Music Cognition

Music cognition is an interdisciplinary field concerned with applying the methods of cognitive science—experimental, computational, and neurological—to musical issues and problems. At the University of Rochester, the Music Theory Department (at Eastman School of Music) and the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department offer an active and supportive environment for music cognition study and research.

In August 2005, the University of Rochester recognized music cognition as an "Interdisciplinary Cluster", providing additional funding for music cognition events and activities. Learn more »»

Graduate Study in Music Cognition

Students with interests in music cognition are encouraged to pursue graduate study at Eastman/UR. This can be done either through the PhD program in music theory at Eastman, or through the PhD program in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. Students accepted into one of these PhD programs may design an interdepartmental PhD that combines coursework in both music theory and BCS and a jointly advised dissertation on a music-cognitive topic.

Music Theory PhD at Eastman

Students in Eastman's theory PhD program have great flexibility in designing their own programs of study, and those with interests in music cognition are encouraged to pursue them. Students take graduate-level courses in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department, and BCS faculty serve on dissertation committees. The theory department's graduate-level course offerings include two courses in music cognition: a broad survey course entitled "Music and the Mind," and a research-focused proseminar that requires students to design and run an experiment or computational study. (Click here for more information about these courses.) The theory department's Music Research Laboratory has a dedicated room for music perception/cognition experiments. For further information, contact Elizabeth West Marvin (bmarvin@esm.rochester.edu) or David Temperley (dtemperley@esm.rochester.edu).

Visit the theory department's website »»

Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester

The Brain & Cognitive Sciences department welcomes graduate and undergraduate students with interests in music, especially those wishing to explore connections between music and other areas of cognitive science, such as language, perception, and learning and development. At the graduate level, the department provides training in behavioral, computational, and neural approaches to the study of perception, cognition, and language. Students with interests in music cognition are encouraged to take courses at Eastman and work with Eastman faculty. For further information, contact Professor Elizabeth West Marvin (bmarvin@esm.rochester.edu).

Visit the BCS website »»

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Undergraduate Study in Music Cognition

The undergraduate curriculum in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering requires that students choose a major in one of three areas—Humanities, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences—and complete a "cluster" in each of the other two disciplines. It is now possible to complete a cluster in any of these three areas that includes coursework in music cognition (learn more about undergraduate clusters). Students may also minor in music cognition as a Natural Science (learn more). The Brain & Cognitive Sciences B.A. degree program offers an undergraduate "track" on "Music Cognition and Language" (learn more); the department also offers an undergraduate survey course on music cognition (learn more).

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The Eastman/UR/Cornell Music Cognition Symposium

The Eastman/UR/Cornell Music Cognition Symposium normally meets four times a year (twice in the fall and twice in the spring) on Saturday afternoons.

  • Members of the symposium's steering committee are:
  • Elizabeth West Marvin, David Temperley, and Ted Goldman at Eastman,
  • Dick Aslin and Joyce McDonough at the UR College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering,
  • Anne Luebke in the UR's School of Medicine and Dentistry,
  • Carol Krumhansl at Cornell University, and
  • Peter Pfordresher at the University at Buffalo.

Often, the symposium features invited guests; guests in recent years have included:

  • Roger Chaffin
  • Elaine Chew
  • Sarah Creel
  • Roger Dannenberg
  • Mary Farbood
  • Jessica Graun
  • Peter Gregersen
  • Andrea Halpern
  • Erin Hannon
  • David Huron
  • Petr Janata
  • Ed Large
  • Fred Lerdahl
  • Dan Levitin
  • Elizabeth Margulis
  • Devin McAuley
  • Josh McDermott
  • Ken'ichi Miyazaki
  • Rosemary Mountain
  • Eugene Narmour
  • Jean-Jacques Nattiez
  • Caroline Palmer
  • Bryan Pardo
  • Ani Patel
  • Isabelle Peretz
  • Dirk-Jan Povel
  • Bruno Repp
  • Jean-Claude Risset
  • Frank Russo
  • Gottfried Schlaug
  • Mark Schmuckler
  • John Sloboda
  • Barbara Tillman
  • Sandra Trehub
  • Robert Zatorre

Symposia may also feature presentations of ongoing work by students and faculty at E astman, UR, and Cornell, and discussions of readings and topics in music cognition. Recent topics have included performance expression, probabilistic modeling, melodic expectation, and music-language connections.

To be added to the symposium's e-mail mailing list, contact David Temperley (dtemperley@esm.rochester.edu).

Music Cognition Symposia, 2014-15

Saturday, October 25, 2014
Guest speaker: Justin London, Carleton College
Ciminelli Lounge, Eastman School of Music, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Guest speaker: Sid Fels, University of British Columbia
ESM 209, Eastman School of Music, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Local Research
Location TBA
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Guest speaker: Steve McAdams, McGill University
Location TBA

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Some Recent Publications and Conference Presentations

The following list is a sampling of recent publications and conference presentations in music cognition by people at the University of Rochester and Eastman.

