SESSION 9: Psychological Aspects of Musicology

Saturday, 28 November 2020


9:30 – 11:00 SESSION 9:

Psychological Aspects of Musicology

chair: Ingrid Pustijanac

9:30 – 10:00 Sanja Kiš Žuvela:

How Musicological Is the Psychology of Music? And How Far Does Our Knowledge Thereof Go?

10:00 – 10:30 László Stachó

Making Sense (and Relevance) of Data: The Cognitive Analysis of Performance

10:30 – 11:00 Blanka Bogunović:

Psychological Approach to Contemporary Art Music: The ‘Composer – Audience’ Communication

Sanja Kiš Žuvela

Department of Musicology, Academy of Music, University of Zagreb


How Musicological is the Psychology of Music? and How Far Does Our Knowledge Thereof Go?

Ever since its modern disciplinary beginnings in the 19th century, the study of psychological aspects of musical experience fails to give satis­factory answers to any of its fundamental Wh-questions: When was the discipline born as such? Who deserves the status of its founder? and Why is this person’s name missing from the textbooks? Who else is missing and why? Who was proclaimed competent to speak about music and psyche in the past? and Who is entitled to pursue research in the psychology of music today? Which questions does the discipline raise? and How to apply the answers? What theoretical frameworks does it employ? and To what extent can they be independent of speculative music theory? How do the exclusive historical paradigms perpetuate in contemporary research? and Why are they still not overruled as outdated? What is the Psychology of Music anyway? Is it a discipline per se? and How is it related to (System­atic) Musicology? Which other disciplines claim the right to the study of the psychology of music? Which “external” approaches and methods find their way to musical and musicological relevance and vice versa? What are the inevitable pitfalls of interdisciplinarity and methodological falla­cies that come to light in this knowledge exchange? Who are the subjects (participants) of the empirical research in the field? and How musical are they? Which music is taken into account? and What is music in general? Whom does the whole body of mentioned research actually serve?

Although fundamental, most of the above questions remain hitherto unan­swered, even unaddressed, rejected as irrelevant or self-evident. Through an analysis of historical and contemporary literature the author will try to determine the current positions of and towards musicology within the domain of the psychology of music.

Key words: psychology of music, musicology, interdisciplinarity, method, knowledge, relevance

Sanja Kiš Žuvela is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Musicol­ogy and Vice Dean for Study Programmes and Lifelong Learning at the Academy of Music, University of Zagreb. Her principal research interests include the analysis of 20th century music, music perception and cogni­tion, relationships between music and visual arts, music and language, cog­ni­tive linguistics and issues of contemporary musical terminology. She is the author of several dozens of academic papers which include a book, The Golden Section and the Fibonacci Sequence in 20th Century Music (Zagreb, 2011). Kiš Žuvela is the editor of a music theory journal Theoria.

László Stachó

Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest/Béla Bartók Faculty of Arts, University of Szeged


Making Sense (and Relevance) of Data:

The Cognitive Analysis of Performance

Archive sound recordings, including recordings from the earliest recorded musicians, are getting increasingly published: phonoamateurs have publi­cised a record amount of transfers on YouTube over the past decade, and more and more musicians and conservatoire teachers have discovered the artistic and pedagogical opportunities that arise from the close study of sound recordings from divergent styles and schools of 20th century per­for­mance practice. Parallelly with, and based on, this development, a new subfield started to emerge in musicology: performance studies. By 2020, scholarly networks (featuring large-scale conferences) and research centres have been established in various countries, including both British-American and German-Swiss hubs, among others. This new discipline re­lies not only on historical musicology and music theory and analysis but on music psychology and empirical musicology as well, thus uniting knowl­edge and skills of long-secluded areas into a stimulating inter­discipli­nary field.

In my talk, I intend to discuss how recent developments in performance studies fuelled by strengthening interdisciplinarity may lead to a greater and more sophisticated understanding of models, ideals and motives be­hind performers’ interpretive choices and their actual performance-re­lated abilities, strategies (including attentional strategies and processes) and habits. I will argue for the fact that in search of performers’ abilities, habits and choices, mere ‘close listening’ (that is, the – usually computer-assisted – descriptive study of details of microtiming and dynamic pat­terns of a performance) appears to be insufficient and needs to be com­plemented by a cognitive analysis which goes well beyond the obvious sounding elements and patterns. Such a cognitive approach aims to understand a musician’s performance style ‘from the inside’, thus surpas­sing mere description in order to find out about their ideals of perfor­mance, study their habit and cognitive strategies, and reveal the differ­ence between general characteristics of their performing style (shared with most performers of the era) and more contrasting and individual features. Such a study complements the close examination of contem­porary written documents (both verbal documents and score editions) with close-listening of relevant sound recordings. In the end, the cognitive approach can enable us not only to better understand but also to emulate and revive performance styles from distant eras, thus making musicolog­ical research profoundly and increasingly relevant for both performance practice and pedagogy.

