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Welcome to Systematic Musicology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany!


“What is music?”, “Why does music move humans?”, “How does it work?” – These are key questions guiding Systematic Musicology’s search for a Theory of Music. This search is carried out within the paradigm of Cognitive Science and termed “Cognitive Musicology”. Cognitive musicology investigates the functional architecture of the cognitive system music from an action-oriented perspective within a computational and biology framework. Computation, representation, situatedness, embodiment, and interaction are at the core of the computational framework and in the spirit of cognitive science. A biological framework is provided by ultimate and proximate questions concerning mechanisms, ontogeny, phylogeny, and function. The comparative approach fuses research strands from biolinguistics and biomusicology as well as abovementioned core aspects from cognitive musicology. As applied research we investigate (social) interaction and aesthetics in New Media Art and focuses on physical computing, interactive systems, and robotic art. Interaction is investigated with structured observation and artistic human-robot interaction design.

Our current research topics are:

  • Schema theory of the musical mind/brain
  • Biological and cultural evolution of language and music as cognitive systems
  • Comparison of language and music as cognitive systems
  • Significance and signification in musical experience
  • Multimodal large-scale structure emotional processing and inter-mediate-term memory (musical discourse processing)
  • Computational thinking in musicological research and education

Our main research methodologies are:

  • Computational cognitive modeling and functional decomposition of the musical mind’s functional architecture
  • The logic of neurocognitive inferences from brain imaging and lesion data to the functional architecture of the music faculty / music capacity / musicality
  • Philosophy of science – functional explanation and causation in research on the musical mind
  •  Artistic human-robot interaction design
  • Structured observation in music research and new media art

Recommended readings:

Music, language, brain, evolution, and computation:

Arbib, M. A. (ed.) (2013). Language, Music, and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Collins, N. (2009). Introduction to Computer Music. Chichester: Wiley

Koelsch, S. (2012). Brain & Music. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell

Rebuschat, P., Rohrmeier, M., Hawkins, J. A., & Cross, I. (eds.) (2012). Language and Music as Cognitive Systems. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press

Computational-biological-sociological approach to mind:

Bischof, N. (2009). Psychologie: Ein Grundkurs für Anspruchsvolle. 2. Auflage. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer

Jackendoff, R. (1987). Consciousness and the Computational Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Thagard, P. (2005). Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press