SMiLE-ing this year and hopefully more in the future

We had our final meeting of the Science of Music in Learning and Experience (SMiLE) group last week and I’ve been reflecting a bit on the experience.


We began the experimental idea in the fall with an introductory meeting to get to know each other from across campus and a discussion of Susan Hallam‘s closing chapter from the Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology titled “Where now?” I thought the chapter would be a fitting way to kick off the group’s activities since it concluded by emphasizing how valuable interdisciplinary research will be for acquiring a deeper understanding of the power of musical experience in the future. I agree with Hallam’s assertion that collaborations are needed among scientists of many varieties, music educators, music therapists, ethnomusicologists, music theorists, etc. to push the field further and also find her optimistic view of the future exciting.

Fortunately, our group has benefited from a richly varied collection of faculty and graduate student participants coming from communications science, cognitive science, cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, music education, music theory, music performance, and musicology. The conversations were engaging and the complementary perspectives that were brought to the discussions were refreshingly enthusiastic.

Overall, I’m very grateful for the experiences had in the SMiLE meetings this year and am looking forward to seeing the potential for this to grow next year and into the future!


Here is a list of some of the topics discussed this year to give you a sense of the kinds of things brought to the table…

  • The effect of party music on risky drinking decisions
  • The effect of verbal elaboration on procedural memory for music performance
  • Underlying mechanisms of emotional response to music
  • A rationale for the therapeutic value of musical communication based on notions of entrainment and floating intentionality
  • Inferring emotional meaning of musical chords through lyrics
  • The effects of music preference on functional brain networks
  • The influence of a culture’s spoken language on the structure of its instrumental music
  • Relations between auditory experience and perception of rhythmic groupings

Lastly, here is a brief and BY NO MEANS exhaustive list of books that could be particularly valuable for thinking about the science of music in learning and experience…

  • Historically important:
    • Mursell (1937) – The Psychology of Music
    • Seashore (1938) – Psychology of Music
    • Meyer (1956) – Emotion and Meaning in Music
    • Farnsworth (1958) – The Social Psychology of Music
    • Merriam (1964) – The Anthropology of Music
  • More foundational:
    • Lerhdahl & Jackendoff (1983) – A Generative Theory of Tonal Music
    • Sloboda (1985) – The Musical Mind
    • Hargreaves (1986) – The Developmental Psychology of Music
    • Dowling & Harwood (1986) – Music Cognition
    • Sloboda (1988) – Generative Processes in Music
    • Krumhansl (1990) – Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch
    • Narmour (1990) – The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures
    • Bamberger (1991) – The Mind Behind the Musical Ear
    • Bregman (1994) – Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound
    • Kemp (1996) – The Musical Temperament
    • Hodges (1996) – Handbook of Music Psychology
    • Juslin & Sloboda (2001) – Music and Emotion
    • Lerhdahl (2001) – Tonal Pitch Space
    • Zatorre & Peretz (2001) – The Biological Foundations of Music
    • Wallin et al. (2001) – The Origins of Music
  • More recent:
    • Aiello (2007) – Music: Cognition and Emotions
    • Gruhn & Rauscher (2007) – Neurosciences in Music Pedagogy
    • Huron (2008) – Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation
    • Patel (2008) – Music, Language, and the Brain
    • Hallam et al. (2009) – Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology
    • Hodges & Sebald (2010) – Music in the Human Experience
    • Juslin & Sloboda (2010) – Handbook of Music and Emotion
    • Kenny (2011) – The Psychology of Music Performance Anxiety
    • Deutsch (1982, 1999, 2014) – The Psychology of Music
    • Rebuschat (2012) – Language and Music as Cognitive Systems
    • Bamberger (2013) – Discovering the Musical Mind
    • Koelsch (2013) – Brain and Music
    • Thompson et al. (2014) – Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Encyclopedia
  • More pedagogy/performance oriented:
    • Parncutt & McPherson (2002) – The Science and Psychology of Music Performance
    • Radocy & Boyle (2003) – Psychological Foundations of Musical Behavior
    • Williamon (2005) – Musical Excellence
    • Lehmann, Sloboda, & Woody (2007) – Psychology for Musicians