The Department of Music

In the Department of Music, music historians, music theorists, and ethnomusicologists work and research hand in hand with psychologists, sociologists, and neuroscientists in order to jointly develop a transdisciplinary aesthetics of music in which all relevant approaches and methods are productively intertwined. The intention is to gain a better understanding of the specific field of experience and practice that humans have created for themselves with music and how they make use of it.

Our research questions address key topics in philosophical aesthetics like taste, judgment, and particularly, aesthetic experience. We investigate these by orienting ourselves with a conceptual framework that considers the aesthetic experience of music to be the result of the coincidence in time and space of three meta-factors: a person, a sequence of sounds, and a situational and discursive frame (“frame” in the sense of Erving Goffman). Each of these has specific characteristics and manifestations that, in interplay with each other, give rise to a specific aesthetic experience.

We examine the aesthetic experience of music... 

...and its factors using a full range of empirical methods: we gather self-reported information in the form of qualitative interviews and questionnaires with open-ended and closed-ended questions, we observe and analyze behavior—again, qualitatively and quantitatively, and we measure the physiological and neural correlates of listening to music.


The reception situations we examine include not only experiments in typical laboratory settings, but also semi-realistic settings in our ArtLab as well as real everyday experiences. All types of music and all ways of handling music (“musicking,” to use Christopher Small’s term) hold interest for us. It is particularly important to us to expand empirical music aesthetics to explore repertoires, practices, and discourses of non-Western cultures. Therefore, we also work comparatively across cultures and conduct studies in other countries and continents. Here, as well as in our research on the aesthetic experience in realistic live contexts (such as at a concert or a religious service), our pursuit of specific research questions is always linked with development of methods.

Intentionally, we conduct not only empirical, but also historical and theoretical research; after all, music, musicking practices, and related norms are first of all socioculturally determined and historically mutable phenomena.


International study investigates the role of music in regulating emotions in times of crisis



Online Event

Music often has salient acoustic differences from spoken and environmental sounds,... [more]

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

An interdisciplinary conference by the Susanne K. Langer Circle in cooperation with... [more]

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

What eye movements, pupil dilation, and blinking activity tell us about musical... [more]

Research Areas

Aesthetic experience of music: dimensions, qualities and measurements

Whether the aesthetic experience of music can be meaningfully measured at all—and if so, how—and what type of knowledge is gained through such measurements, is perhaps the most controversial question in empirical aesthetics. It seems that an almost insurmountable gap arises between philosophical concepts and literary or autobiographical descriptions of aesthetic experiences on the one hand and typical empirical measurements on the other.


Aesthetic experience of music in social contexts

While existing research, particularly in music psychology, has primarily investigated the combined effect of the individual’s and the stimulus features to better understand evaluative, emotional, or behavioral responses to music, we are also investigating the influences of frames.


Long-term editorial projects

Empirical studies on cultural artifacts and practices like music can profit enormeously from a sound historical knowledge on music, its practices, aesthetics and discourses. Therefore, we not only deal with relevant historical aspects in a number of single studies, but have also started two series of long-term projects.


Aesthetic experience of music: influencing factors on individual and group level

The observation that one and the same aesthetic object is valued differently by different people was already made and discussed in antiquity, as well as the observation that people differ in regard to their more or less stable preferences for or aversions to aesthetic objects and object classes.


Musical development in children

How do children learn to sing melodies and produce rhythms? How do they develop musical taste? How do they learn to understand and use music in various situations? Can we boost spontaneous, implicit musical learning with educational interventions?


Latest Publications

Polak, R. (2022). Non-isochronous metre in music from Mali. In M. Doffman, E. Payne, & T. Young (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of time in music (pp. 252-274). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190947279.013.22.

Lange, E. B., Fünderich, J., & Grimm, H. (2022). Multisensory integration of musical emotion perception in singing. Psychological Research. doi:10.1007/s00426-021-01637-9.

Mencke, I., Quiroga-Martinez, D. R., Omigie, D., Michalareas, G., Schwarzacher, F., Trusbak Haumann, N., Vuust, P., & Brattico, E. (2021). Prediction under uncertainty: Dissociating sensory from cognitive expectations in highly uncertain musical contexts. Brain Research,1773: 147664. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147664.

Wörner, F. (2021).Konzeptualisierung von Form in Musik: Aspekte von Formvorstellungen tonaler Musik vom 19. bis zum 21. Jahrhundert. Basel: Schwabe Verlag. doi:10.24894/978-3-7965-4528-3.

Clayton, M., Tarsitani, S., Jankowsky, R., Jure, L., Leante, L., Polak, R., Poole, A., Rocamora, M., Alborno, P., Camurri, A., Eerola, T., Jacoby, N., & Jakubowski, K. (2021). The interpersonal entrainment in music performance data collection. Empirical Musicology Review,16(1), 65-84. doi:10.18061/emr.v16i1.7555.

Pearson, L. (2021). Cultural specificities in Carnatic and Hindustani music: Commentary on the Saraga Open Dataset. Empirical Musicology Review,16(1), 166-171. doi:10.18061/emr.v16i1.7974.

Buren, V., Müllensiefen, D., Roeske, T. C., & Degé, F. (2021). What makes a child musical? Conceptions of musical ability in childhood. Early Child Development and Care,191(12), 1985-2000. doi:10.1080/03004430.2020.1866566.

Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2021). Praetorius’ Syntagma musicum: Summe und Kosmos. Musiktheorie,36(4), 357-368.

Grüny, C. (2021). Musikalität, Kunst, Pop: Zur komplizierten Lage der Musik. In G. W. Bertram, S. Deines, & D. M. Feige (Eds.), Die Kunst und die Künste: Ein Kompendium zur Kunsttheorie der Gegenwart (pp. 239-257). Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Grüny, C. (2021). Vor und nach der Musik: Gibt es eine anti-essentialistische Musikphilosophie? In W. Fuhrmann, & C.-S. Mahnkopf (Eds.), Perspektiven der Musikphilosophie (pp. 81-102). Berlin: Suhrkamp.


Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann

Prof. Dr. Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann


Managing Director

+49 69 8300479-200



    Academic Degrees


    Taren Ackermann
     „Disliked Music“ – Merkmale, Gründe und Funktionen abgelehnter Musik, Dissertation (Universität Kassel)


    Julia Merrill
    Stimmen – schön schrecklich oder schrecklich schön? Beschreibung, Bewertung und Wirkung des vokalen Ausdrucks in der Musik, Habilitation Musikwissenschaft (Universität Kassel)

    Thijs Vroegh
    The pleasures of getting involved into the music: Absorption, and its role in the aesthetic appreciation of musik, Dissertation (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)

    Fabian Greb
    Determinants of Music-selection Behaviour: Development of a Model, Dissertation (Technische Universität Berlin)


    Paul Elvers
    Music listening as self-enhancement: How empowering music affects self-esteem, Dissertation (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)


    Christoph Seibert
    Musik und Affektivität: Systemtheoretische Perspektiven für eine transdisziplinäre Musikforschung, Dissertation (Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe)
    Published as: Seibert, C. (2016): Musik und Affektivität: Systemtheoretische Perspektiven für eine transdisziplinäre Musikforschung. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft.