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Intercultural music psychology Better late than never. Richard Parncutt Centre for Systematic Musicology University of Graz, Austria Joint Meeting of the National Committees o f Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia of the International Council for Traditional Music

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Intercultural music psychology better late than never

Intercultural music psychologyBetter late than never

Richard Parncutt

Centre for Systematic Musicology

University of Graz, Austria

Joint Meeting of the National Committees

of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia

of the International Council for Traditional Music

Vienna, Austria, 27 May 2011

SysMus Graz

My right not to speak
My right (not?) to speak…

My qualification

  • music psychology:

    • perception of structure, origins of tonality/ music, performance

  • ethnomusicology:

    • no “exotic” fieldwork…

  • intercultural music psychology:

    • preliminary empirical study (1986!)

  • Conference on Applied Interculturality Research (2009)

  • My motivation: interest in

  • music including its cultural diversity

  • intercultural interaction – countries, disciplines, gender…

Social groups and discrimination
Social groups and discrimination

Any social group

  • with a clear identity

  • anysize, anyhierarchicallevel

    Definition of group membership

  • “being”

    • appearance: skin color…

    • sound: language, dialect, accent…

  • “doing”

    religions, academic disciplines…

     communitiesofpractice


  • competitionforthe same resources

  • power differences

  • justificationbytheoriesofself-superiority

Conference on applied interculturality research graz april 2010
Conference on Applied Interculturality ResearchGraz, April 2010

Short term aim

  • synergize practice and research

  • in all areasofinterculturality

    Long term aim

  • promote intercultural communication

  • reduce racism

Cair communities of practice equal opportunity as a prerequisite for constructive collaboration
cAIR: Communities of practiceEqual opportunity as a prerequisite for constructive collaboration

Equal rights and obligations

  • practitioners and researchers

  • practitioners/researchers in different areas

  • languages, religions, skin colors

 Analysis, exposure and deconstruction of implicit theories of


Skin color and poverty
Skin color and poverty

One billion people are hungry. They are mostly black.

A child dies due to hunger or poverty every 5 s.


International Conference on

Financing for Development

Monterrey, Mexico, 2002

world’s 22 richest countries

pledge: 0.7% of national income in ODA

(official developmental assistance)

~$200 billion/year (cf. Iraq war: ~$100 bn/year)

~could eliminate extreme poverty (Sachs, 2005)

Average current level of ODA ~0.33%

USA~ 0.22%

Intercultural music psychology an interaction between two communities of practice
Intercultural music psychologyan interaction between two communities of practice


includes multi-, cross- and transcultural

Music psychology

psychol. research methods  musical questions

Intercultural music psychology

aka psychoethnomusicology


equal, deep, detailedcollaboration


Communities of practice in intercultural music psychologyTwo independent potentials for othering and discrimination

1. Object of study

Individual musical “cultures”

2. Disciplines

Ethnomusicology (mainly humanities)

Music psychology (mainly sciences

Quick quiz
Quick quiz

Have you ever thought that scientists* have no right to talk about non-Western cultures or intercultural comparison?

Has a scientist* ever given you the impression that ethnomusicologists have no right to talk about sciences such as music psychology?

“Science” in English refers to natural, social and formal sciences; excludes humanities

Two specific general dichotomies
Twospecific-general dichotomies

1. Cultural relativism versus universalism

  • ethnomusicology vs comparative musicology

  • uniqueness vsglobalisation & universal rights

    2. Humanities versus sciences

  • humanities: specific musics

  • sciences: general principles

    Aim in both cases: an appropriate balance

Better late than never
“Better late than never” -???


 museumapproach?


Take advantageoftheunused potential ofinterdisciplinarity?

Recent research in intercultural music psychology
Recentresearch in interculturalmusicpsychology


Practicaldifficulty: become a psychologist, get a job, thengo on ethnomusicologicalfieldtrip?!



Universal recognition of three basic emotions in music fritz peretz koelsch current biology 2009
“Universal recognition of three basic emotions in music”Fritz … Peretz … Koelsch, Current Biology, 2009


  • Mafa (Cameroun) ratedemotion in Western recordings

  • facialexpressions happy, sad, scary…


  • universal sensitivityforbasicemotions in music


  • goodpsychologicalmethod, goodjournal, attractedattention


  • unsurprising (similarreports in otherjournals)

  • Western listenersdid not rate Mafamusic

  • noMafaco-authorship

  • collaborationwithethnomusicologists?

Lost in translation demorest et al music perception 2008
“Lost in translation”Demorest et al., Music Perception, 2008


  • US & Turkishparticipantshearunfamiliar US & Turkishmusic

  • All participantsare uni students in large cities


  • Bothgroupsbetteratrememberingmusicofownculture

     Empiricaldemoofeffectofenculturation on musiccognition

  • Turks betteratremembering Western than Chinese music

  • Noeffectofmusicalexpertise ( passiveenculturation)


  • Goodpsychologicalmethodology

  • Symmetricalrolesof 2 cultures (music, participants, researchers)


  • trivial result?

