Theoretical and Methodological Basics of Empirical Aesthetics

Developing integrative approaches to empirical musical aesthetics requires foundational work of a theoretical nature. This will result in the formulation of new problems and the shaping of methods and tools tying discipline-specific requirements together with a claim to broad accessibility. The knowledge gained in this way will make its way to other research areas likewise engaged in formulating concrete theoretical and methodological problems.

Disciplinary Understanding and Meta-Scientific Perspectives

The goal of this research area is to establish foundations for the mutual understanding of the relevant disciplines. In the framework of an analysis of empirical aesthetics’ epistemological space, connections between disciplines can be traced out and possible translation errors identified. In this context we explore the question of the extent to which, and how, results of empirical musical research are received within musical aesthetics and taken account of in its theoretical reflection. By contrast, empirical practice, for example use of music as a stimulus in an experimental framework, forms the object of analysis—the goal being to gain deeper insight into how empirical data is most sensibly interpreted in the context of the aesthetics of music. Through a systematic reviewing process, we will ascertain the state of current research and define lacunae, with corresponding research results prepared for use in various disciplines. Planned work on an integrative research vocabulary will lead to conceptual-terminological analysis that for example productively compares historical and music-aesthetic concepts, on the one hand, with psychological constructs, on the other hand.

Development of Research Methods and Instruments

An integrative approach to empirical musical aesthetics faces specific methodological and practical research challenges—all the more so as the aesthetic experiencing of music constitutes a research object that can only be grasped from multiple perspectives. Such an approach nevertheless offers a possibility to address research questions from specific disciplines from additional perspectives. It allows, for instance, the development of methods allowing us to re-address historical problems or unclear source-findings through a historically informed acquisition of empirical data in a re-actualized context. Our central interest here is in research on the aesthetic experiencing of music in live situations. To that end, we will be developing methods and technical solutions through which psychological, physiological, and behavioral indicators can be reliably measured with the least possible invasiveness in (at least seemingly) natural surroundings. This is tied, finally, to the systematic development and testing of measurement techniques, for example to investigate musical experience, musical taste, and the formation of aesthetic judgment.

Current projects

The neuroscientific research on musical pleasure has so far focused on Western tonal music. It has been associated with activity in the limbic system, distinguishing two main neural activity patterns, probably reflecting phases of either anticipation or peak experience.[more]

This project examines the role of absorption in the aesthetic experience and evaluation of different sorts of music; at the same time it aims to develop the concept of a genuine aesthetic form of absorption.  [more]

The use of music as a stimulus is a self-evident element of empirical musical research. This will be analyzed in detail, the goal being to describe musical stimuli in a systematic and comprehensive way. [more]

Very often, pleasurable or intense moments during music listening are tied to particular passages felt to be beautiful. These can influence the perception of a piece as a whole as well as our attraction to and appreciation of it. This project examines the connecting lines between the subjective experience, musical-acoustic qualities, and verbalization of beautiful passages in music. [more]

Expectations as to how a piece of music will unfold are held to be a rich source of emotions during music listening. This project will investigate the degree and nature of the involvement of the so called 'emotion network' in mediating musical expectations. [more]

Starting with a discussion of different approaches to situated cognition and its utilization in music research, we will examine the role played by our bodily constitution and environmental embeddedness in the course of the aesthetic experience of music. [more]

Absorption by music can be interpreted as paying deliberate attention to music.. Attention can be described as a resource to be examined by measuring eye movement and secondary tasks. [more]

While the phenomenological difference between perceived and felt emotions was first described many years ago, the difference has not been investigated through direct comparison on a neuro-physiological level. In this project, the neural correlates and their physiological measures are investigated using imaging method. [more]

Starting with the late medieval topos of the depiction of a vocal ensemble, which cannot be historically verified in any sources, methods of experimental re-enactment will be developed in order to supplement the absent historical evidence through its empirical counterpart. [more]

This project comprises a systematic examination of scientific journals relevant to empirical aesthetics. Our goal is to identify the development of theories, thematic focal points, and methods used, together with the changes they have undergone over time. [more]



The Pleasure of the Unpredictable - Aesthetic Experience of New Music

Since its origins, New Music has been criticized for being difficult to understand, if not completely inaccessible. Certainly, if Arnold Schönberg did desire his music to be whistled, this clearly did not occur. [more]