideomotor Simulation.” In Musical Imagery. Edited by Rolf Inge Godøy and Harald Jørgensen, 117–136. Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger, 2001.

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    Presenting the idea of enactive listening, the author is “in favour of a combined approach of both sensory processing and imaginative reconstruction of the mind” (p. 117). Such a model draws on findings in neuroscience linking areas of sensory perception and action in the brain, and sees working memory as proactive, anticipating and shaping incoming perceptions, tying what we perceive to imagined actions. Available online.

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  • Walker, Margaret E. “Movement and Metaphor: Towards an Embodied Theory of Music Cognition and Hermeneutics.” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 145 (2000): 27–42.

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    Salvo staking out theoretical ground for an embodied music cognition approach in ethnomusicology. By extension, the author is arguing for a place for ethnomusicology and anthropology within cognitive science research. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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Motor Action and Movement

There is a vast and ever-growing body of work on motor aspects of music in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Much of this research follows one or both of two approaches: fMRI neuroimaging maps of brain activity during performance, and empirical studies that address one or another parameter of music perception or performative recall. In both cases, researchers focus predominantly on Western-art-music instrumentalists (mostly pianists, but also players of strings and woodwinds), and how musicians depend on an integrated use of these and other sensory modes (visual, proprioceptive) in performance. Zatorre, et al. 2007 offers a broad survey of the audition and motor-action literature in neuroscience, highlighting where these systems seem to overlap in both listeners and performers Altenmüller, et al. 2006 is a similarly valuable reference, more narrowly devoted to neurological function in musicians’ brains. Prominent research concerns include sensory and temporal coordination in performance, as in Palmer, et al. 2009, motoric and other forms of musical memory, as in an early work by that same lead author, as in Palmer 2006, and the interface between musician and instrument, as discussed in Edlund 1997. On this latter theme in ethnomusicology, see Baily 1992.

  • Altenmüller, Eckart, Jurg Kesselring, and Mario Wiesendanger, eds. Music, Motor Control and the Brain. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298723.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume covering performance-oriented research in music cognition, with special attention to sensorimotor integration. EEG and fMRI-based empirical studies relate musical movement to neuroanatomy, with some research into motor dysfunction and possible therapies.

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  • Baily, John. “Music Performance, Motor Structure, and Cognitive Models.” In European Studies in Ethnomusicology. Edited by Max Peter Baumann, Artur Simon, and Ulrich Wegner. Berlin: International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation, 1992.

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    Gives historical context of psychological and anthropological approaches to musical thinking, then uses the author’s generative grammar for Afghan rubab playing as an example of how ethnomusicology ought to develop its own cognitive theories of musical performance. Highly accessible read for an undergraduate audience.

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  • Edlund, Bengt. “Motor Patterns and Musical Structure.” In 3rd Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM). Edited by Alf Gabrielsson. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1997.

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    Brief exploration of the relationship between particular human-musical instrument interfaces and perceived musical structure, using Western classical instruments (piano, violin, woodwind, organ) and musical examples (Chopin). Valuable in conversation with other research on role of instruments in embodied musical thinking and performance. General, somewhat subjective conclusions, and no citations.

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  • Palmer, Caroline. “Nature of Memory for Music Performance Skills.” In Music, Motor Control and the Brain. Edited by Eckart Altenmüller, Jurg Kesselring, and Mario Wiesendanger, 39–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298723.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cites both brain imaging studies of mental rehearsal and listening, and behavioral experiments around classical piano performance, as evidence that performing musicians possess and utilize both motoric and melodic forms of memory. Easy to follow, requires very little musical or cognitive-science knowledge to follow the argument.

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  • Palmer, Caroline, Erik Koopmans, Janeen D. Loehr, and Christine Carter. “Movement-Related Feedback and Temporal Accuracy in Clarinet Performance.” Music Perception 26.5 (2009): 439–449.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2009.26.5.439Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of clarinetists’ finger movements suggests that, not only movement, but especially tactile feedback from making contact with one’s instrument, helps a musician play in time. Of particular interest to music educators and those interested in how musicians think through their particular instruments.

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  • Zatorre, Robert J., Joyce L. Chen, and Virginia B. Penhune. “When the Brain Plays Music: Auditory-Motor Interactions in Music Perception and Production.” Nature Review Neuroscience 8.7 (2007): 547–558.

    DOI: 10.1038/nrn2152Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review of cognitive neuroscience literature—research involving neuroimaging—on both motor-action and human audition, suggesting connections meaningful to music research. Given the technical level, intended more for cognitive scientists than for social psychologists and humanists. Still, valuable for those interested in connections between sound and movement in musical performance.

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Gesture and Communication

Research on musical gesture and other forms of nonverbal communication bring an embodiment perspective to work on musical transmission, ensemble coordination, emotion, and meaning. Godøy and Leman 2010 and Gritten and King 2011 both seek to bring together in single volumes a cacophony of diverse and often competing perspectives, assembling music theorists, neuroscientists, psychobiologists and ethnomusicologists. Some examples of the directions taken include the following: Vines, et al. 2004 and others considers links between gesture, emotion, and underlying musical structure; Williamon and Davidson 2002 and Goebl and Palmer 2009 (cited under Interaction and Ensemble Coordination), along with other works by cognitive neuroscientists, explore how ensemble performers coordinate timing; Clayton 2007, Fatone 2010, and Rahaim 2008 are works by ethnomusicologists that explore how bodily gestures map onto rhythmic structure, melodic contour, and other representational and communicative modalities of musical imagery.

  • Clayton, Martin. “Time, Gesture and Attention in a Khyal Performance.” Asian Music 38.2 (2007): 71–96.

    DOI: 10.1353/amu.2007.0032Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Builds on the author’s earlier thinking on entrainment in Clayton, et al. 2005 (cited under Cognitive Ethnomusicology), showing how gestural behavior on the part of both audience members and performers of an Indian rāg maps onto rhythmic structures in the music. Rhythmic coordination is viewed as a social communication integral to the meaningful experience of music.

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  • Fatone, Gina. “‘You’ll Break Your Heart, Trying to Play It Like You Sing It’: Intermodal Imagery and the Transmission of Scottish Classical Bagpiping.” Ethnomusicology 54.3 (2010): 395–424.

    DOI: 10.5406/ethnomusicology.54.3.0395Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on an ethnography of lessons learning Highland Bagpiping, the author considers her teachers’ use of sung vocables, physical gestures, and metaphors of motion as examples of intermodal imagery, a complex of mental representations critical to the pedagogical communication of musical intention. Valuable contribution to ethnomusicological thought on embodied music cognition.

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  • Godøy, Rolf Inge, and Marc Leman, eds. Musical Gestures: Sound, Movement, and Meaning. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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    Eclectic range of perspectives on “gesture” in music, spanning music theorists, cognitive psychologists, ethnomusicologists, physiologists, and computer scientists. The editors’ working definition of musical gesture as meaningful musical movement opens a further set of questions about how meaning is negotiated between intention, reception, subjective experience, and objective observation. Its value as a collection lies precisely in the diverse set of often incompatible attempts to answer these questions.

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  • Gritten, Anthony, and Elaine King, eds. New Perspectives on Music and Gesture. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Edited volume, gathering a broadly interdisciplinary range of theoretical and practical perspectives on gesture. Updates and expands scope of a previous volume, Music and Gesture (Gritten and King, Ashgate, 2006).