  • noequalcollaborationwith a Turkishuniversity

Lost in translation demorest et al music perception 20081
“Lost in translation”Demorest et al., Music Perception, 2008

“It is clear from these results that any study of music cognition needs to consider the match between the culture of the listener and that of the stimulus material. Future work examining ‘universal’ properties of music processing must include participants and musics from several distinct cultures to account for possible effects of enculturation. Research in music cognition that includes diverse music and subject populations will provide an effective empirical complement to the qualitative work of anthropologists and ethnomusicologists and lead to a more unified view of the role of culture in shaping cognitive development in music.” (p. 221)

Bimusicalism”Implicit dual enculturation of cognitive and affective systemsWong, Roy & Margulis, Music Perception, 2009


  • Indian, Western and “bimusical” listeners

  • Recognition memoryandtensionjudgments


  • Replication ofDemorest et al.

  • Resultsforbimusicallistenersliebetween Indian & Western


  • Goodmethod; symmetricalrolesof 2 cultures


  • Trivial result?

  • Impoverishedstimulitoincrease experimental control (unaccompaniedmelodies on Sitar and piano)

  • meaninglessto rate tensionof a melodywhenfinished?

Fusion theory and asante ivory trumpet music joseph s kaminsky muzyka 2009
“Fusion theory and Asante ivory trumpet music“ Joseph S. Kaminsky, Muzyka, 2009


  • Asante know this music is dissonant (to scare enemies)

  • Highly dissonant soundscan also fuse (contra Stumpf)


  • Dissonance can be due to roughness, independent of fusion

    Misleading statements…

  • “fusion is a neurophysiological phenomenon”

    • in fact experiential - an epiphenomenon of neural processing

  • “fusion is a cultural construct”

    • in any culture you can ask how many tones have been played

  • “If a dissonance does not require a resolution, it may be considered a consonance, within its context” (citing Kolinski)

    • The definitionofdissonancerefersinitiallyonlyto an isolatedsonority

      Solution: Collaborationwithmusicpsychology!

Western consonance according to music psychology
(Western) consonanceaccordingtomusicpsychology

3 psychological components, all universal?

  • roughness (Helmholtz)  peripheral

  • fusion (Stumpf, cf. Terhardt)  central, “hard-wired”

  • familiarity (Cazden)  central, “soft-wired”?

    Arguments for a cross-cultural approach

  • Infant sensitivity (motherese research)

    • caring adults have consonant voices

    • angry adults can be dangerous

  • General definition of “consonance”

    • Is this a good sound or pattern?

    • Do these two sounds or patterns go together?

    • No more culture-specific than “music”!

Cross-cultural similarities and differences Thompson & Balkwill, in Juslin & Sloboda 2010, Music and Emotion

“Of critical importance in cross-cultural research is an awareness of one‘s own cultural perspectives and how they can bias every facet of the research, from the question being asked, to the methodology employed, to the analysis strategy employed, to the interpretation of observations. Consulting with members of the cultures under investigation is one important way of increasing an awareness of one‘s biases.” (p. 759)

Cross-cultural similarities and differences Thompson & Balkwill, in Juslin & Sloboda 2010, Music and Emotion

“Cross-cultural emotional decoding”:

In evolutionary psychology we separate

  • phylogenetic (“genetic”, “inborn”)

  • ontogenetic (“cultural”, “learned”)

    • universal (universalsofenvironmentandbiology)

    • culture-specific

  • THREE categories!

    The differenceisadaptation…

    …ismusicitself an adaptation?

     relationbetweenearlymusicalpredispositions & enculturation?

Infant musicality e g many studies by trehub and collaborators
Infant musicalitye.g. many studies by Trehub and collaborators

Sensitivity to...

  • melodic contour; relative pitch/duration

  • specific musical intervals (e.g. fifths)

  • changes in unequal scales/rhythms

    + pulse (Winkler et al., 2009; Phillips-Silver & Trainor, 2005)

    These are “predispositions”

    “evident in infancy, before they have obvious utility”

    (Trehub, 2001)

Origins of infant musicality two possibilities
Origins of infant musicalitytwo possibilities

  • “Genetic” (Trehub)

    selection for music (mate attraction, training, social glue, motherese…)

    • Learned (Parncutt)

      prenatal exposure to changing maternal sound, movement and hormone levels

       Both imply universal musical sensitivities!

Musical emotion
Musical emotion

Hot topic in musicpsychology

e.g. Juslin & Sloboda (2010)

Different fromeverydayemotoin

e.g. morenostalgiaandspirituality

Paradox ofsimultaneousemotions

e.g. in rock: joyandanger

 Not evenunderstood in West


Universals in musical emotion
Universals in (musical) emotion

My tip for psychologists: To avoid reification, anchor emotions to functions (survival, reproduction)

  • Cold/heatandpain discomfort

  • Hunger andthirst satisfaction

  • Disease and health; healing songs

  • Fear and cosiness (dangerous situations)

  • Anger and acceptance (getting your own way); war songs

  • Sexual lustandfrustration; „love“ songs

  • Love andloneliness (parent-child, friends, lovers)

