Psychology Music
by
Diana Deutsch
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0065

Introduction

The psychology of music seeks to interpret musical phenomena in terms of mental function; that is, it seeks to characterize the ways in which people perceive, remember, perform, create, and respond to music. While centered on the empirical findings and theoretical approaches of psychology, the field is highly interdisciplinary, with input from neuroscientists, linguists, geneticists, computational modelers, physicists, anthropologists, music theorists, music performers, and composers. While the study of music has a long history, dating from the ancient Greeks, the psychology of music as an empirical science did not emerge as a full-fledged discipline until the second part of the 20th century. During the last few decades the field has advanced rapidly, and it interfaces strongly with other branches of psychology, such as the studies of perception, cognition, performance, human development, personality psychology, psycholinguistics, clinical neuropsychology, evolutionary psychology, ability testing, and artificial intelligence.

General Overviews

Two edited handbooks, Hallam, et al. 2009 and Deutsch 2013, provide authoritative, up-to-date, and detailed overviews of the psychology of music; these are particularly appropriate for researchers and graduate students. Thompson 2008, an undergraduate textbook, has excellent coverage. The collection of writings in Sloboda 2005 is broad in scope and it can also be used as a textbook. Other books that emphasize particular aspects of music psychology but are also general in scope include Huron 2006, which emphasizes cognitive and evolutionary aspects, and Patel 2008 (cited under Musical Processing in Nonhuman Species), which emphasizes relationships between music and language. Among the many introductory books on the subject written for a general audience, Ball 2010 provides a highly readable and yet authoritative review of the field, Sacks 2007 serves as an engrossing introduction to the field through case studies by a practicing neurologist, and Levitin 2006 provides an entertaining introduction for casual readers.

  • Ball, P. 2010. The music instinct: How music works and why we can’t do without it. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Well and clearly written for a general audience, and without requiring specialized knowledge, the book serves as an admirable introduction to the field. Questions addressed include why all human cultures have music, why music excites rich emotion, and how we make sense of musical sound.

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  • Deutsch, D., ed. 2013. The psychology of music. 3d ed. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

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    This classic and thoroughly updated handbook is geared toward researchers and graduate students. Written by world-renowned experts, its coverage includes perception of musical tones, timbre, intervals, scales, absolute pitch, grouping mechanisms, perception of tonal structures, rhythm, computational models, performance, musical development, music and cognitive ability, music and emotion, and neurological substrates.

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  • Hallam, S., I. Cross, and M. Thaut, eds. 2009. The Oxford handbook of music psychology. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Written by world-renowned experts, this handbook is geared toward researchers and graduate students. It covers the origins and functions of music, music perception, responses to music, neurological substrates, musical development, acquisition of musical skills, performance, composition and improvisation, music in everyday life, music therapy, and methodological considerations.

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  • Huron, D. 2006. Sweet anticipation: Music and the psychology of expectation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This book draws on findings in cognitive psychology, evolutionary theory, statistical learning theory, and studies of emotion to explore the role of expectation in listening to music. Well and clearly written by a music theorist with a strong knowledge of psychology, it can serve as an introduction to the field for graduate students and undergraduates.

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  • Levitin, D. J. 2006. This is your brain on music: The science of a human obsession. New York: Dutton.

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    Written for a general audience, and without requiring specialized knowledge, this book serves as an entertaining introduction to the field.

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  • Sacks, O. 2007. Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain. New York: Knopf.

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    This book examines the effects of music through descriptions of musicians, patients, and others, describing a variety of unusual musical abilities, disabilities, and syndromes. Geared toward a general audience, the book does not require specialized knowledge, and it serves as an inspiring introduction to the psychology of music.

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  • Sloboda, J. 2005. Exploring the musical mind: Cognition, emotion, ability, function. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The book brings together twenty-four selected essays by a renowned expert on music and the mind. It covers cognitive processes, emotion and motivation, musical talent and skill, and music in everyday life. Given its broad coverage, the book can serve as a textbook on the psychology of music.

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  • Thompson, W. F. 2008. Music, thought and feeling: Understanding the psychology of music. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Written in a clear, engaging style, this textbook covers the origins of music, the building blocks of music, perception, perception of musical structure, music and emotion, neurological substrates, performance, composition, and relationships between music and other abilities. See also Ball 2010.

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Journals

Articles on the psychology of music appear in general journals, mainstream psychology journals, and mainstream music theory and musicology journals. The main journals devoted to the psychology of music are Music Perception, Musicae Scientiae, Psychology of Music, and Psychomusicology. These four journals cover very similar subject matter. In addition, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America has a section on Musical Acoustics, which includes articles on the psychology of music.

History

The relationship between psychology and music is characteristic of that between a new science and an established discipline. Western music theory dates at least from the time of Pythagoras, and it has been heavily rationalistic in its approach. At the time of the Scientific Revolution, scientists were very interested in empirical issues concerning music perception. However, this interest lessened in later years, largely due to the technological difficulties involved in generating musical sound patterns with versatility and precision. As the appropriate technology developed, scientists became increasingly able to study musical phenomena, first focusing on narrow sound parameters, and then broadening in scope as the ability to produce and analyze complex configurations with precision increased. The following historical sections concern contributions that were made before the second half of the 20th century. The remaining sections of this entry concern work that was carried out after electronic and computer technology had enabled researchers to address musical issues with the use of precise and yet elaborate sound parameters.

Antiquity through the 18th Century

As described in Hunt 1978, speculations concerning music can be traced back to ancient times. The foundations of Western music theory are held to have been laid by Pythagoras, who is credited with establishing by experiment that the pitch of a vibrating string varies inversely with its length. However, he and his followers ultimately lost faith in the empirical method, and instead attempted to explain all musical phenomena in terms of numerical relationships. Other theorists, however, notably Aristoxenus, argued that musical phenomena were basically perceptual and cognitive in nature, and should be investigated empirically. Cohen 1984 discusses important contributions to the study of music perception that were made in the 16th century, notably by Giovanni Battista Benedetti and Vincenzo Galilei. Cohen also discusses contributions made by scientists in the early stages of the Scientific Revolution, including Marin Mersenne, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, and Christiaan Huygens. As described by Hunt and by Cohen, notable among scientists of the late 17th and the 18th centuries who contributed to the understanding of sound were John Wallis, Joseph Sauveur, Isaac Newton, Daniel Bernouilli, Jean d’Alembert, and Leonhard Euler. The 18th-century composer and music theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau made important theoretical contributions that served as inspiration for later research on music perception and cognition (see Rameau 1971, originally published in 1722).