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  • Rahaim, Matt. “Gesture and Melody in Indian Vocal Music.” Gesture 8.3 (2008): 325–347.

    DOI: 10.1075/gest.8.3.04rahSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on the author’s dissertation fieldwork in India, this article explores connections between singing and physical gesture—hand, arm, head movement—in khyal, a Hindustani vocal music. Instead of acting as a metaphor or direct correspondence to melody, the author presents gesture as an alternate modality for musical expression, and an embodied component in the musical transmission in a lineage of successive teacher-student relationships. Of interest to ethnomusicologists, performance studies students and scholars, and music educators.

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  • Vines, Bradley W., Marcelo M. Wanderley, Carol L. Krumhansl, Regina L. Nuzzo, and Daniel J. Levitin. “Performance Gestures of Musicians: What Structural and Emotional Information Do They Convey?” In Gesture-Based Communication in Human-Computer Interaction. Edited by Antonio Camurri and Gualtiero Volpe, 2915, 468–478. Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1007/b95740Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lab experiment in which musicians were asked to use sliders on a console to judge phrasing and tension in the (visual and/or auditory) experience of a solo clarinet performance of Stravinsky. Functional data analysis was employed as a novel statistical method to assess participants’ responses over time throughout the performance.

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  • Williamon, Aaron, and Jane W. Davidson. “Exploring Co-Performer Communication.” Musicae Scientiae 6.1 (2002): 53–72.

    DOI: 10.1177/102986490200600103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empirical study of interaction in the rehearsal and performance of a piano duet, highlighting nonverbal gestures and visual communication, using video and interview data.

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Culture in Music Cognition

Music psychology and cognitive neuroscience have historically focused on musical behavior and thought from a Western, tonal perspective. As Cross 2012 reports, researchers readily concede the empirical and ethical dangers of relying solely on any single paradigm to make more universal claims about music and experience, yet they have made relatively few efforts to test theories in non-Western musical contexts. Cross-Cultural Empirical Studies are increasing, however, as researchers recognize a need to explore the differentiating effect of culture on music perception and cognition. By contrast, while ethnomusicology’s origins lie in comparative musicology, for the most part the field has been characterized by qualitative research focusing on a single, geographic area or cultural group, and privileging indigenous forms of musical knowledge and meaning. An emergent Cognitive Ethnomusicology draws from theories in cognitive science, at times integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches.

  • Cross, Ian. “Cognitive Science and the Cultural Nature of Music.” Topics in Cognitive Science 4.4 (2012): 668–677.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01216.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Briefly critiques the ethnocentric bias of the approach taken in cognitive psychology and neuroscience of music, arguing for research in “music as manifested and conceived in the broad spectrum of world cultures” (p. 668). References only a few works in ethnomusicology, indicative of just how disassociated these worlds remain in 2012.

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Cognitive Ethnomusicology

Cognitive approaches to ethnomusicology focus on the mental processes that underlie musicmaking, often combining qualitative, ethnographic methods with concepts and analytical strategies drawn from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, or music theory. While ethnomusicological references appear throughout this bibliography, according to the relevant theme (see, in particular, Embodied Music Cognition, Interaction and Ensemble Coordination, and Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience), the selections included here collectively speak to the benefits and challenges of integrating methodologies. In so doing they also address the productive tension between valuing local forms of knowledge and analyzing, interpreting, and representing culture, a long-standing ethical and epistemological dilemma across anthropology and the musicologies, famously addressed in Agawu 2006. Several scholars have explicitly articulated the need for a cognitive ethnomusicology, outlining its parameters around the study of musical performance. Kippen 1987 and Baily 1988 were among the pioneering works advocating for such an interdisciplinary approach, though from very different perspectives. While both authors concerned themselves with forms of mental representation that underlie cognition, Kippen was interested in computer simulations of expert musician’s thinking, while Baily compared oral and written systems of musical notation. As with Baily, Moisala 1995, following shortly thereafter, highlighted the need for culturally situating studies of musical cognition. See also Walker 2000 (cited under Embodied Music Cognition). Engaging concepts in cognitive psychology, Perlman 2004 explores creativity as a cognitive process, while Brinner 1995 illuminates the many cognitive dimensions and categories of thinking and memory that make up musical competence and social interaction. While these mark significant theoretical and ethnographic contributions to cognitive ethnomusicology, strictly empirical research is less common. Judith Becker is the most notable example of an ethnomusicologist both engaging neuroscientific literature and employing empirical methodologies, including behavioral experiments. Becker 2009 articulates the author’s experience attempting to bridge a deep disciplinary divide.

  • Agawu, Kofi. “Structural Analysis or Cultural Analysis? Competing Perspectives on the ‘Standard Pattern’ of West African Rhythm.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 59.1 (2006): 1–46.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2006.59.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author, a music theorist in both Western-classical and Ghanaian contexts, analyzes the most ubiquitous rhythmic pattern in West African music, comparing structural analyzes that originate in Western tonal music with local, socioculturally derived conceptions, and raising important questions about the politics of knowledge.

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  • Baily, John. “Anthropological and Psychological Approaches to the Study of Music Theory and Musical Cognition.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 20 (1988): 114.

    DOI: 10.2307/768168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the author’s view, anthropology relies on verbally conveyed information, whereas cognitive psychology seeks to illuminate what are often unconscious mental processes. Argues for an integrated ethnographic/analytical approach to music theory as cognition, offering as an example his analyses contrasting oral notation in Afghani and North Indian music as representational and operational models of music cognition, respectively.

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  • Becker, Judith. “Ethnomusicology and Empiricism in the Twenty-First Century.” Ethnomusicology 53.3 (2009): 478–501.

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    Reflection on the historical and present disciplinary differences in music research, between the traditionally qualitative, ethnographic approach in ethnomusicology and empirical work in music psychology and neuroscience. The author presents her own empirical research and relates her rebuffed attempts to publish in a music psychology journal. Ultimately calls for an open-minded embrace of interdisciplinary efforts. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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  • Brinner, Benjamin Elon. Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Musical Competence and Interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    Landmark work in ethnomusicology that details a comprehensive, ethnographically informed, general theory of musical competence, understood as a multidimensional set of skills and categories of knowledge, developed in social interaction within a music-cultural system, and dynamic over time. Invaluable theoretical rubric for analyzing real-world, musical ability.

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  • Clayton, Martin, Rebecca Sager, and Udo Will. “In Time with the Music: The Concept of Entrainment and Its Significance for Ethnomusicology.” European Meetings in Ethnomusicology 11 (2005): 1–82.

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    Comprehensive presentation of entrainment, the way in which rhythmic processes come to synchronize with one another. Suggests entrainment as a rich site of inquiry into embodied cognitive, interactive, and social processes in music performance and listening. Available online.

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  • Kippen, James. “An Ethnomusicological Approach to the Analysis of Musical Cognition.” Music Perception 5.2 (1987): 173–196.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents an ethnographic account of the experiment in which Indian musicians judge the aesthetic and generic acceptability of an electronic tabla player based on a computer model. Suggests a potential interdisciplinary avenue for ethnomusicology, music psychology, and cognitive science of music.

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  • Moisala, Pirkko. “Cognitive Study of Music as Culture, Basic Premises for Cognitive Ethnomusicology.” Journal of New Music Research 24.1 (1995): 8–20.

