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. So far, research has discussed a number of psychological and sociological factors that influence individuals’ preferences and judgments in specific ways.

We expand on this in various ways, most notably by studying not only effects on judgments, but on differences in perception and aesthetic experience, and by researching not only socially but also culturally diverse groups.



Cross-cultural study on perceived emotions in music

The notion that music is not only the art of sound but also something like a universal “language” of emotions is widely held in both popular opinion and scientific research until today. This notion can be traced back into the 18th century and to philosophical theories about the origin of language and music (Rousseau, Herder, and Forkel, among others).


Rhythm across cultures

This project investigates the perception and performance of musical rhythm in different cultures. It compares them in terms of their degree of cross-cultural similarity or diversity and thus will enhance an empirically founded discussion of anthropological universals and cultural diversity.


Facial expressions in singing performance

Particularly in the eighteenth century, the conviction that there was an essential relationship between musical contents and the facial expressions and gestures of performers, so that “a large part of music” lay in the art of gesture (Johann Mattheson), belonged to the topoi of an enlightened musical aesthetic. In the tradition of antique rhetoric, facial expressions and gestures were understood to be an important element in an expressive musical “sound discourse.”


Singing with Physical Contact: A Motiv of late Medieval Iconography of Singing and its Experiemental Re-Enactment

Music and art historians specializing in the Late Medieval period and Renaissance are familiar with the typical pictorial representation of a vocal ensemble: the singers are assembled around a single lectern or manuscript, pressed tightly together;


Survey on musical taste in Germany

In quantitative research on musical tastes and preferences, data from national surveys play a major role. However, these surveys usually serve other purposes than those of taste research and are almost never designed by the researchers themselves. This typically results in somewhat akward and incompatible operationalizations of taste and preference.



Polak, R. (2021). Presenting yourself through dance: Participatory and presentational aspects of dance performance at local festivities in southern Mali. In V. Apjok, K. Povedák, V. Szőnyi, & S. Varga (Eds.), Dance, Age and Politics: Proceedings of the 30th Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology (pp. 67-82). University of Szeged.

Durojaye, C., Fink, L., Roeske, T. C., Wald-Fuhrmann, M., & Larrouy-Maestri, P. (2021). Perception of Nigerian Dùndún talking drum performances as speech-like vs. music-like: The role of familiarity and acoustic cues. Frontiers in Psychology,12: 652673. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.652673.

Merrill, J., Omigie, D., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Locus of emotion influences psychophysiological reactions to music. PLoS One, 15(8): e0237641. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0237641.

Polak, R. (2020). Non-isochronous meter is not irregular: A review of theory and evidence. In M. Aydintan, F. Edler, R. Graybill, & L. Krämer (Eds.), Gegliederte Zeit: 15. Jahreskongress der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie Berlin 2015  (pp. 365-379). Hildesheim: Georg Olms.

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Jacoby, N., Margulis, E. H., Clayton, M., Hannon, E., Honing, H., Iversen, J., Klein, T. R., Mehr, S. A., Pearson, L., Peretz, I., Perlman, M., Polak, R., Ravignani, A., Savage, P. E., Steingo, G., Stevens, C. J., Trainor, L., Trehub, S., Veal, M., & Wald-Fuhrmann, M. (2020). Cross-cultural work in music cognition: Challenges, insights, and recommendations. Music Perception, 37(3), 185-195. doi:10.1525/mp.2020.37.3.185.

Polak, R. (2020). Wozu polychrone Pulsation? Funktionalistische Perspektiven auf metrische Strukturen in malischer Musik. In M. Sharif, & K. Stepputat (Eds.), Understanding musics: Festschrift on the occasion of Gerd Grupe's 65th birthday  (pp. 19-36). Düren: Shaker.

Greb, F., Steffens, J., & Schlotz, W. (2019). Modeling music-selection behavior in everyday life: A multilevel statistical learning approach and mediation analysis of experience sampling data. Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 390. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00390.

