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Musical appreciation

Music psychologists are trying to understand the processes that support musical behaviours - including perception, comprehension, memory, attention, emotional effects, and performance.

Music is more mysterious than language because its raison d’être remains unsettled. Music has no obvious utility. Music is also difficult to define. Everyone knows what music is but cannot delimit its boundaries.

Source : Cognition Volume 100, Issue 1, Pages 1-32

Many decades of extensive research has investigated :

The emotional effects Cognitive neuroscience Psychoacoustics Evolutionary musicology Sociomusicology (all links via Wikipedia)

A very substantial body of experimental and observational work documents the effects that music has, and the way it's perceived - it's now known that many different brain-areas, working in conjunction (on both brain hemispheres) are involved in the perception of pitch, rhythm, harmony, tone etc. etc. (example ref)

But there is no generally accepted theory that explains why music can instigate the profound psychological effects that it does.

Even the most basic effects, such as the general perception that minor chords tend to sound 'sad' whilst major chords don't, has no explanation.

Further reading (example music journals)

Music Perception Musicae Scientiae Psychology of Music


[1] Many animal species have been shown to respond to human-produced music - notably parrots, sea-lions, elephants, chimpanzees, rats and lemurs

[2] A 2024 fMRI study found that live performances can emotionally affect listeners more than recordings. The reasons are not yet clear,

Live and dynamic music (thus) seems to stimulate both the amygdala and the broader brain network for music emotion processing better than recorded music.

Source : PNAS 121 (10) e2316306121

Also see Chillsplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigChills

Note: This item refers to the emotionally or imaginatively triggered sensation of 'Frisson' rather than shiver reactions caused by cold or fever etc.

Chills, 'goosebumps' etc can be induced in a number of ways: musical, scenic, tactile, and even taste sensations etc etc.
, Musical pitch perceptionplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigMusical pitch perception

"Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as 'higher' and 'lower' in the sense associated with musical melodies. Pitch can be determined only in sounds that have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise."
, and Rhythm sensingplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigRhythm perception

Humans (and some other animals*) have an innate sense of 'rhythm', i.e. the ability to detect and react with 'beats' in musical compositions. Professional drummers and percussionists can 'beat time' with accuracies of just a few milliseconds per beat (ref.

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