    DOI: 10.1080/09298219508570669Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review of ethnomusicological and related anthropological research into musical thinking. Published in 1995 when the subfield of “cognitive ethnomusicology” was in its nascent stages, it suggests focusing on studies of performance processes as a way to integrate ethnomusicology into mainline cognitive music research.

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  • Perlman, Marc. Unplayed Melodies: Javanese Gamelan and the Genesis of Music Theory. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    Explores the notion of an “inner melody” as an abstract, cognitive reference in the minds of Javanese gamelan performers, culled from the complex interplay of instruments in gamelan music. An ethnographically informed account of the nature of musical knowledge in Java.

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Cross-Cultural Empirical Studies

Self-described “cross-cultural” studies in music psychology and neuroscience often involve administering the same experiment to participants from two or more different cultural groups in order to gauge enculturation as a factor in cognition. The perception of musical structures constitutes one major theme in cross-cultural music research. Castellano, et al. 1984 and Kessler, et al. 1984 constitute two of the earliest and most important experiments, comparing the melodic perception of Western listeners with that of North Indian and Balinese listeners, respectively. The cross-cultural experience of emotion is another topic of great interest, exemplified by Balkwill and Thompson 1999. Bookending the pioneering work by Castellano, Kessler, and their respective collaborators, Stevens 2012 reviews the proliferation of cross-cultural studies in music cognition since 2000. See also Universals in Music Cognition.

  • Balkwill, Laura-Lee, and William Forde Thompson. “A Cross-Cultural Investigation of the Perception of Emotion in Music: Psychophysical and Cultural Cues.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 17.1 (1999): 43–64.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cross-cultural listening experiment in which Indian and Western listeners numerically judged the relative quantity of various stock emotions (joy sadness, anger, peace) conveyed by culturally familiar and foreign musical examples. Acknowledges cultural relativism in the emotional experience of music, while hypothesizing about potentially universal, psychophysical dimensions of listening.

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  • Castellano, Mary A., J. J. Bharucha, and Carol L. Krumhansl. “Tonal Hierarchies in the Music of North India.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 113.3 (1984): 394–412.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-3445.113.3.394Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Widely cited, empirical study applying Krumhansl and Shepard’s 1979 “probe-tone” method to North Indian music, comparing the listening responses of Indian and Western listeners. Pioneering example of cross-cultural efforts in music psychology.

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  • Ellis, Alexander John. On the Musical Scales of Various Nations. London, 1885.

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    Lecture and subsequently published essay dispelling popularly held notions of a so-called natural harmony in Western tonal music. Through mathematical analyses of both Western and non-Western musical scales, the author persuasively argues that pitch organization is culturally determined. Predating the later emergence of comparative musicology, on account of this work many consider Ellis to be the first ethnomusicologist. Available online.

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  • Kessler, Edward J., Christa Hansen, and Roger N. Shepard. “Tonal Schemata in the Perception of Music in Bali and in the West.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 2.2 (1984): 131–165.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285289Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empirical, cross-cultural listening experiment based on Krumhansl and Shepard’s probe-tone method, comparing how Balinese and Western participants’ hierarchically organize tones in Balinese and Western diatonic (that is, culturally familiar and unknown) musical examples. An often-cited example of enculturation as a powerful factor in music perception.

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  • Stevens, Catherine J. “Music Perception and Cognition: A Review of Recent Cross-Cultural Research.” Topics in Cognitive Science 4.4 (2012): 653–667.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01215.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey of cross-cultural experimental research in the 21st century to date. Reveals as a trend concerns with mental representation and musical structure, leaving as an open question the validity of applying a Western conceptual framework to non-Western musical cultures.

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Performance of Music

Research on musical thinking in the context of performance largely grows in parallel with the rise of cognitive science as a new paradigm in and beyond music psychology. Clarke 2007–2015, Gabrielsson 1999, and Sloboda 2000 speak to a departure from previous concerns with musical elements of pitch and rhythm and their perceptual organization in listening, as music performance researchers began to focus on musicians’ cognitive skills, communicative abilities, and expressive talents in the creative act of music making. While the goals, methodologies, and conclusions often differ sharply, musical thought in the social performance of music figures prominently in ethnomusicology and musically oriented work in anthropology. Cross-cutting disciplines, this entry groups the relevant sources under three subheadings: Competence, Ability; Interaction and Ensemble Coordination; and Improvisation and Creativity. Readers are also encouraged to consult several themes closely related to these topics, including Emotion and Musical Meaning, Learning and the Acquisition of Musical Skill, and Embodied Music Cognition.

  • Clarke, Eric F. “Psychology of Music: Performance.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2007–2015.

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    Concise overview addressing the two dominant themes of performance research in music psychology: skill and expressive ability. Appears unchanged from the original publication in 2001. No coverage beyond music psychology. Available online by subscription.

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  • Gabrielsson, Alf. “The Performance of Music.” In The Psychology of Music. Edited by Diana Deutsch, 501–602. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1999.

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    Extensive overview of research and theory in psychology of music performance. Especially useful section on theories of motor skill, microtiming, and expressive timing. Over-reliant on Western-art-music paradigm with respect to instrumentation, written notation, and still-prevailing conceptions about musical structure.

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  • Sloboda, John A., ed. Generative Processes in Music: The Psychology of Performance, Improvisation, and Composition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Builds on the author’s earlier The Musical Mind (Sloboda 1985, cited under General Overviews), to shift attention in music psychology from perceptual organization in listening to active processes of musical creation. Treats musical performance, composition, and improvisation as discreet categories. Contributions from several leading music psychologists and neuroscientists. First published in 1988.

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Competence, Ability

The question of musical competence, or ability, has been fundamental to a scholarly understanding of music making. When John Blacking famously asked How Musical is Man? (Blacking 1973), he was positing a universal human capacity for music, whose origins lay in human biology, and that manifest and were made meaningful in socially and culturally specific ways. Over the ensuing decades, scholars have been trying to parse out the various cognitive and social dimensions that form individual and general musical ability. Brinner 1995 offers the most comprehensive approach to date, theorizing musical competence as a set of mutually related knowledges and skill sets that, importantly, operate dynamically in time, and are learned, developed, and interactively negotiated within a social and cultural system. For Brinner, competence in its fullest conception thus involves a great number of factors, among them mental representation, memory, technical skill, and genre-specific or culturally specific, aesthetic expressiveness. Most research on musical competence treats one or a few of these aspects in relative isolation. One example is the notion of talent, a cultural construct that ethnomusicologists and psychologists alike have worked to demystify. Kingsbury 1988 ethnographically unpacks the idea of talent espoused in a Western-classical conservatory. Sloboda 2004 attempts to separate a shared, basic human capacity for music making from expressivity, which varies from one individual to the next and remains a more musically and psychologically complicated matter to quantify. While expressive ability is addressed in studies of Emotion and Musical Meaning, there is a wealth of more technically oriented scholarship on the cognition of musical ability. Key areas of interest concern memory and musical imagery in performance among expert, trained musicians. Classical piano remains a stalwart source for empirical research in this realm, as studies such as Palmer 2006 and Meister, et al. 2004 combine behavioral experiments with neuroimaging technologies to measure brain activity during both practice and performance. The role of practice has also figured in developmental psychology and related studies of Learning and the Acquisition of Musical Skill.

