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Music Psychology, or the psychology of music, may be regarded either as a branch of psychology or as 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.
Humans spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money on musical activities. Why? The modern, international field of music psychology is gradually exploring a multitude of issues that surround this central question. 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.
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:
- Assessment of musical ability
- Perception of music: melody, phrasing, harmony, tonality, rhythm, meter
- Musical preferences: the reasons why we like some kinds of music and not others
- Social psychology of music - The role of music in forming personal identity - (religious, festive, sporting, political...)
- Everyday music listening (while driving, eating, shopping, reading...)
- Musical behaviors such as dancing and responding emotionally to music
- Music education - the specific skills and processes involved in musical training,learning a musical instrument or to singingmusic reading, including eye movement in music reading
- Psychology of music composition
- Psychology of music performance - the psychological processes involved in musical performance, including:
- the interpersonal/social aspects of group performance
- Developmental aspects of music musical behaviours and abilities throughout the lifespan
- the daily lives and challenges of professional musicians, regardless of whether they
perform from scores or improvise, perform alone or in groups, or compose or arrange music on paper or with the aid of computers
Relevant areas of psychology include:
- biopsychology (including neuropsychology)
- perception (including sensation and psychoacoustics)
- cognition (including language, thinking, consciousness, learning, and memory)
- motivation and emotion
- childhood and life-span development
- health (including stress, coping, therapy, and psychological disorders)
- personality and individual differences
- motor skill (including talent, creativity, and intelligence), and
- social psychology and cognition.
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.
Leading music psychologists
Leading music psychologists of our time include
The main music psychology journals are:
- Music Perception
- Psychology of Music
- Jahrbuch Musikpsychologie
- Journal of Research in Music Education
The following journals include a high proportion of music-psychological articles:
- Musicae Scientiae (Journal of New Music Research )
Other music psychology journals include:
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:
- Computer Music Journal
- Journal of Mathematics and Music
- Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
- Empirical Studies of the Arts
Leading book publishers in the area of music psychology include Oxford University Press and MIT Press.
The most important conference in music psychology is the biannual International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition.
Other important conferences are organized regularly by:
- European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM)
- Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC, USA)
Regional music psychology conferences are organised regularly by:
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Musikpsychologie (DGM)
- Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE, Britain)
- Japanese Society for Music Perception and Cognition (JSMPC)
- Australian Music and Psychology Society (AMPS)
- Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (APSCOM)
The leading email list in the area of music psychology is Psymus. Music-psychological topics are also addressed on the following lists:
- Systematische Musikwissenschaft (MuWiSys)
- Society for Music Theory (SMT-LIST)
- SMT Music Cognition Group (SMTMCG)
Music psychology (including music perception, music cognition, and music performance research) is studied and researched at the following universities and music academies:
- Australia : Melbourne University, University of Western Sydney
- Austria : Graz University, Klagenfurt
- Belgium : Ghent
- Britain : Cambridge University, Keele University, Leeds University, University of Leicester, University of London, Royal College of Music, Sheffield University, University of Edinburgh
- Canada : McGill University, University of Toronto, Queens University, University of Prince Edward Island
- Finland : Jyväskylä
- France : Lyon, Dijon
- Germany : Halle, Hannover, Köln, Oldenburg, Würzburg
- Japan : Kyushu University
- Korea : Seoul National University
- Netherlands : University of Amsterdam, Nijmegen
- Poland : Warsaw University
- Sweden : Uppsala, Stockholm University
- USA : Northwestern, Oregon State University, University of Texas at San Antonio, Stanford, UCLA, Ohio State School of Music, Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester
References & Bibliography
- Sloboda, J.A. (1985) The Musical Mind: The Cognitive Psychology of Music. London: Oxford University Press.
- Sloboda, J.A. (1988) Generative Processes in Music: the Psychology of Performance, Improvisation and Composition. London: Oxford University Press.
- Sloboda, J.A., and Deliege, I. (1996) Musical Beginnings: Origins and Development of Musical Competence. London: Oxford University Press.
- Sloboda, J.A., and Deliege, I. (1997) Perception and Cognition of Music. Mahwah NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
- Sloboda, J. A. and Juslin, P. (Eds.) (2001). Music and Emotion: Theory and Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Sloboda, J. A, (2004) Exploring the Musical Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Sloboda, J.A., Lehmann, A.C, Woody, R.H. (2007) Psychology for Musicians: Understanding and Acquiring the Skills. Oxford University Press, New York.
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