Why does music move us? Why do so many people devote so much time and effort to music? Why do we spend so much money on possibly meaningless patterns of sound and movement? How does music work - in the psychological sense of learned or innate responses to stimuli, or cognitive processing of biologically relevant information? How does music work in the sociological sense of historically and culturally determined shared behaviors? Even our personal identity - who we are, or who we think we are, and where and with whom we feel comfortable - seems to be connected to the music that we like. How could something so apparently unimportant have such enormous consequences?
I am fascinated by the emotional power of music and the way that power seems to be related to its structure - melody, harmony, rhythm, meter, tonality. While studying undergraduate science (physics) and music in Melbourne, Australia, I started to wonder if it might be possible to explain the structure and power of music scientifically.
In my doctorate at the University of New England, Armidale NSW Australia, I applied psychological research methods to psychoacoustic research (as a guest researcher, TU Munich) and the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle started to come together. A series of postdocs (in Sweden, Canada, and the UK) allowed me to address the detail.
More recently, I have worked together with international colleagues in ESCOM, the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, and ICMPC, the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, to promote music cognition research in different cultural contexts (regions, languages, developing countries), while also sustainably reducing the discipline's carbon footprint.
Teaching in Graz
Music psychology/cognition is a dynamic field of research that covers such diverse topics as the neuroscience of music, musical emotion, the origin/function of music, and music performance research. In my teaching, I highlight the relevance and interdisciplinary significance of music-psychological questions, while giving students the background and skills they need to convincingly and independently contribute to current research.
I teach systematic musicology and music psychology within the Graz Musicology curriculum (Musikologie), an interdisciplinary program that is jointly presented by the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG) and the University of Graz (KFU). The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Musicology takes three years (six semesters) and the Master of Arts (MA) in Musicology takes an additional two years (four semesters). I also supervise doctoral students in the area of systematic musicology. The doctorate normally takes three years full time or six years part time.
In the 1st semester, I teach a lecture series entitled “Introduction to Systematic Musicology”, which includes music acoustics, music neurosciences, music psychology, music sociology, music computing, and music philosophy. After each of these is introduced, we address general issues such as methods, interdisciplinarity, research evaluation, and the history of systematic musicology.
In the 4th semester, I teach a proseminar entitled “Empirische Musikpsychologie”, in which students work in groups to perform simple music-psychological experiments.
In the 5th semester, I teach a seminar entitled “Music psychology”, in which students choose a topic in music psychology, survey the literature, formulate an original thesis, and consider arguments for and against their thesis in a theoretical paper or poster.
In the 6th semester and master's, I present a research seminar, in which students prepare their bachelor’s theses, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations. The program features talks by students at all levels, plus local and international guests.
In the master’s curriculum, I teach one additional course per semester. In winter semester, I usually teach a seminar in a selected area of music psychology or systematic musicology (often interacting with another discipline) in which students choose their own topic, read the literature around that topic in relevant disciplines, develop an original claim or thesis, and present/defend that thesis in a talk and a written theoretical paper. In summer semester, I usually teach a course (“Vorlesung mit Übung”) on a different topic of current interest in systematic musicology or music psychology - again usually interdisciplinary, and again involving original theoretical research and critical evaluation of the literature.
I supervise doctorates in any area of systematic musicology that combine empirical and theoretical approaches. To satisfy the University of Graz entrance requirements, candidates must have a reasonable background in humanities musicology. To satisfy my requirements, candidates need an empirically based master’s thesis or equivalent publication. If you are interested, please send me your CV, previous empirical study, and research ideas. I will comment on your materials and send you general information on the application procedure and financial support.
Richard ParncuttCentre for Systematic Musicology
8010 Graz, Austria