  • Blacking, John. How Musical Is Man? Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973.

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    John Blacking’s four essays offer a theoretical “consideration of universal musical competence” (p. 34), drawing on his ethnographic work on Venda music in South Africa and examples in European classical music to argue for a culturally situated analysis of musical value and meaning. Seminal treatise in ethnomusicology, along with Blacking 1977 (cited under Embodied Music Cognition). Electronic version available. Available online.

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  • Brinner, Benjamin Elon. Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Musical Competence and Interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    Landmark work in ethnomusicology that details a comprehensive, ethnographically informed, general theory of musical competence, understood as a multidimensional set of skills and categories of knowledge, developed in social interaction within a music-cultural system, and dynamic over time. Invaluable theoretical rubric for analyzing real-world, musical ability.

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  • Kingsbury, Henry. Music, Talent, and Performance: A Conservatory Cultural System. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

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    Ethnography of a classical music conservatory, exploring pedagogy and the notion of talent as a cultural construct. Highly readable for non-musician audience. E-version available by subscription or purchase, by individual chapter.

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  • Meister, I. G., T. Krings, H. Foltys, et al. “Playing Piano in the Mind: An fMRI Study on Music Imagery and Performance in Pianists.” Cognitive Brain Research 19.3 (2004): 219–228.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2003.12.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An fMRI study of sight-reading piano, meant to identify the areas of the brain activated during mental rehearsal versus actual performance. Of interest especially to neuroscientists interested in connections between mental imagery and movement in musical performance.

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  • Palmer, Caroline. “Nature of Memory for Music Performance Skills.” In Music, Motor Control and the Brain. Edited by E. Altenmüller, Jurg Kesselring, and Mario Wiesendanger, 39–53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298723.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cites both brain imaging studies of mental rehearsal and listening, and behavioral experiments around classical piano performance, as evidence that performing musicians possess and utilize both motoric and melodic forms of memory. Easy to follow, and requires very little musical or cognitive-science knowledge to follow the argument.

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  • Sloboda, John. “The Acquisition of Musical Performance Expertise: Deconstructing the ‘Talent’ Account of Individual Differences in Musical Expressivity.” In Exploring the Musical Mind: Cognition, Emotion, Ability, Function. By John A. Sloboda, 275–296. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198530121.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Debunks the widely held notion of “natural talent,” instead distinguishing technical ability—for which there is a universally human capacity—and expressivity, whose properties are less easy to pin down.

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Interaction and Ensemble Coordination

Interaction and ensemble coordination are key aspects of musical thinking in group performance, as well as important parts of the larger phenomenon of social music cognition. Empirical studies of ensemble coordination in a Western-art-music context often focus on quantifiable measures of temporal synchronization between two musicians, as in Goodman 2002, where perfect synchrony (or the illusion thereof) is seen as an aesthetic goal. Studies such as Goebl and Palmer 2009 explore the role of nonvisual communicative gestures in helping musicians to lock in time. See also Williamon and Davidson 2002, cited under Gesture and Communication. Few empirical studies address cultural norms of behavior, expressive gesture, or comportment as factors in inter-musician communication, though see Gabrielsson and Juslin 1996 (cited under Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience) for work on performer-listener communication. In ethnomusicology, Brinner 1995, Monson 1997, and others have considered interaction in terms of the sound produced, as well as the individual’s roles in a social network. Whether applying theories of entrainment (as explored in Clayton, et al. 2005) or generating new theories (most notably that of “participatory discrepancies” posited in Feld and Keil 1994 and Keil 1995), ensemble coordination is seen in terms of ongoing, social processes of music-cultural communication that can often involve both performers and listeners in meaningful experience.

  • Brinner, Benjamin Elon. “Toward a Theory of Musical Interaction.” In Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Musical Competence and Interaction. By Benjamin Elon Brinner, 167–207. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    Theorizes musical interaction, addressing both the sound produced by an ensemble and the social dynamics within an interactive network of musicians. The Javanese gamelan offers the main illustrative example, but the ideas apply broadly to any musical ensemble.

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  • Clayton, Martin, Rebecca Sager, and Udo Will. “In Time with the Music: The Concept of Entrainment and Its Significance for Ethnomusicology.” European Meetings in Ethnomusicology 11 (2005): 1–82.

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    Comprehensive presentation of entrainment—the way in which rhythmic processes come to synchronize with one another. Suggests entrainment as a rich site of inquiry into embodied cognitive, interactive, and social processes in music performance and listening. Available online.

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  • Feld, Steven, and Charles Keil. Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

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    Taking a novel dialogic form, the authors elaborate a theory of “groove”: the ongoing, real-time, commercially and socially mediated communication between musicians, in which rhythmic, timbral, and other “participatory discrepancies” predominate. Counter theory to top-down, Western art music-centric, structuralist theories of musical expectation, aesthetics, emotion, and meaning.

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  • Goebl, Werner, and Caroline Palmer. “Synchronization of Timing and Motion among Performing Musicians.” Music Perception 26.5 (2009): 427–438.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2009.26.5.427Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental study investigating coordination in a sight-read piano duet, using video and motion capture technology. Valuable for considering the relationship among body movement or gesture, timing, and both visual and auditory feedback in ensemble performance.

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  • Goodman, Elaine. “Ensemble Performance.” In Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding. Edited by J. Rink, 153–167. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811739Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview chapter exploring four areas of research into ensemble coordination: synchrony, auditory and visual communicative gestures, the role of the individual, and ensemble social dynamics. Reflects a trend in empirical music psychology research on ensemble performance. Limited in scope to Western art music, with an emphasis on small chamber groups.

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  • Keil, Charles. “The Theory of Participatory Discrepancies: A Progress Report.” Ethnomusicology 39.1 (1995): 1–19.

    DOI: 10.2307/852198Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Expands the author’s theory of “musical groove.” Rejecting structural-linguistic arguments about emotion and musical meaning, “participatory discrepancies” argues music making, particularly musical time, depends on musicians’ ongoing, real-time interactions, wherein individual, unconscious differences in microtiming, and perhaps timbre and texture, generate pleasurable senses of playing together in time.

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  • Monson, Ingrid. Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226534794.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A highly valuable and widely praised account of a jazz rhythm section’s improvisation as musical, social, and sociopolitical communication. Sophisticated analysis of interaction rendered in lucid prose.

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Improvisation and Creativity

Philosophical debates as to the nature of improvisation frame much of the research on in-the-moment, creative thinking in music performance. Nettl, et al. 2015 offers an overview of various historical and cultural contexts globally, but particularly in Western art music and jazz, while Lewis 1996 addresses divergent notions of improvisation in post-WWII jazz and experimental, electroacoustic musics. Beyond these philosophical and sociopolitical debates, many interests coalesce around a search for underlying abstract representations of sound that might guide creative musical thinking, as in Perlman’s pursuit of an “unplayed melody” (Perlman 2004). Lewis 2000 and Pressing 2000 present cognitive models with the goal of creating artificially intelligent computers capable of improvising in real time with human musicians. Other studies of improvisation take up stylistic knowledge and the acquisition of genre-specific skill, as in Berliner 1994, a widely referenced work on jazz, and Sudnow 1993, a reflexive, phenomenological account of learning jazz piano.

  • Berliner, Paul. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226044521.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nine-hundred page opus on improvisation and learning in jazz. Passages throughout discuss the embodied-cognitive acquisition of improvisational competence. The definitive work on jazz in the field of ethnomusicology.

