From Auditory Focus, to Auditory Influence, to Multimodal Experience in Psychomusicological Research

By Cohen, Annabel J. | Psychomusicology, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

From Auditory Focus, to Auditory Influence, to Multimodal Experience in Psychomusicological Research


Cohen, Annabel J., Psychomusicology


Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain Volume 26 is pleased to add to its growing collection of special issues the following special issue on Music as a Multimodal Experience coedited by Renee Timmers and Roni Granot. When research in music psychology began to escalate in the 1980s, its focus was primarily the auditory domain, building bridges between psychoacoustics and music perception, between music theory and music cognition, and between verbal and music memory. Perhaps this was all that researchers could do to encourage recognition of music as a legitimate stimulus deserving of attention in the psychology laboratory. In 1994, Volume 13 of Psychomusicology made a radical departure from this sound-only focus with its special issue on the Psychology of Film Music. For the first time, a collection of empirical articles explored a link between music and a nonauditory domain. That set of papers examined in a variety of contexts how music influenced the interpretation of motion images, be it closure in a film (Thompson, Russo, & Sinclair, 1994), meaning of a Hollywood blockbuster (Lipscomb & Kendall, 1994), the social interactions of wolves (Bolivar, Cohen, & Fentress, 1994), a short feature film (Bullerjahn & Güldenring, 1994), a music video (Iwamiya, 1994), or an abstract animation (Sirius & Clarke, 1994). A growing interest in music and film or media interactions since then has been captured in a book entitled the Psychology of Music in Multimedia (Tan, Cohen, Lipscomb, & Kendall, 2013). But here again, the focus has been typically on interpretation: how music changes the interpretation of visual media, and occasionally, how visual information changes the interpretation of the music (Boltz, 2013).

In recent years the notion of musical embodiment has engaged the attention of many researchers (Leman, 2008, reviewed by Repp, 2009), although hints of this certainly came earlier, for example with Clarke's (2001, 2005) focus on affordances and motion, and long before in the little known work of Alexandar Truslit (cf. Haverkamp, 2013a; Repp, 1993). Research on synesthesia is also only now coming into its own (Ward, 2015; Ward & Mattingley, 2006). Ideas of musical embodiment on the one hand and synesthesia on the other go beyond interactions of music and the visual, and suggest that the experience of music extends outside the auditory realm from the outset, and that it is inherently multimodal. From this perspective, music is then even larger than was once thought, by virtue of multiple mediators. So I was delighted to learn from the journal's Associate Editor Renee Timmers of an International Conference on the Multimodal Experience of Music at Sheffield University in March, 2015 that she initiated under the auspices of the British Academy, through a collaboration of the University of Sheffield, Tel Aviv University, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was even more delighted when Renee suggested the possibility of a special issue for Psychomusicology based on the conference. Renee had just completed coediting an insightful book on expressiveness in human performance (Fabian, Timmers, & Schubert, 2014; for review see Ginsborg, 2015) and had guest coedited a special issue of Psychomusicology on the Emotion and Cognition of Music (Coutinho & Timmers, 2014). She had previously published in the area of crossmodal associations (Eitan & Timmers, 2010), and was about to begin a fellowship at the MARCS Institute of the University of Western Sydney examining the role of cross-modal information in interperformer synchronization. Clearly, the proposed special issue would be in good hands, especially when Roni Granot accepted Renee's invitation to serve as Guest Coeditor. Roni Granot had published research on several new aspects of the multimodal experience of music including cross-domain mappings of music in persons with congenital or early blindness (Eitan, Ornoy, & Granot, 2012), and on the ways listeners associate changes in musical variables with physical space and bodily motion (Eitan & Granot, 2006). …

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