  • Joseph van der Stel (2013). "Tonal ambiguity between relative keys." Milestones in Music Cognition Conference, McGill University.
  • Daphne Tan (2013). "Ernst Kurth at the Boundary of Music Theory and Psychology." Music Theory Midwest Conference.
  • Joseph Siu (2013). "Perception of the Tritone Paradox among Cantonese and Mandarin Speakers." Society for Music Perception and Cognition, Ryerson University.
  • Joseph Siu (2013). "Psychological Limits on Rhythm and Meter." Graduate Student Workshop, Society for Music Theory.
  • David Temperley & Trevor de Clercq (2013). "Statistical Analysis of Harmony and Melody in Rock Music." 42, 187-204.
  • David Temperley & Daphne Tan (2013). "Emotional Connotations of Diatonic Modes." Music Perception 30, 237-5.
  • Andrew Aziz (2011). "Debussy's 'Hommage a Haydn,' Ravel's 'Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn', and the Probabilistic Key-Finding Model." Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Jenine Brown (2011). "The Psychological Representation of Musical Intervals in a Twelve-Tone Context." Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Keturah Bixby, Joyce McDonough, & Betsy Marvin (2011). "Perceptual grouping: The influence of auditory experience." Poster presented at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Katie Cox (2011). "Playing in a Dialect: a Comparison of English and American Vowels and Trombone Timbres." Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Robert Hasegawa (2011). "An Acoustic Model for Chord Voicings in Post-Tonal Music." Poster presented at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Elizabeth Marvin & Elissa Newport (2011). "The Absolute Pitch Continuum: Evidence of Incipient AP in Musical Amateurs." Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Alice Asako Matsumoto & Caroline Marcum (2011). "The Relationship Between Music Aptitude and the Ability to Discriminate Tone Contours in the Cantonese Language." Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Andrew Snow & Heather Chan (2011). "Linguistic Influences on Rhythmic Preference in the Music of Bartok." Poster presented at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • Daphne Tan (2011). "Past and present conceptions of music in the mind: An introduction to Ernst Kurth's Musikpsychologie."Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • David Temperley (2011). "A Bayesian Theory of Musical Pleasure."Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • David Temperley and Trevor de Clercq (2011). "Key-finding Algorithms for Popular Music."Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • David Temperley & Daphne Tan (2011). "The Emotional Connotations of Diatonic Modes."Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Rochester.
  • David Temperley (2010). "Modeling Common-Practice Rhythm." Music Perception
  • Elizabeth West Marvin and Elissa Newport (2008). "Statistical Learning in Language and Music: Absolute Pitch without Labeling." International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC10), Sapporo, Japan.
  • David Temperley and Elizabeth West Marvin (2008). "Pitch-class Distribution and the Identification of Key." Music Perception 25, 193-212
  • David Temperley (2008). A Probabilistic Model of Melody Perception. Cognitive Science 32, 418-444.
  • Elizabeth West Marvin (2007). Absolute Pitch Perception and the Pedagogy of Relative Pitch. Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 21, 1-34.
  • David Temperley (2007). Music and Probability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Christopher Bartlette, Dave Headlam, Mark Bocko and Gordana Velickic (2006). Effect of network latency on interactive musical performance. Music Perception, 24, 49-59.
  • Diana Deutsch, Trevor Henthorn, Elizabeth Marvin, and HongShuai Xu (2006). Absolute pitch among American and Chinese Conservatory Students: Prevalence Differences and Evidence for a Speech-Related Critical Period. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119, 719-722.
  • Sarah Creel, Elissa Newport, & Richard Aslin (2004). Distant melodies: Statistical learning of non-adjacent dependencies in tone sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 1119-1130.
  • Panayotis Mavromatis (2004). A Hidden Markov Model of melody in Greek Church Chant. 8th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Evanston, IL.
  • Panayotis Mavromatis & Matthew Brown (2004). Parsing context-free grammars for music: A computational model of Schenkerian Analysis. 8th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Evanston, IL.
  • Victoria Saah & Elizabeth West Marvin. (2004). Absolute memory of learned melodies in childen trained by the Suzuki Violin Method. 8th International Society for Music Perception and Cognition , Evanston, IL.
  • David Temperley (2004). Bayesian models of musical structure and cognition. Musicae Scientiae 8, 175-205.
  • Dave Headlam, Christopher Bartlette, & Mark Bocko (2003). Latency, musicality, and network performance. Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Las Vegas.
  • Yuet-Hon Samuel Ng (2003). Temporal expectancy at the level of musical phrases: A study of expectancy length. Society for Music Perception and Cognition Annual Meeting, Las Vegas.
  • David Temperley & Christopher Bartlette (2002). Parallelism as a factor in metrical analysis. Music Perception, 20, 117-149.
  • David Temperley (2001). The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Elizabeth West Marvin & Aleck Brinkman (2000). The effect of key color and timbre on absolute-pitch recognition in musical contexts. Music Perception 18/2, 111-137.
  • Elizabeth West Marvin & Aleck Brinkman (1999). The effect of modulation and formal manipulation on perception of tonic closure by expert listeners. Music Perception 16/4 (1999): 389-408.
  • Panayotis Mavromatis & Virginia Williamson (1999). Towards a perceptual model for categorizing atonal sonorities. Annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Atlanta.
  • Jenny Saffran, Elizabeth Johnson, Richard Aslin, & Elissa Newport (1999). Statistical learning of tonal sequences by human infants and adults. Cognition, 70, 27-52.

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Recent Dissertations in Music Cognition

  • Daphne Tan. 2012. "Ernst Kurth at the Boundary of Music Theory and Psychology." (Advisor: Robert Wason)
  • Kelly Francis. 2011. "Attention and Multi-Part Music." (Advisor: David Temperley)
  • Christopher Bartlette. 2007. "A Study of Harmonic Distance and Its Role in Musical Performance." (Advisor: David Temperley)
  • Panayotis Mavromatis. 2005. "The Echoi of Modern Greek Church Chant in Written annd Oral Transmission: A Computational Model and its Cognitive Implications." (Advisor: Matthew Brown)
  • Gavin P. Chuck. 2004. "Toward a Cognitive Theory of Musical Meaning." (Advisor: Robert Wason)
  • Scott Spiegelberg. 2002. "The Psychoacoustics of Musical Articulation." 2002. (Advisors: Dave Headlam and Elizabeth Marvin)
  • Nancy Rogers. 2000. "The Role of Verbal Encoding in Musical Memory." (Advisor: Elizabeth Marvin)

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