U7 #5 – Music Cognition & Cognitive Musicology

So lets just do some more research.

Music cognition is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the mental processes that support musical behaviors, including perception, comprehension, memory, attention, and performance. Originally arising in fields of psychoacoustics and sensation, cognitive theories of how people understand music more recently encompass neuroscience, cognitive science, music theory, music therapy, computer science, psychology, philosophy, and linguistics.


Music cognition was definitively recognized as a discipline in the early 1980s, with the creation of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and the journalMusic Perception. The field focuses on how the mind makes sense of music as it is heard. It also deals with the related question of the cognitive processes involved when musicians perform music. Like language, music is a uniquely human capacity that arguably played a central role in the origins of human cognition.[1] The ways in which music can illuminate fundamental issues in cognition have been underexamined, or even dismissed asepiphenomenal. The latter view was famously expressed by noted cognitive scientist Steven Pinker when he referred to music as “auditory cheesecake”.[2] But as cognition in music is increasingly acknowledged as fundamental to our understanding of cognition as a whole, music cognition should be able to contribute both conceptually and methodologically to cognitive science. Topics in the field include:

  • A listener’s perception of grouping structure (motivesphrases, sections, etc.)
  • Rhythm and meter (perception and production)
  • Key inference
  • Expectation (including melodic expectation)
  • Musical similarity
  • Emotional, affective, or arousal response
  • Expressive performance
  • Conceptual processing[3]

Some aspects of cognitive music theory describe how sound is perceived by a listener. While the study of human interpretations of sound is called psychoacoustics, the cognitive aspects of how listeners interpret sounds as musical events is commonly known as music cognition.




Cognitive musicology can be differentiated from the fields of music cognitionmusic psychology and cognitive neuroscience of music by a difference in methodological emphasis. Cognitive musicology uses computer modeling to study music-related knowledge representation and has roots in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. The use of computer models provides an exacting, interactive medium in which to formulate and test theories.[2]





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