Key words: performance practice, performance analysis, analysis of sound recordings, cognitive approach, interdisciplinarity, statistical analysis

László Stachó is a musicologist, psychologist and musician, Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest) and the University of Szeged (Hungary). His research focusses on early 20th-century performing practice, Bartók analysis, emotional communication in music performance, and enhancement of attentional skills in music performance. As a pianist and chamber musician, he has performed in several European countries and the US and conducts attentional training workshops and chamber music coaching sessions at international master­classes at prestigious conservatoires. In 2014, he was a CMPCP (Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice) Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge; in 2017, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Cambridge Faculty of Music and Downing College.

Blanka Bogunović

Faculty of Music, University of Arts, Belgrade


Psychological Approach to Contemporary Art Music:

the ‘Composer – Audience’ Communication

The paper starts with reflections on the proposed conference main ques­tion about the place of musicology in the future and then sets out to pro­vide an outline of a possible answer. One of the answers could refer to more flexible academic musicology, which would be ready to embrace inter­dis­cipli­narity and an empirical research paradigm of the social sci­enc­es. The new paradigm would be open to building up new forms of relations with musical artists as partners as well. Additionally, we intend to contrib­ute to the discussion by presenting interdisciplinary psycho­logical research to the challenging issue of finding how contemporary art music can achieve understanding and gain acceptance of the audience. We address this issue using the conceptual framework of Csikszent­mihalyi’s systems theory of creativity (2004), which considers creativity as a process that can be ob­served only in an intersection of the personal back­ground/individual, culture/domain and social/field. The aim is to inves­ti­gate whether compos­ers intend to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and imagination to the audience while creating music, as well as whether the response of the pub­lic matters to them. Furthermore, we explore whether the audience under­stands the meaning of the contem­po­rary pieces themselves. The partici­pants were Serbian and interna­tional contemporary composers who took part in the 24th International Review of Composers in Belgrade (n = 25) in October 2015. The audience consisted of 69 listeners at three concerts. Data were gathered both via an online questionnaire formulated for study and via a pen-and-paper ques­tionnaire after the concert. Content analysis of the answers to open-ended questions was performed. The results showed that, during the crea­tive process, composers differed in their treat­ment of the audience as well as of the content they wanted to communi­cate, regardless of the fact of whether it was an emotional charge or a complex system of ab­stract ideas. We may conclude that the relation be­tween the main cogni­tive layers (idea/message/imagination) of the com­poser is clearly related to musical structure. At the same time, subtle re­fine­ments are done by the proper choice of music materials and agreeable acoustic features when thinking of the audience’s reaction. On the other hand, the re­sponse of the audience primarily lies in the emotional layer of experience. Since all participants in this form of communication start from diverse inten­tions, their “meeting” is a matter of many factors.

Key words: creative process, music communication, composer, audience, contemporary music

Blanka Bogunović, with a PhD in Psychology and a BA in Music Performance (Flute), a Senior Research Associate and Certified Transactional Analyst (CTA), is affiliated as a Full Professor of Psychology and Education Science. She teaches Psychology of Music at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Psychology, University of Belgrade. She is a regular guest lecturer at the Faculty of Philology and Arts, University of Kragujevac, and the Music Acad­emy, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her research interests are in the field of psychology of music, psychological aspects of giftedness in music, education of the musically gifted, music performance skills develop­ment, emotional and creative processes in making music, and interdiscipli­nary studies in music. Blanka Bogunović is the author of the book Musical Talent and Successfulness(2008/2010) that received the National Award Dr Borislav Stevanović for outstanding contribution to Psychology in Serbia (2009). She is also a co-author of the monograph Interdisciplinary approach to music: Listening, performing, composing (2014), written in cooperation with musicologists. She publishes extensively and gives presentations at confer­ences in Serbia and abroad, also being a member of the editorial board of several scientific journals and a peer reviewer of scientific journals and books in Serbia and abroad. Bogunović is an ECHA (European Council for High Ability) Corre­spond­ent and ESCOM (European Society for the Cognitive Sci­ences of Music) Representative for Serbia and the Coordinator of the Re­gional Network Psy­chol­ogy and Music (RNPaM). She was the head of the Pro­gramme and Organ­ising Committees of the 1st International Conference Psychology and Mu­sic – Interdisciplinary Encounters, organised by the Fac­ul­ty of Music, University of Arts in Belgrade, 24–26 October 2019.

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