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Biomusicology is the study of music from a biological point of view. The term was coined by Wallin (1991). Music is an aspect of the behaviour of the human and possibly other species. As humans are living organisms, the scientific study of music is therefore part of biology, thus the "bio" in "biomusicology".

Biomusicologists are expected to have completed formal studies in both biology or other experimental sciences and musicology including music theory. The three main branches of biomusicology are evolutionary musicology, neuromusicology, and comparative musicology. Evolutionary musicology studies the "origins of music, the question of animal song, selection pressures underlying music evolution," and "music evolution & human evolution." Neuromusicology studies the "brain areas involved in music processing, neural and cognitive processes of musical processing," and "ontogeny of musical capacity and musical skill." Comparative musicology studies the "functions and uses of music, advantages and costs of music making," and "universal features of musical systems and musical behavior." (Brown, Merker, Wallin 2000, p.5f1.1)

Applied biomusicology "attempts to provide biological insight into such things as the therapeutic uses of music in medical and psychological treatment; widespread use of music in the audiovisual media such as film and television; the ubiquitous presence of music in public places and its role in influencing mass behavior; and the potential use of music to function as a general enhancer of learning." (ibid, p.6)

Zoomusicology, as opposed to anthropomusicology, is most often biomusicological, and biomusicology is often zoomusicological.

See also

Related fields

Related topics


Further reading

Key texts


  • Arom, Simha (1999): "Prologomena to a Biomusicology." In: Nils L. Wallin/Björn Merker/Steven Brown (Eds.), The origins of music, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 27–29.
  • Darwin, Charles (1871): The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. John Murray: London.
  • Fitch, W. Tecumseh (2006): "The biology and evolution of music: a comparative perspective". Cognition, 100(1), pp. 173–215.
  • Hauser, Marc D./Josh McDermott (2003): "The evolution of the music faculty: a comparative perspective." In: Nature Neuroscience Vol. 6, No. 7, pp. 663–668.
  • Peretz, Isabelle (2006): "The nature of music from a biological perspective." Cognition 100 (2006), pp. 1–32.
  • Wallin, Nils L./Björn Merker/Steven Brown (Eds., 1999): The Origins of Music, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-23206-5.
  • Zatorre, R./Peretz, I. (2000): The Biological Foundations of Music, New York: National Academy Press.


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Psychology of music
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