  • Cohen, H. F. 1984. Quantifying music: The science of music at the first stage of the scientific revolution, 1580–1650. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel.

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    This book provides an interesting and detailed review of writings about music by scholars and scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries. Included are discussions of writings by Giovanni Battista Benedetti and Vincenzo Galilei in the 16th century, and Marin Mersenne, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, and Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century.

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  • Hunt, F. V. 1978. Origins in acoustics: The science of sound from Antiquity to the age of Newton. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    This highly scholarly and entertaining book covers the study of acoustics—including music—from ancient times through the 18th century.

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  • Rameau, J.-Ph. 1971. Treatise on harmony. Reprint. New York: Dover.

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    Originally published in 1722 (Paris: J.-B.-C. Ballard). This book describes rules for composing music in a tonal system, and it has profoundly influenced theoretical and empirical work on the psychology of music.

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19th Century

The 19th century saw important advances in the study of sound perception, particularly psychoacoustics. Among these, an important mathematical contribution was made in Fourier 1822, which showed that any curve can be represented by the superposition of a number of simple harmonic curves—an analysis that Ohm 1843 later extended to sound waves. Seebeck 1841 showed that the pitch of a harmonic complex tone could be perceived even when the amount of energy in the fundamental was small—a finding that was very influential in later work on pitch perception. The classic book Helmholtz 1954 (originally published in 1885) concerns pitch perception, beats, consonance and dissonance, and timbre. Further, the classic book Fechner 1876 laid the foundations for experimental aesthetics. From a different perspective, Mach 1943 (originally published in 1898) addressed itself to phenomena of shape perception, and it included in its writings the concept of a melody, since this can be recognized independently of the key in which it is played. From yet another perspective, Darwin 1871 and Spencer 1857 speculated concerning the evolutionary origins of music. Darwin argued that music plays an important role in sexual selection, while Spencer argued that music was derived from intonation contours in speech.

  • Darwin, C. 1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray.

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    In this influential book, Darwin proposed that music plays a role in sexual selection, that human and bird song are evolutionary analogues, and that a primitive song-like communication system predated human language.

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  • Fechner, G. T. 1876. Vorschule der aesthetik. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel.

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    This book, translated as Introduction to Aesthetics, laid the groundwork for the field of experimental aesthetics, arguing that aesthetic preference can be measured precisely through empirical study.

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  • Fourier, J. B. J. 1822. Théorie analytique de la chaleur. Paris: Didot.

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    This work (The Analytical Theory of Heat) is known for Fourier’s theorem, which states that any periodic function can be expressed as a sum of sine and cosine waves of various amplitudes and frequencies.

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  • Helmholtz, H. von. 1954. On the sensations of tone as a physiological basis for the theory of music. 2d English ed. New York: Dover.

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    Originally published in 1885, as Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik. This highly influential book explores physical phenomena of sound, the relationship of musical phenomena to physics, and historical aspects of musical sound.

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  • Mach, E. 1943. On symmetry. In Popular scientific lectures. By E. Mach. Translated by T. J. McCormack, 89–106. Chicago: Open Court.

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    Originally published in 1898. This essay includes a discussion of the distinction between symmetry in visual space and musical symmetry as might be hypothesized from viewing a written score.

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  • Ohm, G. S. 1843. Ueber die Definition des Tones, nebst daraen geknüpfter Theorie der Sirene und ähnlicher tonbildender Vorrichtungen. Annalen der Physik und Chemie 66:497–565.

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    Building on Fourier’s analysis of the properties of sound waves, Ohm’s acoustical law states that any complex periodic sound wave can be analyzed into an appropriate set of simple waves. This mathematical analysis formed a basis for later theories about sound, and about the perception of sound.

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  • Seebeck, A. 1841. Beobachtungen über einige Bedingungen der Entstehung von Tönen. Annals of Physics and Chemistry 53:417–436.

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    This article (“Observations on some conditions for the formation of tones”) includes the important observation that when presented with a harmonic series, the listener perceives the pitch of the fundamental, even if it is considerably attenuated. The discovery has formed the basis of much further work on pitch perception.

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  • Spencer, H. 1857. The origin and function of music. Frazer’s Magazine 56:396–408.

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    In this essay, Spencer argues against Darwin’s view of the evolution of music, and proposes instead that music is derived from exaggerated intonation patterns in speech, particularly when the speaker is in a state of emotion.

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First Half of the 20th Century

As described in Stevens and Davis 1938, psychoacousticians in the first part of the 20th century made considerable advances in understanding the attributes of perceived sound—in developing scales for pitch and loudness, for example. Other scientists focused on higher-level sound processing. For example, Ehrenfels 1890 argued that music should be considered to have a “Gestalt quality”; for example, a melody that has been transposed to a different key can be recognized as the same even though it produces different sensations. The influential paper Wertheimer 1938 described the Gestalt laws of proximity, similarity, good continuation, and closure, which have had a profound influence on the study of music perception. From a different perspective, Seashore 1938 discussed basic sensory capacities involving music, together with other factors involving musicianship, such as the roles of innate musical talent and training. The 1950s saw two hugely influential developments in the psychology of music: Francés 1988 (originally published in 1958), written from the viewpoint of a psychologist, anticipated much later work on music perception and memory. Meyer 1956, written from the viewpoint of a music theorist, inspired a good deal of later work on music perception and cognition. Gjerdingen 2013 provides insightful contrasts between different approaches to the psychology of music in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

  • Ehrenfels, C. von. 1890. Concerning Gestalt qualities. Vierteljahrschrift fur wissenschaftliche Philosophie 14:249–292.

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    In this seminal paper, the author argues that a melody is a Gestalt, since it preserves its essential quality under transposition.

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  • Francés, R. 1988. The perception of music. Translated by W. J. Dowling. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

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    Originally published in 1958. This highly influential book on music perception and cognition describes both theoretical and empirical work that foreshadowed much later work on the subject.

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  • Gjerdingen, R. O. 2013. Psychologists and musicians: Then and now. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 683–708. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This book draws comparisons between approaches to the psychology of music by different scientists and writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In particular, comparison is made between approaches that focused on narrow sound parameters and those that considered musical structure from a global standpoint.

