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?
Since I was a student at Melbourne University in the late 1970s, I have always been fascinated by the emotional power of music and the way that power seems to be related to its structure - melody, harmony, rhythm, meter, tonality and so on. Studying physics and music performance at the same time made me wonder if it might be possible to explain these things scientifically. Later I learned about psychological research methods (during my doctorate) and applied these to psychoacoustic research (at TU Munich in 1982-1983) and the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle started to come together.
In those days the international field of music psychology was smaller. In retrospect there was a stronger sense that new phenomena could be discovered and new theories developed. Today the field is just as dynamic with the development of areas such as neuroscience of music, musical emotion, the origin/function of music, and music performance research. In my teaching I want to communicate my enthusiasm for music-psychological questions while at the same time giving my students the skills that they need to solve intellectual problems and contribute independently to this and related fields of research in the future.
I teach systematic musicology and music psychology within the Graz Musicology curriculum (Musikologie), a highly 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”. The discipline of systematic musicology can be defined in various ways, one of which is to list its main subdisciplines: 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 a simple music-psychological experiment.
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 from the literature 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, and 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 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 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