Psychology of Music

Broadly conceived, research in the Psychology of Music is concerned with understanding the psychological processes involved in listening to music, playing music, and composing and improvising music, using empirical, theoretical and computational methods. Psychologists, computer scientists and musicologists all make contributions to this highly interdisciplinary research domain, and their research encompasses experimental work on music perception and cognition, computer modelling of human musical capacities, the social psychology of music, emotion and meaning in music, psychological processes in music therapy, the developmental psychology of music, music and consciousness, music and embodiment, and the neuroscience of music.

The psychology of music has had a presence in the Music Faculty since 2002, and was firmly established in 2007 with the appointment of Eric Clarke as Heather Professor of Music. Eric Clarke has research interests in the psychology of performance, ecological approaches to music perception and musical meaning, the psychology of musical rhythm, music and consciousness, and music and embodiment. He is involved in collaborative research and publication with Nicola Dibben and Stephanie Pitts at the University of Sheffield, and with David Clarke at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne; with members of AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM); and (from 2009) with colleagues in the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP). Current and forthcoming research projects include a co-authored volume on Music and Mind in Everyday Life (OUP, 2009); an edited volume on Music and Consciousness (OUP, 2010); a project on Creative Practice in Contemporary Concert Music (funded by the AHRC as part of the Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice, 2009-2014); and a book on Musical Subjectivities arising out of his RHUL/BL Distinguished Lectures in Musicology.

The Faculty has excellent facilities for  research in the psychology of music, including a very well equipped three-roomed electronic music studio, two Disklavier computer-monitored pianos for performance research, high quality portable digital audio and video equipment for fieldwork, outstanding library holdings, and collaborative links with colleagues in Psychology, Neuroscience, Anthropology, Archaeology and Fine Art. Former research students of Professor Clarke’s have completed doctorates on a wide range of topics including:

  • the perception of hierarchical structures in tonal and atonal music
  • connectionist modelling of rhythm perception
  • the perception and semiotics of music in film
  • music and paranormal phenomena
  • experimental studies of sight-reading
  • the perception of electroacoustic music
  • musical performance and bodily movement
  • expressive performance in young cellists
  • music and synaesthesia
  • music and consciousness