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  • Meyer, L. B. 1956. Emotion and meaning in music. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Written by a music theorist with a strong interest in psychology, this highly influential treatise covers Gestalt psychology, music theory, music history, and the psychology of emotion, learning, attention, and expectation.

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  • Seashore, C. E. 1938. Psychology of music. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    This classic book discusses sensory capacities, musical imagery, musical talent, musical performance, musical aesthetics, and music education, among other issues.

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  • Stevens, S. S., and H. Davis. 1938. Hearing, its psychology and physiology. New York: Wiley.

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    This classic book covers the anatomy of the ear and the physiology of the auditory pathway, together with the perception of various attributes of sound such as pitch, loudness, and localization, among other issues.

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  • Wertheimer, M. 1938. Laws of organization in perceptual forms. In A source book of Gestalt psychology. Edited by W. D. Ellis, 71–88. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    This article describes the application of the Gestalt principles of proximity, good continuation, and similarity, with examples taken from music as well as visual perception.

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Perception of Musical Tones

Perceptual studies on individual and simultaneous tones lay the groundwork for addressing more complex issues concerning the perception of elaborate musical configurations. Classical psychoacoustic studies of tone perception include scaling methods, threshold measurements, and reaction times; these have focused on loudness, pitch, and timbre. Concerning loudness, Oxenham 2013 describes research devoted to determining equal loudness contours for tones of differing frequency, and to the development of loudness scales. Pitch is arguably the most important dimension in music. As described in Plack, et al. 2005, considerable debate has concerned whether pitch is represented by a place or temporal code, and it now appears that both types of code are involved. The tones of most musical instruments are harmonic complex tones; that is, they are composed of partials that are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. These tones generally produce a pitch that corresponds to the fundamental frequency, even if this is missing. As described in Carlyon and Shackleton 1994, there has been considerable debate surrounding the mechanisms whereby the fundamental frequency is calculated by the auditory system, and it appears that both place and temporal information are involved. Other work has focused on interactions between different attributes. For example, Borchert, et al. 2011 found that pitch discrimination thresholds increase when the sounds to be compared differ in timbre. Research by Ernst Terhardt and others have focused on consonance and dissonance (see Terhardt 1984). In general, combinations whose frequencies stand in simple ratios such as the octave (2:1), fifth (3:2), and fourth (4:3), sound consonant (or “pleasing”), whereas other intervals, such as the tritone, which consist of complex ratios, sound dissonant (or “unpleasing”). The perception of timbre is particularly important for musical composition. As described in McAdams 2013, in order to discover the underlying perceptual representation of timbre, most psychophysical approaches have used multidimensional dissimilarity ratings so as to model relationships between sounds differing in timbre as points in “timbre space.” Grey 1977 is a seminal study using this technique. McAdams 2013 and McAdams and Cunible 1992 show that such representations provide models for characterizing timbral intervals, thus enabling operations on these intervals, such as transposition.

  • Borchert, E. M., C. Micheyl, and A. J. Oxenham. 2011. Perceptual grouping affects pitch judgments across time and frequency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 37.1: 257–269.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0020670Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes a study that compared listeners’ ability to detect differences in fundamental frequency between pairs of sequential or simultaneous tones that were filtered into separate, nonoverlapping spectral regions.

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  • Carlyon, R. P., and T. M. Shackleton. 1994. Comparing the fundamental frequencies of resolved and unresolved harmonics: Evidence for two pitch mechanisms. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 95.6: 3541–3554.

    DOI: 10.1121/1.409971Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes a study that evaluated sensitivity to fundamental frequencies derived from resolved and unresolved harmonics.

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  • Grey, J. M. 1977. Multidimensional perceptual scaling of musical timbres. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 61.5: 1270–1277.

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

    This study evaluated perceptual relationships between sixteen computer-synthesized musical instrument tones, using multidimensional scaling.

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  • McAdams, S. 2013. Musical timbre perception. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 35–67. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This chapter constitutes a detailed review of the literature on timbre perception. It discusses the use of multidimensional scaling of dissimilarity ratings to model relations among sounds that differ in timbre, so as to represent them as points in a timbre space. It also discusses timbre in orchestral practice.

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  • McAdams, S., and J.-C. Cunible. 1992. Perception of timbral analogies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, Series B 336.1278: 383–389.

    DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1992.0072Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examined the ability to perceive vectors in a timbre space, using both composers and nonmusicians as subjects.

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  • Oxenham, A. J. 2013. The perception of musical tones. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 1–33. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This chapter provides a detailed review of the literature on perception of musical tones. Psychoacoustic methods are reviewed, and loudness, pitch, and timbre are discussed, together with interactions among these attributes. Findings concerning consonance and dissonance are also evaluated.

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  • Plack, C. J., A. J. Oxenham, R. R. Fay, and A. N. Popper, eds. 2005. Pitch: Neural coding and perception. New York: Springer.

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    This book consists of chapters on aspects of pitch perception, written by experts in the different subfields.

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  • Terhardt, E. 1984. The concept of musical consonance: A link between music and psychoacoustics. Music Perception 1.3: 276–295.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses different approaches to consonance, particularly sensory consonance and musical (or harmonic) consonance.

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Absolute Pitch

Absolute pitch, also called perfect pitch, is the ability to name or produce a note of a given pitch in the absence of a reference note. The ability is very rare in North America and Europe, with its prevalence in the general population usually estimated at less than one in ten thousand. Because of its rarity, and because a considerable number of world-class composers and performers possess it, absolute pitch is often considered an ability that exists only in exceptionally gifted individuals. However, its genesis and characteristics are unclear. For example, Levitin and Rogers 2005 argues that most people possess implicit absolute pitch. Deutsch 2013 states that speculations concerning the genesis of absolute pitch fall into three general categories: First, it has been hypothesized that this ability can be acquired at any time through intensive practice; however, attempts to acquire it in adulthood have generally produced negative results. A second hypothesis, advanced in Athos, et al. 2007 and Baharloo, et al. 1998, among others, is that absolute pitch is an inherited trait, since it can run in families, often appears at a very young age, and does not exhibit a normal distribution in the population. However, as Deutsch 2013 notes, this view has been criticized by a number of researchers. A third hypothesis is that most people have the potential to acquire absolute pitch, but for this to occur, they need to be exposed to pitches in association with their note names early in life. Baharloo, et al. 1998; Deutsch, et al. 2006; and others have found a strong association between absolute pitch and early onset of musical training. Furthermore, the time window for acquiring absolute pitch corresponds with that for acquiring speech. Indeed, the relationship of absolute pitch to speech processing is very strong. For example, Deutsch, et al. 2006 found that speakers of the tone language Mandarin have a far greater prevalence of absolute pitch than do speakers of English. Also, the neuroanatomical correlates of absolute pitch correspond in many ways with those of speech. For example, Schlaug, et al. 1995 found that the planum temporale—an area that is heavily involved in speech processing—is more leftward asymmetric in absolute-pitch possessors than in nonpossessors. In addition, Loui, et al. 2011 found that absolute-pitch possessors show heightened connectivity of white matter in the left temporal lobe between regions known to be involved in categorization of speech sounds.