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  • Lewis, George E. “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives.” Black Music Research Journal (1996): 91–122.

    DOI: 10.2307/779379Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores distinctions between African American and Euro-American conceptions of improvisation post–World War II, as exemplified in the musics of Charlie Parker and John Cage, and situating these notions in historical and social perspective.

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  • Lewis, George E. “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture in Voyager.” Leonardo Music Journal 10 (2000): 33–39.

    DOI: 10.1162/096112100570585Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author explains his invention of an improvising music computer program designed to engage in real time with human musicians and other sounds in its sonic environment. Critical to his discussion is the idea that computer music-making systems carry and reflect some of the culturally specific values and epistemological notions of what music making is all about. Available online.

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  • Nettl, Bruno, Rob C. Wegman, Imogene Horsley, et al. “Improvisation.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2015.

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    Conceptual and practical overview on improvisation. Lead section addresses broad swath of cultural contexts. Two separate discussions follow, treating improvisation as the term applies alternatively to Western art music and jazz.

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  • Perlman, Marc. “Cognitive Preliminaries: The Nature of Musical Knowledge and the Processes of Creative Thinking.” In Unplayed Melodies: Javanese Gamelan and the Genesis of Music Theory. By Marc Perlman, 13–36. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    Weaves theories of perceptual organization in cognitive psychology and ideas about thinking in anthropology in a discussion of the nature of musical knowledge, and, in particular, musical creativity. Puts ethnomusicology and cognitive psychology in useful theoretical dialogue.

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  • Pressing, Jeff. “Improvisation: Methods and Models.” In Generative Processes in Music: The Psychology of Performance, Improvisation, and Composition. Edited by John Sloboda, 129–178. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of music improvisation to date, surveying research in physiology, neuropsychology, ethnomusicology, and historical musicology, and touching on philosophical debates on the nature of improvisation.

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  • Sudnow, David. Ways of the Hand: The Organization of Improvised Conduct. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1993.

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    A classic, autobiographical study in thinking musically through the body. Self-ethnography charts the author’s reflections while learning to play jazz piano. A later version, titled Ways of the Hand: A Rewritten Account, was published in 2001, though the 1993 edition remains the more widely cited of the two.

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Emotion and Musical Meaning

Questions about how and why music moves people are among the central, and most elusive, matters in music cognition research. In the predominant context of psychology alone, the study of music and emotion invites a staggering range of divergent and at times contradictory perspectives, as evidenced in Juslin and Västfjäll 2008. Expanding the disciplinary scope further complicates matters, given the wide variety of ways in which scholars deploy the terms “emotion” and “meaning.” The edited volume Juslin and Sloboda 2010 provides the most comprehensive guide to the field, covering issues within and well beyond the range of cognition, even broadly defined. This bibliography cites key, cognitive-oriented directions in music and emotion scholarship, gathering sources under two, compound subheadings: Expectation and Everyday Experience and Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience. The first category follows a thread linking music theory to music psychology. Intellectualist notions locating emotion and meaning in the musical piece give way to listener-centric perspectives seeking to quantifiably measure the connection between abstract musical structures and emotional association, either in the controlled context of the psychology laboratory, or in common, everyday experience. The second subheading expands the discursive field, taking up emotion and meaning in Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience. Here, voices from music psychology and ethnomusicology resist either meaning-in-structure arguments or listener-centric perspectives as wholly satisfactory accounts of real-world experience. Some explore transcendent or ecstatic experience; others consider emotion as a social negotiation between performer and listener; and still others consider the affective experience of sound as a key mediator of knowledge, meaning, and worldview.

  • Juslin, Patrik N., and John Sloboda. Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications. Series in Affective Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Revised and much-expanded version of Music and Emotion: Theory and Research (Oxford University Press, 2001), this is the definitive reference on music and emotion research. Valuable for its depth of coverage from a range of disciplinary perspectives beyond psychology, including anthropology, musicology, neurobiology, philosophy, and sociology. Edited by two leading scholars in music psychology.

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  • Juslin, Patrik N., and Daniel Västfjäll. “Emotional Responses to Music: The Need to Consider Underlying Mechanisms.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31.05 (2008): 559–575.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X08005293Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Responding to the diversity of approaches and often contradictory claims that characterize music and emotion research, the authors posit six distinct psychological and neurological manners in which music can elicit emotional response. Twenty-six peer-response pieces raise some valid critiques, but also validate the authors’ points about a widely divergent field. Highly valuable literature review on each of the six mechanisms.

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Expectation and Everyday Experience

Outlining a theory of Western tonal music based on musical expectation, Meyer 1956 is the first major music theory work to incorporate psychological principles, particularly Gestalt theory. Meyer’s legacy clearly imprinted Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983 (cited under Auditory Grouping), a landmark theory of tonality that centers on the idea of expectation, and that has, in turn, undeniably influenced the next generation of music theorists. The most comprehensive theoretical treatise on musical expectation in recent years can be found in Huron 2006. Fifty years after Meyer, Huron assembled theories on musical schemata, mental representations, and memory, in a compelling argument for how and why listeners derive pleasure from music. In the interim, empirical studies of emotion in music psychology began to take off in the latter 1980s. Sloboda 1991 responds to Meyer’s assumption that emotion cannot be studied empirically, using respondents’ self-reports to quantifiably assess peak emotional moments in listening to a musical piece. Similar concerns and methodological approaches persist today, informing computer modeling efforts to accurately predict emotional responses to various structural elements in music, as in Eerola 2012. Sloboda is also credited with spearheading psychological interest in everyday experience, a pursuit that Hargreaves and North 1999 later recast within a re-emergent social psychology that concerns itself with emotion alongside other social functions of music.

  • Eerola, Tuomas. “Modeling Listeners’ Emotional Response to Music.” Topics in Cognitive Science 4 (2012): 607–624.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01188.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews work in the computer modeling of emotional response and suggests a new, more robust model based on recorded sounds, and whose predictions about emotions communicated in the music will better align with real people’s reported responses.

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  • Hargreaves, David J., and Adrian C. North. “The Functions of Music in Everyday Life: Redefining the Social in Music Psychology.” Psychology of Music 27.1 (1999): 71–83.

    DOI: 10.1177/0305735699271007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Signals a shift in attention within music psychology, from the specialized domain of the solo performer or listener in the somewhat specialized, classical-music domain, to a concern with musical listening in everyday, social experience, for musicians and non-musicians alike. Mood regulation is seen as one of the important everyday uses of music, and until now relatively uncharted scholarly territory.

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  • Huron, David. Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2006.

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    Presents a theory of psychological expectation as it applies to emotional experience within Western art music. Valuable for musicians and music researchers, explaining how psychological theories about mental representation, perceptual organization, and memory might offer insight into subjective musical experience of surprise, tension and resolution, and, most importantly, pleasure. Available online by subscription or purchase. See also the Companion website.

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  • Meyer, Leonard B. Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.

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    Massively influential theoretical exposition on musical expectation and emotional experience in Western tonal music. First major music theory work to incorporate principles from psychology. Critiqued as reducing all emotional experience in music to being about the meeting or dashing of formalist expectation, dismissive of non-Western art musics. Available online by subscription.

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  • Sloboda, John A. “Music Structure and Emotional Response: Some Empirical Findings.” Psychology of Music 19.2 (1991): 110–120.

