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.


We see mediation between these two poles as one of the outstanding opportunities and tasks for a transdisciplinary institute such as our own. Conceptually, we take on this challenge by pursuing a psychological construct of aesthetic experience that also accommodates the descriptions and interests of the aesthetic and humanities approaches. For us, this means first and foremost a construct that centers its attention on the phenomenal state of the temporally unfolding aesthetic experience itself, and not primarily on its outputs (liking, induced emotions) or their correlates (such as psychophysical arousal as a correlate of liking). At the same time, we also research a broad variety of historical and contemporary written documents of musical experiences.


Research Projects

On the Difference Between Perceived and Felt Emotions in Music

In this project we study the physiological and neuronal correlates of perceived musical expression and the feelings sparked by music listening. The assumption that the physiological and affective phenomena are congruent has been a cornerstone of both musical pedagogy and music-aesthetic discourse since the inception of that discourse in the writings of Plato and Aristotle.


Disliked Music

In westlichen Kulturen ist der Musikgeschmack als eine Einstellung oder verfestigte Meinung zu Musik ein wichtiger Faktor des Selbstkonzeptes und der Selbstwahrnehmung. Als affektives und expressives Medium dient Musik dabei nicht nur der Befriedigung emotionaler und sozialer Bedürfnisse, sondern ist in seiner individuellen Ausprägung von gemochter oder abgelehnter Musik auch ein Mittel zur Konstruktion und Bestätigung der eigenen Identität.


Musical Epiphanies as Taste Defining Experiences

For the most part the development of personal musical taste has been described as a long-term process of enculturation and socialization. But at the same time, people have repeatedly given accounts of particular, extraordinary events that have changed, expanded, or reoriented their musical taste in a fundamental way.


Music and Eyetracking

Tracking gaze, pupil, and blinking is important to understand attentional processes in the visual domain. For example, it has long been shown that visual-spatial attention is strongly coupled with gaze (but can be de-coupled in the case of covert attention). There is growing evidence that measuring eye parameters can also be useful to understand auditory processing, even though the most important receptors for auditory processing are in the ear.


Formenlehre and the Understanding of Musical Form

The form of a piece of music has been regarded as a central category for the evaluation of compositions since the 18th century. The Formenlehre (theory of forms) has developed beyond the theory of composition into an independent subject. This discipline not only deals with the structure of musical material, but also implies what kind of meaning arises for the listener.


Closed Projects

„Schöne Stellen“—Beautiful Passages in Music

If we are asked about music that we especially like or are moved by, and if we then try to describe what this involves, we are very likely to find ourselves using the word “beautiful.” If we wish to very briefly explain our enthusiasm for one or another particular passage, this may serve as a sufficient answer. But what, in the end, do we mean by this—where, in fact, is the beauty in music located?


Aesthetic Absorption

In the context of listening to music, absorption denotes a psychological condition characterized by a deep involvement with art reception, and evaluated as a particularly intense and pleasurable type of aesthetic experience. We investigate these aesthetic experiences from the following two complementary perspectives...


The pleasure of contemporary classical music

This project explores the mechanisms that drive the appreciation of new and contemporary classical music (i.e. Western art music from the 20th and 21st century). Since this style of music often contains a high degree of dissonance, is often atonal and not based on a regular meter, it is challenging  especially for inexperienced listeners.



Merrill, J., & Niedecken, T. (2023). Music and Boredom: A First Insight Into an Unexplored Relationship. Music & Science, 6.doi:10.1177/20592043231181215

Merrill, J., Ackermann, T.-I., & Czepiel, A. (2023). Effects of disliked music on psychophysiology. Scientific Reports,13: 20641. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-46963-7

Lange, E. B., & Fink, L.K. (2023). Eye blinking, musical processing, and subjective states—A methods account. Psychophysiology, e14350.

Fink, L., Simola, J., Tavano, A., Lange, E., Wallot, S., & Laeng, B. (2023). From pre-processing to advanced dynamic modeling of pupil data. Behavioral Research Methods.