  • Athos, E. A., B. Levinson, A. Kistler, et al. 2007. Dichotomy and perceptual distortions in absolute pitch ability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104.37: 14795–14800.

    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0703868104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports on a web-based study that argues for a genetic component to absolute pitch. This study did not, however, use a genetically informed design, such as a twin study, but rather drew conclusions from indirect evidence.

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  • Baharloo, S., P. A. Johnston, S. K. Service, J. Gitschier, and N. B. Freimer. 1998. Absolute pitch: An approach for identification of genetic and nongenetic components. American Journal of Human Genetics 62.2: 224–231.

    DOI: 10.1086/301704Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports a large-scale survey of musicians to investigate the factors leading to the acquisition of absolute pitch.

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  • Deutsch, D. 2013. Absolute pitch. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 141–182. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    In this chapter, absolute pitch and its correlates are reviewed in detail, covering the genesis of absolute pitch, including the genetic hypothesis, acquisition through practice, the critical period hypothesis, and correlates with language. Also discussed are the characteristics of absolute-pitch possessors, neuroanatomical substrates of this ability, and absolute pitch in unusual populations.

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  • Deutsch, D., T. Henthorn, E. Marvin, and H.-S. Xu. 2006. Absolute pitch among American and Chinese conservatory students: Prevalence differences, and evidence for speech-related critical period. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 119.2: 719–722.

    DOI: 10.1121/1.2151799Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports on the first large-scale direct test study comparing the prevalence of absolute pitch in two large populations. It uncovered a far higher prevalence among tone-language speakers than among non-tone-language speakers, and also showed a strong effect of age of onset of musical training.

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  • Levitin, D. J., and S. E. Rogers. 2005. Absolute pitch: Perception, coding, and controversies. Trends in Cognitive Science 9.1: 26–33.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.11.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses various aspects of absolute pitch, including categorical perception, implicit absolute pitch, the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to its acquisition, and neuroanatomical substrates. See also erratum in Trends in Cognitive Science 9.2: 45.

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  • Loui, P., H. C. Li, A. Hohmann, and G. Schlaug. 2011. Enhanced cortical connectivity in absolute pitch musicians: A model for local hyperconnectivity. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 23.4: 1015–1026.

    DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21500Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using diffusion tensor imaging and tractography, the authors observed hyperconnectivity in superior temporal lobe structures linked to the possession of absolute pitch.

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  • Schlaug, G., L. Jancke, Y. Huang, and H. Steinmetz. 1995. In vivo evidence of structural brain asymmetry in musicians. Science 267.5198: 699–701.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.7839149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using in vivo magnetic resonance morphometry of the brain in musicians, the authors found that subjects with absolute pitch possessed a stronger leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale.

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Perceptual Grouping in Music

In listening to music one is presented with a complex, rapidly changing acoustic spectrum, often derived from several instruments playing simultaneously. One therefore has the task of disentangling the components of the time-varying spectrum that reaches one’s ears so as to perceive, for example, the first violins playing one set of tones, the clarinets another, and the flutes another. Bregman 1990 provides an extensive account of how this might be achieved. People also group together musical sounds so as to hear melodies, harmonies, and so on. One issue concerns the relationships between spectral components that lead one to fuse them into a unitary sound image and those that lead one to separate them into multiple sound images. As outlined in Darwin 2005 and Deutsch 2013, three cues have been shown to be particularly important here: One is harmonicity—components that stand in harmonic relation tend to be grouped together. Another is onset synchronicity—components that begin at the same time tend to be grouped together, and those that begin at different times tend to be separated out perceptually. A third is coherence of fluctuation of the steady-state portion of the sound, such as vibrato. Another issue that has been addressed is implied polyphony. As shown, for example, in van Noorden 1975, when a sequence of tones is presented at a rapid tempo, and the tones are in different pitch ranges, the listener perceives two melodic lines in parallel, one corresponding to the higher tones and the other to the lower tones. Bey and McAdams 2003, among others, shows that tones can also be perceptually separated into different streams on the basis of timbre. In addition, Snyder, et al. 2008, among others, shows that higher-level factors such as memory come into play here. Studies of brain mechanisms underlying streaming, for example, have shown that the auditory cortex and higher cortical structures are involved in this process (see Gutschalk, et al. 2005). Yet other studies, such as Pressnitzer, et al. 2008, have shown that structures low in the auditory pathway are involved. As a further issue, as described in Deutsch 2013, when multiple sequences of tones emanate simultaneously from different regions of space, powerful illusions can be produced, such as the scale illusion, chromatic illusion, cambiata illusion, and glissando illusion. Analyses of these illusions have shown that the different attributes of sounds are at some stage processed independently, and that their values can be recombined incorrectly by the perceptual system, so that illusory conjunctions occur.

  • Bey, C., and S. McAdams. 2003. Postrecognition of interleaved melodies as an indirect measure of auditory stream formation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 29.2: 267–279.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.29.2.267Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors measured processes involved in auditory stream segregation, using an indirect task in which a target melody interleaved with a distractor sequence was followed by a probe melody that was either identical to the target or differed from it.

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  • Bregman, A. S. 1990. Auditory scene analysis: The perceptual organization of sound. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This classic and highly influential book addresses the problem of hearing in complex auditory environments, hypothesizes a number of cues that are involved in the process, and discusses evidence for these hypotheses.

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  • Darwin, C. J. 2005. Pitch and auditory grouping. In Pitch: Neural coding and perception. Edited by C. J. Plack, A. J. Oxenham, R. R. Fay, and A. N. Popper, 278–305. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research 24. New York: Springer.

