Collaborative Research: The Role of Narrative in Music Perception

Our study, “The Role of Narrative in Music Perception,” explores when and why we use narratives to understand music, as well as how these music-inspired narratives relate to cultural training.  This project builds on a study begun at the University of Arkansas, which revealed 1) that a majority of students listening to orchestral music (without lyrics) imagined a story, or a narrative while listening; and 2) that these storylines often converged or aligned across individuals. Bringing humanistic tools to the analysis of these narratives as well as a cross-cultural framework, the DHLC is broadening the study to explore how these stories converge or diverge across cultures, comparing results from participants at MSU and U. Arkansas to those from participants in rural China, as well as reversing the music chosen so that all participants listen to both Western and Chinese musical samples. This study received funding from the National Science Foundation and has been in progress since May 2016.