A most basic issue in the study of music perception is the question of why humans are motivated to pay attention to, or create, musical messages, and why they respond emotionally to them, when such messages seem to convey no real-time relevant biological information as do speech, animal utterances, and environmental sounds. Expanding on previous work (Roederer, 1979,1982) three possibly concurrent factors will be examined: (1) The inborn motivation to train language-handling networks of the brain in the processing of simple, organized sound patterns as a prelude to the acquisition of language; (2) The need to extract the information contained in the "musical" components of speech; (3) The value of music as a means of transmitting information on emotional states and its effect in congregating and behaviorally equalizing masses of people. In the discussion, special attention will be paid to the role of motivation and emotion in auditory perception, to the fact that in humans limbic system functions can be activated by internally evoked images in complete detachment from the current state of environment and organism, and to the existence of two distinct strategies of cerebral information processing, namely short-term time sequencing, as required in speech communication and thinking, and holistic pattern recognition, as required in music perception.


Bradshaw, J. L. & Nettleton, N. C. The nature of hemispheric specialization in man. Behav- ioral and Brain Science, 1981,4,5 1-9 1 .
Panksepp, J. Toward a general psychobiological theory of emotions. Behavioral and Brain Science, 1982, 5, 407-467.
Roederer, J. G. Introduction to the Physics and Psychophysics of Music. New York: Springer Verlag, 1979.
Roederer, J. G. Physical and neuropsychological foundations of music. In M. Clynes (Ed.), Music, Mind and Brain. New York and London: Plenum Press, 1982.
This content is only available via PDF.