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    This chapter presents a detailed review of pitch and auditory grouping, covering effects of harmonicity, onset synchronicity, spatial location, pitch, timbre, context, and attention, among other factors.

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  • Deutsch, D. 2013. Grouping mechanisms in music. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 183–248. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This chapter presents a detailed review of grouping mechanisms in music, including the perceptual fusion and separation of sound components, larger-scale groupings such as in pseudopolyphony, grouping of sequential patterns so as to form phrases, and grouping of multiple simultaneous sequences of sounds. It also includes discussions of musical illusions.

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  • Gutschalk, A., C. Micheyl, J. R. Melcher, A. Rupp, M. Scherg, and A. J. Oxenham. 2005. Neuromagnetic correlates of streaming in human auditory cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 25.22: 5382–5388.

    DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0347-05.2005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors examined the neural bases of auditory stream formation, using neuromagnetic and behavioral measures. They found a tight coupling between auditory cortical activity and perception of streaming, and suggest that a representation of auditory streams may be maintained in nonprimary auditory cortical areas.

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  • Pressnitzer, D., M. Sayles, C. Micheyl, and I. M. Winter. 2008. Perceptual organization of sound begins in the auditory periphery. Current Biology 18.15: 1124–1128.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.06.053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recording from the cochlear nucleus—the first way-station along the auditory pathway—the authors found that neural responses displayed all the functional properties required for streaming, and they argue that streaming begins very early in the auditory system.

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  • Snyder, J. S., O. L. Carter, S.-K. Lee, E. E. Hannon, and C. Alain. 2008. Effects of context on auditory stream segregation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 34.4: 1007–1016.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.34.4.1007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study found that the characteristics of auditory stream segregation are influenced by preceding contexts.

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  • van Noorden, L. P. A. S. 1975. Temporal coherence in the perception of tone sequences. PhD diss., Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven.

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    This is a classic and highly influential study of the characteristics of auditory stream segregation.

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Music and Emotion

As described in Budd 1985, the influence of music on emotion has been the subject of scholarly inquiry since the time of the ancient Greeks. Many scientists, as seen in Macdonald, et al. 2012 and Sacks 2007 (cited under General Overviews), have argued that the emotional effects of music convey benefits to society, such as promoting physical health and feelings of well-being. As described in Juslin and Sloboda 2010, researchers on emotion in music make an important distinction between the perception of the intended emotional expression in the music and the actual induction of emotion in the listener. Concerning the perception of intended emotional expression, Thompson and Robitaille 1992 shows that there is considerable agreement among listeners concerning the type of emotion that is conveyed by a piece or passage. Juslin and Laukka 2003 further shows that such agreement occurs even when the performer conveys different emotions in playing the same piece or passage. Most agreement has been found with respect to basic emotions such as happiness, sadness, and anger. As outlined in Juslin and Sloboda 2010, particularly salient features for conveying emotion in music are also present in the speech of people in particular emotional states. Concerning the actual induction of emotion, pronounced affective responses to music can sometimes be produced, including shivers down the spine, and tears. As described in Hodges 2010, physiological responses to listening to music have been found to be similar to those induced by other emotion-arousing signals; these include changes in heart rate, breathing, and hormone secretion. From a different perspective, Huron 2006 (cited under General Overviews) argues that the fulfillment of musical expectations contributes to positive emotion in listening to music. Furthermore, brain scanning studies such as Koelsch, et al. 2006 have indicated that listeners’ responses to music engage brain areas that are involved in emotional reactions in other domains.

Developmental Origins of Musicality

Across cultures, mothers frequently use song to communicate with preverbal infants, using it to sooth distressed infants or encourage them to play, for example. As observed in Fernald 1993, mothers also use slower speech with exaggerated pitch contours when communicating with their infants, and the infants respond appropriately to the “melody” of infant-directed speech, even though they do not yet understand language. Zentner and Kagan 1998 shows that infants prefer consonant over dissonant intervals, and Demany and Armand 1984 observes that infants treat tones that are separated by octaves as perceptually equivalent. The question of whether infants find absolute or relative pitch more salient in melody has been the subject of debate. Stalinski and Schellenberg 2010 found evidence for a gradual developmental shift, in which younger children treat changes in absolute pitch as more salient, while older children treat changes in pitch relationships as more salient. Infants have been found to group sequences of tones based on similarity in pitch, loudness, and timbre, and they have also been found to process scales more easily when these are of unequal step size. As described in Trainor and Hannon 2013, the beginning of enculturation to a tonal system appears as early as age one, and the beginning of sensitivity to harmonic syntax as early as age five. Concerning temporal aspects, Demany, et al. 1977 observes that infants are sensitive to differences in rhythmic patterns. There are two schools of thought about the relationship of musical ability to other cognitive abilities. Some researchers, such as Isabelle Peretz, contend that musical talent is distinct from other abilities, and is subserved by a specialized module or modules (see Peretz 2008). Other researchers contend instead that music and speech are subserved by overlapping brain mechanisms. As outlined in Schellenberg and Weiss 2013, adults with poor pitch perception show deficits in phonological processing; basic pitch and temporal discrimination abilities are associated with intelligence; and individuals with poor intellectual abilities tend to perform poorly on tests of musical aptitude. However, evidence for the view that music is subserved by a distinct module has also been found. Peretz 2008 observes that some high-IQ individuals perform poorly on tests of musical aptitude, and Sacks 2007 (cited under General Overviews) describes individuals who are otherwise severely impaired cognitively yet perform extremely well musically.

  • Demany, L., and F. Armand. 1984. The perceptual reality of tone chroma in early infancy. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 76.1: 57–66.

    DOI: 10.1121/1.391006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes a study employing a habituation procedure that demonstrated sensitivity of three-month-old infants to tone chroma (octave equivalence).

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  • Demany, L., B. McKenzie, and E. Vurpillot. 1977. Rhythm perception in early infancy. Nature 266:718–719.

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    This article describes a study employing a habituation procedure showing that preverbal infants discriminated between different rhythmic groupings.

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  • Fernald, A. 1993. Approval and disapproval: Infant responsiveness to vocal affect in familiar and unfamiliar languages. Child Development 64.3: 657–667.