    DOI: 10.1177/0305735691192002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Questionnaire study of reported physical response to emotion. Part of a pioneering effort on the part of the author to examine music and emotion in the context of everyday experience, in this case mapping the reported responses onto melodic or harmonic structural features within the music.

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Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience

The works included here expand the discursive scope of musical emotion discussed under Expectation and Everyday Experience, asking a number of questions: Is musical emotion objectively fixed in musical structure or subjectively variable? To what extent does meaning reside in the experience of a listener, the intention of the performer, or in musical sound? What are alternative ways in which emotion can be measured? How is emotional experience, and ultimately sonic meaning, culturally situated? In pursuing answers, Becker 2004 and Racy 2003 explore the transcendent or ecstatic experience of music; Clayton 2001 and Gabrielsson and Juslin 1996 approach emotion as a social negotiation between performer and listener; and Feld 1996 considers the affective experience of an immersive soundscape as a key mediator of knowledge, meaning, and worldview. Particularly regarding the heightened emotional experience of music, scholars have employed a mix of qualitative and empirical methods. Becker 2004 examines the neurological underpinnings of trance and other ecstatic experiences, and considers possible parallels in secular, nonritualized “deep listening.” Gabrielsson 2011 is book-length treatment of individuals’ powerfully affective, listening experiences, termed “Strong Experience with Music.” In many ways, these studies invert our disciplinary assumptions: Becker, an ethnomusicologist, brings neuroscience into conversation with her ethnographic data, while Gabrielsson, a psychologist, eschews psychological theorizing and fMRI studies and instead quotes participants at length, providing a detailed window onto individuals’ musical experiences. What emerges in common across these works is a sense of the variable, context-dependent, and often subjective nature of emotional experience in music. As Clarke 2005 argues, emotional perception, and ultimately musical meaning, depends on a host of ecological factors, from personal history to social enculturation, that shape the affective potential of the moment.

  • Becker, Judith. Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

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    Keystone in the author’s career-long, visionary effort to bridge methodological divides between empirical research in neuroscience and ethnographic inquiry in ethnomusicology and anthropology. Argues that heightened emotional response in “deep listening” to music and religious ecstatic trance in very different cultural settings share a common neurological underpinning.

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  • Clarke, Eric F. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151947.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies Gibson’s ideas on affordance in ecological perception to musical listening. Upending theories that locate meaning in musical structure, the author argues that perception is situated in the world, and thus musical meaning is variable, subjective, and contingent on a host of variables in perspective. Available online by subscription.

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  • Clayton, Martin. “Introduction: Towards a Theory of Musical Meaning (in India and Elsewhere).” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 10.1 (2001): 1–17.

    DOI: 10.1080/09681220108567307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Important early step in this author’s elaboration of an approach to musical meaning that embraces both objective features or structures in music and subjective musical experience, with North Indian raga as an illustrative example. Foreshadows the author’s later work on gesture in musical communication. Part of a special issue on “Music and Meaning.”

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  • Feld, Steven. “Waterfalls of Song: An Acoustemology of Place Resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea.” In Senses of Place. Edited by Steven Feld and Keith H. Basso, 91–135. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1996.

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    The author offers the neologism “acoustemology” as a theory that locates sound and the sonic landscape at the heart of experience, knowledge, meaning, and worldview. He explores this in the context of the Kaluli of Papa New Guinea. Revised version later appears as “Places Sensed, Senses Placed: Toward a Sensuous Epistemology of Environments,” in Empire of the Senses, edited by David Howes (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005), pp. 179–191.

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  • Gabrielsson, Alf. Strong Experiences with Music: Music Is Much More Than Just Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695225.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ambitious research project in what the author terms “Strong Experience with Music” (SEM), based on written questionnaires, surveys, and interviews, and attempting a more in-depth, sophisticated investigation into deeper emotional meaning in heightened musical experience.

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  • Gabrielsson, Alf, and Patrik N. Juslin. “Emotional Expression in Music Performance: Between the Performer’s Intention and the Listener’s Experience.” Psychology of Music 24.1 (1996): 68–91.

    DOI: 10.1177/0305735696241007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interesting study of performers’ emotional intention and how successful they were in communicating that intention to an audience.

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  • Racy, Ali Jihad. Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Equal parts discussion of the Arab musical system in social context, ethnography, and self-reflection, the author explores tarab, the central aesthetic and emotional goal in Arab music, a state of musical ecstasy that can inhabit musicians and musical repertoire, but is mainly manifest in a listener’s heightened experience. Accessible read for non-musicians.

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Language and Music in Cognition

A healthy debate surrounds the cognitive connections between language and music. Scholars have looked to at least four areas of potential linkage: structural comparisons in schema theories of perceptual organization and abstract mental representation (e.g., Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983, cited under Auditory Grouping); shared or similar biological origins in evolution; neurological overlaps where music and language are processed in the brain; and metaphorical thinking in Embodied Music Cognition. Rebuschat, et al. 2011 and Tillmann 2012 overview these links as they are taken up in music theory, psychology, and neuroscience. Patel 2007 and Patel and Iversen 2007 offer persuasive statements in favor of shared neural networks in the brain’s processing of both music and language. Among the dissenting voices, Zbikowski 2011 looks beyond neural networks and grammars, to the different forms of consciousness to which music and language give rise. Several years before the emergence of an embodiment paradigm in cognitive psychology, Feld 1981 explored how metaphors can convey a complete music theory that addresses sound structure, emotional experience, and musical meaning. See also Universals in Music Cognition and Memory for Music, Music for Memory.

  • Feld, Steven. “‘Flow Like a Waterfall’: The Metaphors of Kaluli Musical Theory.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 13 (1981): 22–47.

    DOI: 10.2307/768356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Feld, a leading figure bridging linguistic anthropology and ethnomusicology, explores how, for the Kaluli of Papua New Guinea, metaphors about water and sound constitute a theory of musical sound and meaning. Later expands on the idea in Feld 1996 (cited under Social, Heightened, or Immersive Experience), though the 1981 reference grounds the discussion more thoroughly in linguistic theory.

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  • Patel, Aniruddh D. Music, Language, and the Brain. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195123753.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive, cogent argument that music and language share much in the way of cognitive processing, unique in its use of cognitive science to make the case. A highly valuable and accessible source.

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  • Patel, Aniruddh D., and John R. Iversen. “The Linguistic Benefits of Musical Abilities.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11.9 (2007): 369–372.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2007.08.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief article responding to a recent study on how musical training may be related to language development in tonal languages like Mandarin Chinese, suggesting that similar studies might reveal links to language more generally. Given its broad accessibility, valuable for nonspecialists and/or an undergraduate audience.

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  • Rebuschat, Patrick, Martin Rohmeier, John A. Hawkins, and Ian Cross, eds. Language and Music as Cognitive Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199553426.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume examining structural and functional links between music and language, in four sections: structural comparisons (mostly metrical stress); evolution (evolution and rhythm); learning and processing (shared brain states therein); and neuroscience (mapping where music and language are processed in the brain). Lead chapters in each section are followed by several article-length responses. Eclectic disciplinary mix, and challenging in parts for nonspecialists in music, computer science, or neuroscience.

