The psychology of music is a field of scientific inquiry studying the mental operations underlying music listening, music-making, dancing (moving to music), and composing. The fild draws from the core disciplines of psychology, cognitive science, and music, and music-related work in the natural, life, and social sciences. The most prominent subdiscipline is music cognition, in which controlled experiments examine how listeners and performers perceive, interpret, and remember various aspects of music.
The field traces its origins to experimentation with musical instruments in ancient Greece and China. Aristoxenus argued that one should study the mind of the listener, not merely the collection of sounds impinging on the ear. Descartes, Galileo, and the eighteenthcentury French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, among others, were interested in musical scales and questions of consonance and dissonance (i.e., pleasant/unpleasant sound combinations). In the late 1800s, the German physicists Hermann VON Helmholtz and Gustav Fechner, and the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, applied modern scientific methods to study musical experience. The Gestalt psychologists (e.g., Christian von Ehrenfels and Max Wertheimer) asked how a melody retains its identity under transposition, that is, with all component pitch or duration values changed but their relations preserved. In the early twenty-first century, music psychology is experiencing a renaissance, with an exponential increase in scholarly activity over the preceding century (seven hundred papers were published in 2006). This surge of interest follows increasing communication across scholarly disciplines, the emergence of cognitive psychology in the 1960s, and new technologies that facilitate the preservation, presentation, and manipulation of sound (e.g., magnetic tape, hard disks, computers, digital signal processing)