By way of an introduction to music and cognition, Grove’s entry “Psychology of Music” (Deutsch, et al. 2015) offers a fine entry point. The earliest book-length overviews come from music psychology as well. Dowling and Harwood 1986 and Sloboda 1985 are foundational textbooks, each written from a cognitive psychology perspective, with the former addressing many of the same topics in perception covered by Deutsch, et al. 2015. Zbikowski 2002 merits inclusion for addressing a central theme in cognitive music psychology—categorical organization in mental representation. Snyder 2000 presents the most comprehensive discussion of musical memory for a nontechnical audience. Thompson 2009 is among the most up-to-date of undergraduate-level music psychology textbooks. It is worth noting that, for the most part, the body of introductory and overview literature takes Western, tonal music as the basis of theory and experimentation. Cross-cultural efforts in music psychology, as well as ethnomusicological approaches, receive relatively scant attention in these works.
Deutsch, Diana, Alf Gabrielsson, John Sloboda, et al. “Psychology of Music.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2015.
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Multiauthor overview by a collective of leading researchers, with sections devoted to main themes within 20th-century research. Though a single section, entitled “Perception and Cognition,” addresses cognitive research into pitch, rhythm, timbre, and memory, in truth all other sections of the article fall within the purview of music cognition scholarship. Available online by subscription.
Dowling, W. Jay, and Dane L. Harwood. Music Cognition. Orlando: Academic Press, 1986.
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Equal parts textbook and reference work, covering key concepts in music perception. Oriented more toward listening than performance, reflective of the authors’ research interests. Originally included an audiocassette! No known electronic publication or later editions.
Sloboda, John A. The Musical Mind: The Cognitive Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
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Landmark textbook in the early, foundational stages of cognitive psychology of music. Offers a highly readable narrative overview of linguistics-based and other conceptual theories of musical representation. Dated at this point, yet the topics—origins, music and language, performance, listening, development, cultural relativity—all remain quite relevant.
Sloboda, John A. Exploring the Musical Mind: Cognition, Emotion, Ability, Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198530121.001.0001E-mail Citation »
Single-author collection, with chapter-length discussions of theoretical and practical concerns in music psychology research, by a seminal figure in the field. Both a curated compendium of the author’s work and an ideological guide to the field.
Snyder, Bob. Music and Memory: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2000.
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Really two books in one. The first half offers an overview of how memory conditions acoustic perception and perceptual organization. Sections on grouping, short- and long-term memory, and especially schema theory are highly valuable in understanding mental representation in music cognition. The second half reflects more of the author’s own application of these concepts, exploring ideas about memory’s role in processing rhythm and melody, and in understanding large-scale form. Available online by subscription or purchase.
Thompson, William Forde. Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
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Highly readable textbook for a college course in music psychology, intended for the uninitiated. Wide coverage of major themes in music psychology, with one chapter on music and the brain. Companion website with audio examples.
Zbikowski, Lawrence M. Conceptualizing Music: Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. AMS Studies in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195140231.001.0001E-mail Citation »
Comprehensive overview applying linguistic and cognitive science-based theories of categorical thinking to Western tonal music, with examples from Western classical music and jazz. Appeals most directly to music theorists, cognitive scientists, and musicians, yet generally accessible for nonspecialists in each of these fields.
Here are resources referenced in Soundtracks for Learning–some of which are also referenced in this website/blog.They represent just a few in the many available today–but they are a good starting point.
Technology advances have given us a leap in the ability to find out what’s happening in the human brain and body–and with it there has been a giant step in research around music and learning. As you explore the effects of music and its many benefits your list of resources will grow!
Let me know what new resources you find and I’ll add them to this site! Chris
Soundtracks for Learning References
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