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    In this study, five-month-old infants were presented with infant-directed speech that expressed either approval or disapproval in both familiar and unfamiliar languages, and they responded appropriately, even though they did not yet understand language.

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  • Peretz, I. 2008. Musical disorders: From behavior to genes. Current Directions in Psychological Science 17.5: 329–333.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00600.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This brief review article presents evidence that music is subserved by specialized neural circuitry.

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  • Schellenberg, E. G., and M. W. Weiss. 2013. Music and cognitive abilities. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 499–550. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

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    This chapter presents a detailed review of associations between music and cognitive abilities. Evidence is presented that musical aptitude is a marker of general intelligence, except in special cases (amusia and musical savants). Associations between musical training in childhood and cognitive abilities are also reviewed.

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  • Stalinski, S. M., and E. G. Schellenberg. 2010. Shifting perceptions: Developmental changes in judgments of melodic similarity. Developmental Psychology 46.6: 1799–1803.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0020658Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Adults and children 5–12 years of age made similarity judgments concerning pairs of melodies. Younger children focused more on pitch range, and with increasing age, melodic differences played an increasing role and the influence of transposition was reduced.

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  • Trainor, L. J., and E. E. Hannon. 2013. Musical development. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 423–497. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    In this review chapter, musical development is considered, beginning with interactions between parents and infants. Developing brain circuits specialized for pitch, rhythm, and emotional responses to music are discussed, as are the relative roles of innate ability and musical training in the development of musical expertise.

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  • Zentner, M. R., and J. Kagan. 1998. Infants’ perception of consonance and dissonance in music. Infant Behavior & Development 21.3: 483–492.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90021-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, four-month-old infants were exposed to consonant and dissonant versions of two melodies, and they exhibited preference for the consonant melodies.

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Musical Processing in Nonhuman Species

The study of musical processing in nonhuman species provides important information about the evolutionary origins of music, as argued in Fitch 2006, McDermott and Hauser 2005, and Patel 2008. Given the diversity of capacities underlying music perception and cognition, it is likely that some aspects of musical processing extend far back in evolutionary history. An example here is pitch perception, as argued in Plack, et al. 2005 (cited under Perception of Musical Tones). Another example is the perception of tempo, as argued in Hagmann and Cook 2010. Other aspects of music—such as the use of cultural norms in apprehending tonal structures—may be uniquely human. Some musical capacities may have evolved relatively recently. For example, Fitch 2006 observes that drumming occurs in humans and great apes (such as chimpanzees) but has not been reported to occur in other apes (such as orangutans), leading to the hypothesis that drumming can be traced back to the common ancestor of great apes and humans. Yet other aspects of music have evolved as similar traits in distantly related animals. For example, as described in Patel, et al. 2009, parrots will spontaneously synchronize their movements to the beat of human music.

Cross-Cultural Studies of Music

Most research on the psychology of music has focused on the processing of Western tonal music. However, as argued in Patel 2008 (cited under Musical Processing in Nonhuman Species), the comparative study of musical processing across human cultures helps to define the limits of applicability of current findings and theory. Concerning perception of musical structure, Stevens and Byron 2009 hypothesizes a number of cross-cultural universals, including the semitone as the smallest interval, unequal scale steps, octave equivalence, and the use of consonant intervals. Curtis and Bharucha 2009 concludes that Western listeners draw on their experience of Western music in making judgments involving tones in the context of Indian musical style. Concerning emotional response, the researchers Laura-Lee Balkwill and William Forde Thompson asked Western listeners to rate the emotional content of Hindustani ragas, and found that they were able to identify those that were associated with joy, sadness, or anger (Balkwill and Thompson 1999). Furthermore, Fritz, et al. 2009 found that members of an isolated tribe in Northern Cameroon were able to identify beyond chance the intended emotion expressed in pieces of Western music. Other work has shown that the language spoken by the listener can influence how musical tones and sequences are perceived. Deutsch, et al. 2006 (cited under Absolute Pitch), a study of music conservatory students, found that the prevalence of absolute pitch among speakers of the tone language Mandarin was far higher than among speakers of English. Further, Pfordresher and Brown 2009 shows that tone language speakers have an enhanced ability to discriminate and imitate musical pitches. In addition, Giuliano, et al. 2011 found that Mandarin speakers were more accurate than non-tone-language speakers in identifying small changes in pitches and musical intervals. Where timing in music is concerned, Patel and Daniele 2003 found that timing patterns in the music of French and British composers correlated with those in the language of the composer’s origin.

Music and the Brain

There is evidence that musical training is associated with enhanced perceptual, motor, and cognitive function. For example, Forgeard, et al. 2008 and Schlaug, et al. 2005 demonstrate an association with superior performance on tasks involving discrimination of pitch and rhythm, perception of melodic contour, and tapping accuracy. With respect to cognitive ability, Moreno, et al. 2009 found an association with enhanced reading ability, Schlaug, et al. 2005 with enhanced vocabulary skills, and Schellenberg 2004 with enhanced intelligence. Elbert, et al. 1995 observes that intensive musical training is associated with an expansion of the functional representation of finger and hand maps. As argued in Wan and Schlaug 2010, training-induced plasticity is not restricted to the developing brain, but intensive training in adulthood can also lead to neural changes. From a different perspective, there is evidence that innate factors are involved in musical ability, and that specialized brain regions are involved in processing music. Peretz 2008 (cited under Developmental Origins of Musicality) and Sacks 2007 (cited under General Overviews), among others, argue that musical ability and other abilities are dissociated in certain individuals, both those with deficits in musical processing and those with deficits in other aspects of cognition but in whom musical processing appears unimpaired. Advantages associated with musical expertise, whether due to training or innate ability, are complemented by differences in brain organization, as reflected in both structural and functional imaging studies. Schlaug, et al. 1995 observes that the anterior corpus callosum is larger in musicians than in nonmusicians; furthermore, absolute pitch possessors have been found to exhibit a larger leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale (Schlaug, et al. 1995, cited under Absolute Pitch), and to exhibit stronger connections between the superior temporal gyrus and middle temporal gyrus (Loui, et al. 2011, cited under Absolute Pitch). Furthermore, Wong, et al. 2007 notes that musical experience is associated with enhanced brainstem encoding of linguistic patterns. Other areas showing structural differences between musicians and nonmusicians include the primary auditory cortex, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the superior parietal lobule.

The Processing of Pitch Structures

As outlined in Deutsch 2013, the processing of pitch structures occurs at different levels. At the lowest level, the abstraction of basic features occurs—including local features such as intervals and chords, and global features such as contour. At a higher level, listeners organize pitches in music so as to perceive coherent phrases. According to Meyer 1956 (cited under First Half of the 20th Century) and Narmour 1990, proximity in pitch and time play important roles in this process. Huron 2006 (cited under General Overviews) notes that pitches tend to be combined in melody so as to produce particular configurations, such as arch-shaped or rapidly falling contours. Gjerdingen 1988 shows that compositions in particular styles tend to involve schemata appropriate to the style of the composition. At the highest level, music is represented in the mind of the listener in the form of coherent patterns that are linked together so as to produce hierarchical structures. Deutsch and Feroe 1981 and Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983, among others, provide models of such structures. As argued in Meyer 1956 (cited under First Half of the 20th Century), for music that is composed in a given key, there exists, in general, a hierarchy of prominence for the different notes in that key. One question concerns the extent to which style-dependent top-down factors influence perception of musical passages, and to what extent such perception is driven by more universal, lower-level factors. Krumhansl 1990 argues that such hierarchies of prominence for tones within a key result from long-term exposure to music of a particular tradition. In contrast, Butler 1989 and other works argue that the evidence points to a strong effect of short-term memory. In line with the latter view, Deutsch 2013 describes findings that short-term memory for the pitch of a tone influences perception of this tone in the context of a phrase, and so perception of the phrase itself. Another question is how music as it is composed corresponds to the music as it is perceived by the listener. Thomson 1991 contends that the theory of twelve-tone music is not compatible with the characteristics of human perceptual and cognitive systems. Also, Deutsch 2013 (cited under Perceptual Grouping in Music) states that musical tones in a sequential setting are subject to a number of illusions, so that the music as it is perceived may not correspond to the music as it is displayed in the written score.

  • Butler, D. 1989. Describing the perception of tonality in music: A critique of the tonal hierarchy theory and a proposal for a theory of intervallic rivalry. Music Perception 6.3: 219–241.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285588Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a critique of a paradigm that has frequently been employed to infer key attribution by the listener. An alternative explanation for findings from this paradigm is advanced.

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  • Deutsch, D. 2013. The processing of pitch combinations. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 250–325. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    In this chapter, the processing of pitch combinations is explored at several levels. The abstraction of low-level features is discussed, as is the question of how listeners organize pitches in music so as to perceive coherent phrases and tonal structures. Also explored are short-term memory for attributes of tones, and a number of musical illusions.

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  • Deutsch, D., and J. Feroe. 1981. The internal representation of pitch sequences in tonal music. Psychological Review 88.6: 503–522.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.88.6.503Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a model in which pitch sequences are retained in the mind of the listener as tonal-temporal hierarchies. At each level of a hierarchy, elements are elaborated by further elements so as to form structural units at the next-lower level, until the lowest level is reached.

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  • Gjerdingen, R. O. 1988. A classic turn of phrase: Music and the psychology of convention. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    This book discusses musical schemata, style structures, and archetypes, considering both universal and style-specific factors.

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  • Krumhansl, C. L. 1990. Cognitive foundations of musical pitch. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This book considers the relationship between the cognitive organization of pitch and its internal structure, combining a review of the literature with the author’s empirical research on the subject.

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  • Lerdahl, F., and R. Jackendoff. 1983. A generative theory of tonal music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    This book models the understanding of music from the perspective of cognitive science, proposing a grammar of music with the aid of generative linguistics, and so relates the surface notation of the piece to its musical structure as unconsciously inferred by the listener.

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  • Narmour, E. 1990. The analysis and cognition of basic melodic structures: The implication-realization model. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This book formulates a comprehensive theory of melodic syntax, so as to explain the cognitive relations between tones of a melody at a basic level, such as focusing on note-to-note relations.

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  • Thomson, W. 1991. Schoenberg’s error. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    This book presents an important critique of Schoenberg’s theoretical stance, examining his explanations of musical structure, and arguing that these do not account for the processing capacities of the listener.

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Rhythm and Timing

Since the early 1990s there has been a shift in the study of rhythm, going from a strictly music-theoretic perspective to one that emphasizes empirical findings. As described in Repp, et al. 2002 and Honing 2013, among others, there are important differences between rhythm as it is notated in a musical score and rhythm as it is perceived and produced. As a simple example, when the rhythm 1:1:1 is performed with a gradual lengthening of the pauses between the notes, it appears more like the notated rhythm than when it is performed exactly as notated. The metrical structure that the listener assigns to a temporal pattern is an important determinant of its perceived rhythm. Meter is grounded in the perception of a pulse (or tactus), which consists of a succession of note onsets that occur at regular intervals. These inter-onset intervals (IOIs) are generally subdivided into two, three, or four smaller intervals; furthermore, the tactus is organized at a higher level so as to produce measures. This organization is discussed in Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983 (cited under The Processing of Pitch Structures) and London 2012. A number of signal parameters, such as duration, pitch, and loudness, combine to form the listener’s metrical hierarchy. The temporal parameters involved in the perception of such hierarchies are constrained, with inter-onset intervals ranging roughly from about 250 to 2,000 milliseconds (ms), with an optimal inter-onset interval of roughly 600 ms. As described in Clarke 1999 and Desain and Honing 2003, among others, metrical context can influence the way a pattern is perceived and produced. Furthermore, as shown in Honing 2013; Honing and Haas 2008; and Repp, et al. 2002; tempo influences the way a pattern is perceived and produced. Therefore, as argued in Clarke 1999 and Desain and Honing 2003, among others, a temporal pattern in music combines two different representations of time—the discrete pattern of durations that is symbolized by notes in a musical score, and the continuous timing variations that characterize the actual performance. As argued in Todd 1985, patterns of timing in performance frequently emphasize rhythmic and metrical hierarchies. Furthermore, Clarke 1999, Honing and Haas 2008, and Palmer 1997 (cited under Music Performance) show that expressive deviations from exact timing can be remarkably precise and consistent.

  • Clarke, E. F. 1999. Rhythm and timing in music. In The psychology of music. 2d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 473–500. New York: Academic Press.

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    This chapter provides an overview of research relating to the temporal dimension of music, focusing on small- to medium-scale phenomena such as rhythm. Detailed temporal properties of performed music are considered, together with the relationship between rhythm and movement.

