Music psychology


Music psychology

Music psychology, or the psychology of music, may be regarded as a branch of psychology or a branch of musicology. It aims to explain and understand musical behavior and musical experience. Modern music psychology is mainly empirical: music-psychological knowledge tends to advance primarily on the basis of interpretations of data about musical behavior and experience, which are collected by systematic observation of and interaction with human participants. Music psychology is a field of research with practical relevance for music performance, music composition, music education, music medicine, and music therapy.

Contents

Scope

The modern, international field of music psychology is gradually exploring a multitude of issues that surround the question of why humans spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money on musical activities. Music psychology may be regarded as scientific research about human culture. The results of this research have, and will continue to have, direct implications for matters of general concern: human values, human identity, human nature, and quality of life.

Research areas

Questions in music psychology are often difficult to answer. It is therefore necessary to subject the research literature to careful quality control procedures. These generally take the form of anonymous expert peer review, which is a standard feature of all leading music-psychological societies, conferences, and journals.

Music psychologists investigate all aspects of musical behavior by applying methods and knowledge from all aspects of psychology. Topics of study include for example:

  • Perception of musical sounds
  • Perception of sound patterns
  • Memory for music
  • Absolute pitch
  • everyday music listening (while driving, eating, shopping, reading...)
  • musical rituals and gatherings (religious, festive, sporting, political...)
  • the specific skills and processes involved in learning a musical instrument or singing in a choir
  • musical behaviors such as dancing and responding emotionally to music
  • development of musical behaviours and abilities throughout the lifespan
  • the role of music in forming personal and group identities
  • preferences: the reasons why we like some music genres and not others
  • Social influences on musical preference (peers, family, experts, social background, etc.)
  • the structures that we hear within music: melody, phrasing, harmony, tonality, rhythm, meter, danceability, BPM, or quasilinguistic elements such as syntax
  • the psychological processes involved in musical performance, including:
    • music reading, including eye movement in music reading
    • improvisation
    • the interpersonal/social aspects of group performance
    • the composition/arrangement of music on paper or with the aid of computers

Related areas of psychology

Relation to music and musicology

Music psychology can shed light on non-psychological aspects of musicology and musical practice. For example, music psychology contributes to music theory by investigating the perception of musical structures such as melody, harmony, tonality, rhythm, meter, and form. Research in music history can benefit from psychologically inspired, systematic study of the history of musical syntax, or from psychological analyses of the personalities of composers in relation to the psychological effect of their music. Ethnomusicology can benefit from psychological approaches to the study of music cognition in different cultures. Research is only beginning in many of these promising areas of interaction.

Resources

Journals

The main music psychology journals are:

The following journals include a high proportion of music-psychological articles:


Music psychologists also publish in a wide range of mainstream musicology, music theory/analysis, psychology, music education, music therapy, music medicine, and systematic musicology journals. The latter include for example:

Books

Leading book publishers in the area of music psychology include Oxford University Press's Music Psychology books and MIT Press's Music Psychology books.

Deutsch, Diana (1999). The Psychology of Music (2 ed.). San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0122135652. 

Thompson, William Forde (2009). Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195377079. 

Hallam, Cross, & Thaut, eds. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Links to further resources

Conferences

The most important conference in music psychology is the biannual International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition.

Other important conferences are organised regularly by:

Regional music psychology conferences are organised regularly by:

Email lists

The leading email list in the area of music psychology is Psymus. Music-psychological topics are also addressed on the following lists:

Educational centers

Music psychology (including music perception, music cognition, and music performance research) is studied and researched at the following universities and music academies:


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