Pearson, L., & Pouw, W. (2022). Gesture–vocal coupling in Karnatak music performance: A neuro–bodily distributed aesthetic entanglement. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Pearson, L. (2022). Inscriptions, Gesture, and the Self: Notation in Karnatak Music. In E. Payne & F. Schuiling (Eds.), Material Cultures of Music Notation: New Perspectives on Musical Inscription. Abingdon: Routledge.

Mencke, I., Omigie, D., Quiroga-Martinez, D. R., & Brattico, E. (2022). Atonal Music as a Model for Investigating Exploratory Behavior. Frontiers in Neuroscience 16. doi:10.3389/fnins.2022.793163

Mencke I, Seibert C, Brattico E, Wald-Fuhrmann M. (2022). Comparing the aesthetic experience of classic–romantic and contemporary classical music: An interview study. Psychology of Music. June 2022. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/03057356221091312

Vroegh, T. P., Wiesmann, S. L., Henschke, S., & Lange, E. B. (2021). Manual motor reaction while being absorbed into popular music. Consciousness and Cognition, 89: 103088. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2021.103088.

Lange, E. B., Thiele, D., & Kuijpers, M. M. (2020). Narrative aesthetic absorption in audiobooks is predicted by blink rate and acoustic features. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/aca0000321

Merrill, J., & Ackermann, T. (2020). “Like static noise in a beautiful landscape”: A mixed-methods approach to rationales and features of disliked voices in popular music (Advance online publication). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. doi:10.1037/aca0000376.

Hamilton, A., & Pearson, L. (Eds.). (2020). The aesthetics of imperfection in music and the arts: Spontaneity, flaws and the unfinished. London: Bloomsbury Academic.


Grüny, C. (2020). Grenzen des Rationalen: Klang und Theorie. In B. Giesecke von Bergh, & V. Helbing (Eds.), ›Klang‹. Wundertüte oder Stiefkind der Musiktheorie: 16. Jahreskongress der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie (GMTH) (pp. 15-35). doi:10.31751/p.1.

Roeske, T. C., Larrouy-Maestri, P., Sakamoto, Y., & Poeppel, D. (2020). Listening to birdsong reveals basic features of rate perception and aesthetic judgements. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences (London), 287(1923): 20193010. doi:10.1098/rspb.2019.3010.

Schlotz, W., Wallot, S., Omigie, D., Masucci, M. D., Hoelzmann, S. C., & Vessel, E. A. (2020). The Aesthetic Responsiveness Assessment (AReA): A screening tool to assess individual differences in responsiveness to art in English and German (Online First Posting). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. doi:10.1037/aca0000348

Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Musik und Melancholie. Mit einer Anwendung auf Händels L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Göttinger Händel-Beiträge: Jahrbuch/Yearbook 2020, 21, 7-32.

Omigie, D., Lehongre, K., Navarro, V., Adam, C., & Samson, S. (2020). Neuro-oscillatory tracking of low- and high-level musico-acoustic features during naturalistic music listening: Insights from an intracranial electroencephalography study. Psychomusicology, 30(1), 37-51. doi:10.1037/pmu0000249.

Omigie, D., Frieler, K., Bär, C., Muralikrishnan, R., Wald-Fuhrmann, M., & Fischinger, T. (2019). Experiencing musical beauty: Emotional subtypes and their physiological and musico-acoustic correlates. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/aca0000271

Merrill, J. (2019). Stimmen – schön schrecklich oder schrecklich schön?: Beschreibung, Bewertung und Wirkung des vokalen Ausdrucks in der Musik. Kassel: Kassel University Press. doi:10.19211/KUP9783737650878.

Ackermann, T. (2019). Disliked music: Merkmale, Gründe und Funktionen abgelehnter Musik (PhD Thesis, kassel university press, Kassel, 2019). doi:10.19211/KUP9783737650885.

Vroegh, T. P. (2019). Zoning-in or tuning-in? Identifying distinct absorption states in response to music. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 29(2-3), 156-170. doi:10.1037/pmu0000241.

Mencke, I., Omigie, D., Wald-Fuhrmann, M., & Brattico, E. (2019). Atonal Music: Can Uncertainty Lead to Pleasure? Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 979. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00979/full

Omigie, D., Pearce, M., Lehongre, K., Hasboun, D., Navarro, V., Adam, C., & Samson, S. (2019). Intracranial recordings and computational modeling of music reveal the time course of prediction error signaling in frontal and temporal cortices. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31(6), 855-873. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01388.