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  • Desain, P., and H. Honing. 2003. The formation of rhythmic categories and metric priming. Perception 32:341–365.

    DOI: 10.1068/p3370Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a study of perception of rhythm showing that listeners engage in categorical perception while making rhythmic judgments, and are strongly influenced by metric priming.

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  • Honing, H. 2013. Structure and interpretation of rhythm in music. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 369–404. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This chapter reviews temporal aspects of music perception and cognition, providing an overview of timing, tempo, categorization, beat and meter induction, and relationships to movement, from both a music theoretic and a cognitive perspective.

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  • Honing, H., and W. B. Haas. 2008. Swing once more: Relating timing and tempo in expert jazz drumming. Music Perception 25:471–477.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2008.25.5.471Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In a study of expert jazz drumming, the authors show that while the drummers had enormous control over their timing, they altered the swing ratio with changes in global tempo, providing evidence that expressive timing generally does not scale with tempo.

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  • London, J. 2012. Hearing in time: Psychological aspects of musical meter. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744374.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written by a music theorist with a strong knowledge of psychology, this book examines the perceptual and cognitive constraints that govern the perception and production of rhythm and meter. The book is well and clearly written, and does not require a musical background to be understood.

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  • Repp, B., W. L. Windsor, and P. Desain. 2002. Effects of tempo on the timing of simple musical rhythms. Music Perception 19:565–593.

    DOI: 10.1525/mp.2002.19.4.565Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study investigated how the timing of musical rhythm changes with tempo. Skilled pianists played a melody in different rhythmic versions and different tempi. It was found that perception of three-note rhythms changed considerably with alterations in tempo.

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  • Todd, N. P. M. 1985. A model of expressive timing in tonal music. Music Perception 3:33–58.

    DOI: 10.2307/40285321Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports a study in which skilled pianists played a melody in different rhythmic versions and tempi. Analyses of the performances found significant deviations from the notated interval ratios depending on the tempi.

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Music Performance

As discussed in Sloboda 2000, playing a musical instrument imposes enormous demands on the performer. Precise motor actions need to be associated with highly specific sound patterns, and with visual patterns that are displayed in the musical score. Further, multisensory feedback needs to be continuously monitored while playing; substantial input from both long- and short-term memory is required; and so on. In creating an acceptable performance, the player also needs to engage in a number of expressive devices, such as producing changes in tempo and loudness, accenting structurally important notes, and (for certain instruments) producing deviations in pitch and timbre. One purpose of expressiveness is to articulate the structure and stylistic characteristics of the piece. For example, as discussed in Repp 1998 and Todd 1985 (cited under Rhythm and Timing), the music may slow down and decrease in loudness with the approach of a phrase boundary, with the degree of change increasing as the importance of the phrase boundary increases. Sundberg, et al. 1983 proposes a number of performance rules to describe the deviations from strictly accurate performance that communicate musical structure. Other performance devices enhance perceptual clarity. For example, as described in Sundberg 2013, when singing against an orchestral background, baritones produce notes that include substantial high-frequency components; this enables listeners to hear their voices clearly even against a loud orchestral background. Furthermore, Palmer 1989 shows that when a melody is played together with an accompaniment, the notes of the melody may be played more loudly, and their onsets may slightly precede those of the accompaniment, so as to enhance their perceptual salience. Expressiveness in performance also serves to communicate the emotional intent of the music. Gabrielsson and Juslin 1996 shows that performers can play the same music with different emotional connotations, and that listeners are sensitive to the intended emotional expressions. In particular, tempo and loudness provide important cues to emotional intent. It has also been noted that individual performers often have identifiable styles, as described in Gabrielsson 1999, Palmer 1997, and Honing and Haas 2008 (cited under Rhythm and Timing). The details of a performance by a given player can be remarkably consistent from one performance to another, for example.

  • Gabrielsson, A. 1999. The performance of music. In The psychology of music. 2d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 501–602. New York: Academic Press.

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    This chapter constitutes an extensive review of studies of music performance, including the planning of performance, sight reading, memorization, improvisation, feedback, and motor processes. Also discussed are the emotional and social factors that may influence performance.

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  • Gabrielsson, A., and P. N. Juslin. 1996. Emotional expression in music performance: Between the performer’s intention and the listener’s experience. Psychology of Music 24.1: 68–91.

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

    In this study, professional musicians performed short melodies on a number of instruments. Their performances showed both similarities and differences, and listeners were generally successful in decoding the expression intended by the performer.

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  • Palmer, C. 1989. Mapping musical thought to musical performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 15.2: 331–346.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.15.2.331Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes two experiments on expressive timing in performances by experienced pianists. Among other findings, the notes of the melodies tended to precede other events in chords, and tended to be louder; further, events at phrase boundaries showed the greatest tempo changes.

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  • Palmer, C. 1997. Music performance. Annual Review of Psychology 48:115–138.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.48.1.115Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides an extensive review of music performance, including methodological issues, motor programs, relationships between structure and expression, and perception of performance expression by listeners.

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  • Repp, B. H. 1998. Variations on a theme by Chopin: Relations between perception and production of deviations from isochrony in music. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 24.3: 791–811.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.24.3.791Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes a study employing a Chopin etude, in which the structural characteristics of the music—particularly melodic-rhythmic grouping—were shown to have strong effects on both perception and production of performances by trained musicians.

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  • Sloboda, J. A. 2000. Individual differences in music performance. Trends in Cognitive Science 4.10: 397–403.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01531-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents a review of individual differences in music performance, including the roles of talent and of practice in the acquisition of musical skill, the cognitive and aesthetic bases of expressive variations, and emotionality ratings of performances.

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  • Sundberg, J. 2013. The perception of singing. In The psychology of music. 3d ed. Edited by D. Deutsch, 69–105. Oxford: Academic Press.

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    This review chapter focuses on the function of the singing voice, the acoustic correlates of various perceived vocal qualities, and various aspects of vibrato, intonation, and expressive devices in singing.

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  • Sundberg, J., A. Askenfeld, and L. Fryden. 1983. Musical performance: A synthesis-by-rule approach. Computer Music Journal 7.1: 37–43.

    DOI: 10.2307/3679917Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article describes and discusses a number of rules for improving the acceptability of performances that are initially synthesized without expression, and the use of an analysis-by-synthesis approach to evaluate such rules.

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