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  • Tillmann, Barbara. “Music and Language Perception: Expectations, Structural Integration, and Cognitive Sequencing.” Topics in Cognitive Science (topiCS) 4.4 (2012): 568–584.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01209.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the clearest overviews linking three key themes among listener-centric theories in music cognition and language cognition. Argues that researchers in both domains ask the same question: “How do listeners acquire knowledge via simple exposure and how does this implicitly acquired knowledge allow listeners to process structures, create mental representations, and develop expectations? (p. 568).” Limits to Western tonality aside, a helpful resource for undergraduate course on music and cognition.

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  • Zbikowski, Lawrence M. “Music, Language, and Kinds of Consciousness.” In Music and Consciousness: Philosophical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives. Edited by Eric Clarke and David Clarke, 179–192. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199553792.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A novel intervention in debates about music and language. Zbikowski considers consciousness in relation to working memory and mental representation, arguing that music structures consciousness in different, and more robustly complex, ways than does language. Rebuts a line of thinking that music, in evolutionary terms, is what Steven Pinker famously termed “auditory cheesecake,” a happy by-product (How the Mind Works; New York: Norton, 1997).

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Learning and the Acquisition of Musical Skill

Research into the cognitive dimensions of musical learning finds greatest expression in the shared space between music psychology and music education. Hargreaves 1986 is the foundational text that launched developmental music psychology as a field. Bamberger 1991 builds on earlier research by the author on children’s basic musical intuition, work that has helped shape the field of developmental music cognition. Much of the research in music development focuses on practice. Coffman 1990 compares the relative value of mental rehearsal versus actual, physical practice. Many similar studies, and music education studies more broadly, privilege formal, in-school learning of Western classical theory, harmony, and repertoire. Responding to this trend, Green 2001 is an ethnography that offers a methodological alternative, taking up informal versus formal learning in the context of popular and self-taught musicians, and seeking an inclusive space within music education for popular, folk, rock, and other vernacular styles. Meanwhile, other disciplines have made important contributions and further expanded the range of discourse. Rice 1994 offers a strong and explicit example of how musical learning as participant observation has long figured in ethnomusicology. Bookending Bamberger’s study of active development from intuition to abstract knowledge and skill, Rohrmeier and Rebuschat 2012 uses computer modeling to explore implicit musical learning as a process of passive enculturation. Researchers have also considered the ways in which musical training might have other, more general, cognitive or behavioral benefits. Schellenberg 2005 recaps the debated “Mozart effect” in research and subsequent popular imagination, and suggests instead that music instruction in childhood may hold out more promise for music’s long-term intellectual benefits. Finally, music researchers have only recently begun to explore the function of the mirror neuron system in musical experience. While Katie Overy and Istvan Molnar-Szakacs’s theory of Shared Affective Motion Experience (SAME; see Overy and Molnar-Szakacs 2009) discusses applications for music therapy and special education, with implications for better understanding Music and Cognitive Disorders, the possible horizons of this line of research extend quite far and wide. Mirror neurons—and thus human empathy—may turn out play a prominent role in musical learning more generally, might deepen our knowledge of how Interaction and Ensemble Coordination relates to Emotion and Musical Meaning, and could be the best evidence to date for the existence of Universals in Music Cognition.

  • Bamberger, Jeanne Shapiro. The Mind Behind the Musical Ear: How Children Develop Musical Intelligence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

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    Fascinating, novel approach to understanding music, and everyday cognition, through an examination of children’s music making. Influential in cognitive music development and education, but equally appealing to all interested in the relationship between intuition and formal or abstract conceptual knowledge.

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  • Coffman, Don D. “Effects of Mental Practice, Physical Practice, and Knowledge of Results on Piano Performance.” Journal of Research in Music Education 38.3 (1990): 187–196.

    DOI: 10.2307/3345182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empirical study of piano-playing college students comparing modes of practice. While physical practice proved better than mental practice alone, alternating physical and mental practice proved equally valuable as physical practice alone. Though a small study, it suggests that our mental motor imaging and “mental rehearsal” has tangible, motor-performative benefits.

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  • Green, Lucy. How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead for Music Education. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

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    Insightful, ethnographic (interview-based) account of informal musical learning in a popular-music context. Chapters on informal versus formal learning, self-conceptions, and values. A worthwhile intervention in music psychology and education in its departure from the normative, Western art music framework. Also available as an e-book.

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  • Hargreaves, David. The Developmental Psychology of Music. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511521225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early synthesis of research into music and child development from a leading music psychologist, covering perception, cognition, and musical performance in children. Widely cited, and still a valuable reference, though by now a bit dated, as a significant body of literature has emerged in the intervening three decades, particularly from cognitive neuroscience.

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  • Overy, Katie, and Istvan Molnar-Szakacs. “Being Together in Time: Musical Experience and the Mirror Neuron System.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 26.5 (2009): 489–504.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2009.26.5.489Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Theoretical article building on a 2006 work by the same authors, further developing a model of Shared Affective Motion Experience (SAME), suggesting a prominent role for the mirror neuron system in music perception. Discusses applications for music therapy and special education. Brings neurology into conversation with literature on entrainment, ensemble music making, musical learning more generally, and empathy studies.

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  • Rice, Timothy. “Cognitive Processes in Music Learning.” In May It Fill Your Soul: Experiencing Bulgarian Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

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    Taken from his ethnographic account of musical experience in Bulgaria, this chapter details the author’s reflections on learning gaita in Bulgaria. Insightful, phenomenologically oriented account of embodied musical learning, highlighting the relationship between player and instrument in the acquisition of musical skill and style. Highly accessible for non-musicians.

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  • Rohrmeier, Martin, and Patrick Rebuschat. “Implicit Learning and Acquisition of Music.” Topics in Cognitive Science 4.4 (2012): 525–553.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01223.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study in computer modeling of passive musical enculturation, this is a well-organized and densely cited review of computational models of implicit musical learning, asking to what degree musicians and non-musicians alike learn implicitly or passively, and questioning the universality or cross-cultural validity of current learning models.

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  • Schellenberg, E. Glenn. “Music and Cognitive Abilities.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 14.6 (2005): 317–320.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00389.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As opposed to mere exposure to music, as in the widespread notion, now largely discounted, of a “Mozart effect” improving spatial reasoning, this study explores the potential, long-term cognitive benefits of music lessons for children, independent of socioeconomic variables.

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Music and Cognitive Disorders

The selections included here come from cognitive neuroscience, and follow one of two paths: identifying and diagnosing music-specific cognitive disorders (either congenital, developmental, or in association with brain lesions), and work on neurologic and other forms of cognitive music therapy. Research on music-specific disorders tends to focus on an inability to perceive or produce (e.g., sing, hum) fine-grained differences between pitches. Congenital amusia, or tone deafness, is a common line of investigation, as in the work of Peretz and Hyde 2003 and Foxton, et al. 2004—though Stewart, et al. 2006 reports cases of cognitive impairment relating to melody, rhythm, timbre, and emotion as well. Emotion is of significant interest to researchers in cognitive therapy. In this vein, Allen and Heaton 2010 highlights autism as just one of many contexts for study. Thaut 2010 describes how neurologic music therapies, designed to treat both brain injuries and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, have also shown broader potential application in cognitive psychotherapy and rehabilitation. Stewart 2012 looks beyond just disability to take a more expansive look at individual variation in cognition. A similar interest in anomalies in cognition imbues Oliver Sacks’s writings for a more popular audience, though Sacks 2007 discusses music and the brain in both everyday contexts as well in the special circumstances of his clinical neurology case studies. While these selections are limited to a neuroscience in a Western context, the emergent field of medical ethnomusicology surveyed in Koen 2011 provides a rich source for broader investigations into music and healing in cross-cultural perspective.