  • Happinessandsadnessassociatedwiththeabove

  • Idea: it‘s ok toinvestigatemusicalemotionacrossculturesifthe (evolutionary) functionoftheemotionisclear

  • Assumption: nochange in „human nature“ in 100 000 years

Intercultural music psychology historical context
Interculturalmusicpsychology:Historical context

Around 1900

  • Stumpf and others

  • very successful, considering social and cultural context

    After World War Two

  • rise of ethnomusicology, fall of comparative musicology

  • separation of ethnomusicology from “systematic musicology”

  • broader context: “two cultures” of humanities & sciences (Snow)

  • separation at two levels: musical cultures, academic disciplines

Intercultural music psychology solutions
Interculturalmusicpsychology: Solutions

Deep, detailedcollaborationbetween

  • ethnomusicologyandmusicpsychology

  • humanitiesandsciences in musicology

    Interdisciplinary peer-review procedures

  • onereviewerfrom EM, onefrom MP, e.g.:

  • Music Perceptionsubmissions ethnomusicologists

  • Ethnomusicologysubmissions musicpsychologists

Conference on interdisciplinary musicology journal of interdisciplinary music studies
Conference on Interdisciplinary MusicologyJournal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies

Forums for constructive interaction among all subdisciplines or paradigms of musicology:

analytical, applied, comparative, cultural, empirical, ethnological, historical, popular, scientific, systematic, theoretic

...and all musically relevant disciplines:

acoustics, aesthetics, anthropology, archeology, art history and theory, biology, composition, computing, cultural studies, economics, education, ethnology, gender studies, history, linguistics, literary studies, mathematics, medicine, music theory and analysis, neurosciences, perception, performance, philosophy, physiology, prehistory, psychoacoustics, psychology, religious studies, semiotics, sociology, statistics, therapy

Conference on interdisciplinary musicology journal of interdisciplinary music studies1
Conference on Interdisciplinary MusicologyJournal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies

promote interdisciplinary collaboration within musicology

All contributions have at least two authors. They represent at least two of the following three groups: humanities, sciences, practically oriented disciplines.

focus on quality rather than quantity

Academic standards are promoted by anonymous peer review of submitted abstracts by independent international experts in relevant (sub-) disciplines. The review procedure is transparent, and the reviews are impersonal and constructive.

promote musicology's unity in diversity

CIM promotes all interdisciplinary music research and treats all musically relevant disciplines and musicological subdisciplines equally.

Conference on interdisciplinary musicology previous conferences
Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicologyprevious conferences

Conference on interdisciplinary musicology in future we need more ethnomusicology
Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicologyin future, we need more ethnomusicology!

Conference on interdisciplinary musicology w hy
Conference on Interdisciplinary MusicologyWhy?

  • Fragmentation of musicology

  • Starkly contrasting epistemologies

  • Institutional separation of subdisciplines

  • Counterproductive power structures

Fragmentation of musicology a semiquantitative history of music research
Fragmentation of musicologyA “semiquantitative” history of music research:




1600 1700 1800 1900 2000

Institutional separation of musicological subdisciplines conflicts between communities of practice
Institutional separation of musicological subdisciplinesconflicts between “communities of practice”


  • music acoustics

  • music psychology

  • music physiology

  • music computing

  • in-group (“the” musicology)

  • music history

  • music theory/analysis

  • cultural studies

  • intermediate

  • ethnomusicology

  • pop/jazz research

  • music sociology

  • music philosophy

  • performance research

Power games in musicology
Power games in musicology

Ambiguous use of word “musicology”

  • broad definition (correct) = all study of all music

  • narrow = music history of western cultural elites

    Ambiguous use of “science”

  • broad definition includes humanities

  • narrow (correct) excludes)

    Status of humanities

  • in universities: too little power

  • in musicology: too much power

Solution integration
Solution: “Integration”

  • multidisciplinary balance

    • promotion of minority disciplines

    • democracy, balance of power

  • gender/culturebalance

    • womenresearchers

    • non-western researchers

  • collaboration

    • teamwork and collegiality

    • intra- and interdisciplinary quality control

Collegiality in interdisciplinary teams social consonance and dissonance
Collegiality in interdisciplinary teamssocial consonance and dissonance

  • common goals

    • research question

    • excellence

  • democracy

    • equal value and rights of team members

    • mutual respect

  • transparency

    • clear statement of aims

    • openness to evaluation

  • quality control

    • evaluation within disciplines

    • realistic appraisal of strengths, weaknesses

    • mutual constructive criticism

Role of internal quality control
Role of internal quality control

Europeans can’t evaluate Ghanaian music

Psychologists can’t evaluate historical research

Musical subculture:

  • internal aesthetic norms

  • procedures to promote “good” music

    Academic subdiscipline:

  • internal epistemological/methodological norms

  • procedures to promote “good” research

  • Definitions of “music”, its “study”, “musicology”

  • The bottom line
    The bottomline

    • Interaction between musical cultures

      • Respect their uniqueness and autonomy

      • Promote “integration” (Parncutt & Dorfer, 2009)

    • Interaction between musicological subdisciplines

      • Respect their uniqueness and autonomy

      • Promote “integration” of musicology