Physical and Neuropsychological Foundations of Music

The Basic Questions
  • Juan G. Roederer


The study of the perception of music is a paramount example of interdisciplinary research, in which musicians, physicists, neurobiologists, engineers and psychologists must communicate and work together. The potential spin-off is impressive, though perhaps not yet fully recognized. Musicians can incorporate insights gleaned from the study of music perception into new frontiers of composition and electronic and digital tone generation. They can use new knowledge in brain function, particularly in the area of linguistic processing, to attempt a better understanding of the evolution of musical cultures from primitive rhythmic and melodic patterns to elaborate holistic expressions. And they can combine latest research results in both sensory perception and skilled motor control to formulate better strategies in music pedagogy. Finally, the study of music perception can help dispel many of the fallacies that abound in the musical world, related to piano touch, the role of perfect pitch, the question of tone ‘colors’ the question of ‘playability’ vs. ‘likeability’ of musical instruments, and so on. Engineers can profit from a better knowledge of the workings of the human auditory system to develop better electroacoustical equipment and better concert halls. Instrument builders can improve or simplify their work by focusing on what the study of music perception can yield in terms of understanding why a great instrument sounds great. Neuropsychologists can use the relatively simple sound patterns of music to study basic information-processing mechanisms relevant to speech. Psychologists can benefit from a quantitative understanding of music perception in their studies of aesthetic motivation appreciation, and emotional response, and the application of the results to music therapy.


Limbic System Basilar Membrane Hemispheric Specialization Music Perception Pitch Perception 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Clynes, M., 1973 Sentics: biocybernetics of emotion communication, Annals, New York Acad, of Sc., Vol. 220, 3; 55–131.Google Scholar
  2. Kohonen, T., 1977, “Associatative Memory,” Springer-Verlag, Berlin and New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Pribram, K.H., 1971, “Languages of the Brain”, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.Google Scholar
  4. Roederer, J.G., 1979a, The perception of music by the human brain. Human. Assoc, Rev., 30:11–23.Google Scholar
  5. Roederer, J.G., 1979b, “Physics and Psychophysics of Music,” 2nd ed., Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Roederer, J.G., 1979c, Human brain functions and the foundations of science, Endeavour 3:99.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Terhardt, E., 1972, Zur Tonhöhen wahr nehmung von Klangen, I, II. Acoustica 26:173–199.Google Scholar
  8. Terhardt, E., 1974, Pitch, consonance and harmony, J. Acousti. Soc. Am. 55:1061–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan G. Roederer
    • 1
  1. 1.Geophysical InstituteUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA

Personalised recommendations