  • Allen, Rory, and Pamela Heaton. “Autism, Music, and the Therapeutic Potential of Music in Alexithymia.” Music Perception 27.4 (2010): 251–261.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2010.27.4.251Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fascinating study of emotional response to music in autistic adults, suggesting possible therapy for alexithymia, the inability to recognize one’s own emotions. Of interest within cognitive psychology and music therapy, and for those interested in empathy, or music and emotion more generally.

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  • Foxton, Jessica M., Jennifer L. Dean, Rosemary Gee, Isabelle Peretz, and Timothy D. Griffiths. “Characterization of Deficits in Pitch Perception Underlying ‘Tone Deafness.’” Brain 127.4 (2004): 801–810.

    DOI: 10.1093/brain/awh105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empirical study of congenital amusia, or tone deafness, finding that the disorder involves not being able to distinguish one pitch from the next, nor discern pitch patterns.

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  • Koen, Benjamin D., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199756261.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume surveying the intersection of music, medicine, and healing in various cultural settings around the world, effectively announcing the emerging discipline of medical ethnomusicology. While medical anthropology is already a well-established and vibrant discipline, this volume is unique in bringing together music- and dance-centered contributions from a variety of related fields. Available online by subscription from Oxford Handbooks Online.

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  • Peretz, Isabelle, and Krista L. Hyde. “What Is Specific to Music Processing? Insights from Congenital Amusia.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7.8 (2003): 362–367.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00150-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cites research on congenital amusia, or tone deafness, as evidence that the brain processes music and language along distinct neural pathways. Fine pitch discrimination is seen as the unique key to basic musicality, at least in a Western tonal context. No mention of cross-cultural validity of this theory.

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  • Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. New York and Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

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    The author, a clinical neuropsychologist, narrates in engaging detail the unique capacity of music to affect people, in particular patients suffering from neurological disorders. Presents neurological insights in an easily understood prose. Footnotes throughout offer an extended conversation of cognitive neuropsychology, which is more technical, yet no less accessibly rendered.

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  • Stewart, Lauren, ed. Special Issue: Neurosciences and Music. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain 22.2 (2012).

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    Special issue exploring individual variation in music cognition. Articles explore either cognitive difference between people of variable music ability, or in various atypical contexts: cognitive disability, impairment, Alzheimer`s Disease, cochlear implants.

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  • Stewart, Lauren, Katharina von Kriegstein, Jason D. Warren, and Timothy D. Griffiths. “Music and the Brain: Disorders of Musical Listening.” Brain 129.10 (2006): 2533–2553.

    DOI: 10.1093/brain/awl171Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ostensibly an overview article on cognitive disorders related to music listening, and intended for a clinical audience, it is additionally quite valuable for providing a superb, concise summary of neuroscientific research on pitch, melody, rhythm, timbre, and emotion. Extensive reference list.

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  • Thaut, Michael H. “Neurologic Music Therapy in Cognitive Rehabilitation.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 27.4 (2010): 281–285.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2010.27.4.281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief article suggesting roles for neurologic music therapy in cognitive rehabilitation, particularly around improving executive function.

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Universals in Music Cognition

The topic of universals in music has its origins in antiquity, beginning with Pythagoras’s experiments in the mathematical physics of string vibration, along with notions of a cosmic music of the spheres. This ancient view has more to do with the harmonious organization of the external world than it does the making of socially meaningful sounds. Though we now understand making music to be something that human beings, as a species, share as a defining trait, it took centuries to arrive at this consensus, and debates continue as to just what defines music as a universally human activity. The modern, intellectual lineage of universals in music and cognition begins with 19th-century cross-cultural studies in comparative musicology, which arise in conjunction with the founding of psychology as a field of empirical research into the structures of human behavior. Ethnomusicology emerged in the 1950s as a field committed to understanding and validating the cultural diversity of music worldwide, and so has been largely resistant to the idea of universals in music, though the notion has always held tempting promise for unifying what is otherwise a very diverse field. The question of how and when music originates as a human activity provides fodder for rich debate across the sciences. Music psychology, for its part, straddles social and biological approaches, with culturally relative and universalist leanings, respectively. Sloboda 1986 nimbly walks this disciplinary tightrope. While cognitive neuroscience tends to view brain function as a universally shared, human neurological system (barring injury, disorder, or disease), researchers have begun to take into account cultural diversity while discussing the possible origins of music. Huron 2003 skeptically weighs music in the broader context of evolutionary adaptation, while Cross 2003 (in the same volume) views human musical competence as a means to connect evolutionary theory with cultural variety. Drake and Bertrand 2003 rightly privileges rhythm as the dimension of music that has always held out the greatest universal promise. Anticipating many of these interdisciplinary interventions, Harwood 1976 suggests that, rather than look to any one aspect of musical sound, researches should consider music as a set of universality of cognitive and social processes, from perception to action. Debates about universals in music continue to engender rich interdisciplinary dialogue, a trend steadily on the rise in music scholarship. See also the section on Cross-Cultural Empirical Studies, a natural companion to this discussion.

  • Cross, Ian. “Music, Cognition, Culture, and Evolution.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 930.1 (2003): 28–42.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05723.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author looks to updated research in evolutionary theory in an attempt to reconcile biological and cultural perspectives, by attending to human ability and aptitude for music making. Critical of reductionism in evolutionary theory, and an excellent example of interdisciplinary scholarship.

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  • Drake, Carolyn, and Daisy Bertrand. “The Quest for Universals in Temporal Processing in Music.” In The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music. Edited by Isabelle Peretz and Robert J. Zatorre, 21–31. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198525202.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clear, accessible article detailing five potentially universal temporal processes, serving as an open invitation to researchers in ethnomusicology to test the validity of the hypothesis. A temporal universal would hold not only in different cultural settings, but for all age groups and musical skill levels.

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  • Harwood, Dane L. “Universals in Music: A Perspective from Cognitive Psychology.” Ethnomusicology (1976): 521–533.

    DOI: 10.2307/851047Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written for an audience in ethnomusicology, this article makes a compelling argument that universals are not to be found in structure or function, but in music as a social process. Cultural variation as difference is cleverly inverted: music is universal insofar as it constitutes human cultural process.

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  • Huron, David. “Is Music an Evolutionary Adaptation?” In The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music. Edited by I. Peretz and Robert J. Zatorre, 57–75. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198525202.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Part of a series of chapters on the origins of music in this valuable edited volume. The author considers the evidence for music as an evolutionary adaptation, ultimately unconvinced by genetic, neurological, and social arguments, but defending the value of efforts to understand the reasons behind music’s universal, meaningful presence in human life.

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  • Sloboda, John A. “The Musical Mind in Context: Culture and Biology.” In The Musical Mind: The Cognitive Psychology of Music. By John A. Sloboda, 239–268. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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    The author tacks a middle line between socioculturally relative and biologically universal arguments about music cognition. He discusses Western notation as a primary example of a culturally relativistic influence on musical thinking in the West, and suggests music processing in the brain, and basic, globally shared features of musical systems speak to possible universals.

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