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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. doi:10.1037/aca0000271.

Greb, F. (2018). Determinants of music-selection behaviour: Development of a model. PhD Thesis, TU Berlin, Berlin. doi:10.14279/depositonce-7241.

Greb, F., Steffens, J., & Schlotz, W. (2018). Understanding music-selection behavior via statistical learning: Using the percentile-Lasso to identify the most important factors. Music & Science, 1, 1-17. doi:10.1177/2059204318755950.

Cohrdes, C., Wrzus, C., Wald-Fuhrmann, M., & Riediger, M. (2018). “The sound of affect”: Age differences in perceiving valence and arousal in music and their relation to music characteristics and momentary mood. Musicae Scientiae, 24(1), 21-43. doi:10.1177/1029864918765613

Polak, R., Jacoby, N., Fischinger, T., Goldberg, D., Holzapfel, A., & London, J. (2018). Rhythmic Prototypes Across Cultures: A Comparative Study of Tapping Synchronization. Music Perception, 36(1), 1–23. doi:10.1525/mp.2018.36.1.1

Polak, R., Tarsitani, S., & Clayton, M. (2018). IEMP Malian Jembe. A collection of audiovisual recordings of Malian jembe ensemble performances, with detailed annotations. Open Science Framework (OSF). doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/M652X

Pearson, L. (2018). Cultural heritage, sustainability and innovation in South Indian art music. In B. Norton, & N. Matsumoto (Eds.), Music as heritage: Historical and ethnographic perspectives (pp. 238-257). London: Routledge.

Greb, F., Schlotz, W., & Steffens, J. (2018). Personal and situational influences on the functions of music listening. Psychology of Music, 46(6), 763-794. doi:10.1177/0305735617724883.

Toelle, J. (2018). Mission soundscapes: Demons, Jesuits and sounds in Antonio Ruiz de Montoya’s Conquista Espiritual (1639). In D. Hacke, & P. Musselwhite (Eds.), Empire of the senses: Sensory practices of colonialism in early America (pp. 67-87). Leiden: Brill. doi:10.1163/9789004340640_004.

Jacoby, Nori und Josh H. McDermott. (2017). Integer Ratio Priors on Musical Rhythm Revealed Cross-Culturally by Iterated Reproduction. Current Biology 27(3): 359–70. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.031.

Neuhoff, H., Polak, R., & Fischinger, T. (2017). Perception and Evaluation of Timing Patterns in Drum Ensemble Music from Mali. Music Perception, 34(4), 438–451. doi:10.1525/mp.2017.34.4.438

Grimm, H., Fünderich, J., & Lange, E.B. (August, 2017). How is the perceived musical expressivity of singers affected by their mimic and gestural interpretation? 25th Anniversary Edition of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM), Ghent, Belgium.

Omigie, D. (2017). Deconstructing dissonance: The multifaceted role of learning. Journal of interdisciplinary music studies, 8(1-2), 35-38. doi:10.4407/jims.2016.12.101.

Polak, R., Jacoby, N., & London, J. (2016). Both isochronous and non-isochronous metrical subdivision afford precise and stable ensemble entrainment: A corpus study of Malian jembe drumming. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 285. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00285

Polak, R., Jacoby, N., & London, J. (2016). Kulturelle Diversität in  der empirischen Rhythmusforschung: Drei Analysen eines Audio-Korpus von Percussion-Ensemblemusik aus Mali. Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 13(2).

Elvers, P., Omigie, D., Fuhrmann, W., & Fischinger, T. (2015). Exploring the musical taste of expert listeners: Musicology students reveal tendency toward omnivorous taste. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1252. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01252.

Omigie, D., & Samson, S. (2014). A protective effect of musical expertise on cognitive outcome following brain damage? Neuropsychology Review, 24(4), 445-460. doi:10.1007/s11065-014-9274-5.