Akkermans, J., Schapiro, R., Mullensiefen, D., Jakubowski, K., Shanahan, D., Baker, D., Busch, V., Lothwesen, K., Elvers, P., Fischinger, T., Schlemmer, K., & Frieler, K. (2019). Decoding emotions in expressive music performances: A multi-lab replication and extension study. Cognition & Emotion, 33(6), 1099-1118. doi:10.1080/02699931.2018.1541312.

Fink, L., Lange, E.B., & Janata, P. (2018).The pupil entrains to prominent periodicities in music. 15th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC), Graz, Austria.

Lange, E. B., & Frieler, K. (2018). Challenges and opportunities of predicting musical emotions with perceptual and automatized features. Music Perception, 36(2), 217-242. doi:10.1525/MP.2018.36.2.217.

Elvers, P., Fischinger, T., & Steffens, J. (2018). Music listening as self-enhancement: Effects of empowering music on momentary explicit and implicit self-esteem. Psychology of Music, 46(3), 307-325. doi:10.1177/0305735617707354.

Vroegh, T. P. (2018). The pleasures of getting into the music: Absorption, and its role in the aesthetic appreciation of music. PhD Thesis, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg, Frankfurt.

Fink, L. K., Lange, E. B., & Groner, R. (2018). The application of eye-tracking in music research. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 11(2): 1. doi:10.16910/jemr.11.2.1.

Wiesecke, J. (2017). Samuel Pepys and his experiences of music at Restoration theatres. In H. Barlow, & D. Rowland (Eds.), Listening to music: People, practices and experiences. Retrieved from

Lange, E.B., Zweck, F., & Sinn, P. (2017). Microsaccade-rate indicates absorption by music listening. Consciousness and Cognition, 55, 59-78. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2017.07.009

Frieler, K., & Lange, E. B. (2017). Chancen und Risiken des Computereinsatzes in der Musikpsychologie. Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Musikpsychologie, 27, 187-191.

Kaufmann, M. (2017). Tränen und Drama: Domenico Mazzocchis musikalische Inszenierung der Klage. Die Tonkunst: Magazin für klassische Musik und Musikwissenschaft, 11(2), 185-195.

Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2017). Ursprungsmythen als Wesensbestimmungen in der Musik. In S. Wegner (Ed.), Über den Ursprung von Musik: Mythen, Legenden und Geschichtsschreibungen (pp. 39-48). Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

Steffens, J., Greb, F., & Schlotz, W. (2016). Why listen to music right now?: Towards an inventory measuring the functions of music listening under situational influences. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (pp. 842).

Omigie, D. (2016). Basic, specific, mechanistic? Conceptualizing musical emotions in the brain. Journal of Comparative Neurology. Special Issue: Brain Circuits of Positive Emotions, 524(8), 1676-1686. doi:10.1002/cne.23854.

Lindau, A., Seibert, C., Greb, F., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2016). The ArtLab of the Max Plank Institute for Empirical Aesthetics: Technical conception and envisaged research questions. In M. Vorländer, & J. Fels (Eds.), Fortschritte der Akustik: Tagungsband der 42. Jahrestagung für Akustik DAGA.

Seibert, C. (2016). Musik und Affektivität: Systemtheoretische Perspektiven für eine transdisziplinäre Musikforschung. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft.

Omigie, D., Dellacherie, D., Hasboun, D., Clément, S., Baulac, M., Adam, C., & Samson, S. (2015). Intracranial markers of emotional valence processing and judgments in music. Cognitive Neuroscience, 6(1), 16-23. doi:10.1080/17588928.2014.988131.

Bär, C. (2014). Verbalization of music and sound between poeticity and aesthetic evaluation. In A. Kozbelt (Ed.), Proceedings of the Twenty-third Biennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (pp. 78-84).

Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2013). Musik und Subjektivität. In M. Calella, & N. Urbanek (Eds.), Historische Musikwissenschaft: Grundlagen und Perspektiven (pp. 289-306). Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler.