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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Seeing Music? What musicians need to know about vision

Michael Schutz (2008)

Seeing Music? What musicians need to know about vision

Empirical Musicology Review, 3(3):83-108.

Music is inherently an auditory art form, rooted in sound, and generally analyzed in terms of its acoustic properties. However, as the process of hearing is affected by seeing, visual information does in fact play an important role in the musical experience. Vision influences many aspects of music – from evaluations of performance quality and audience interest to the perception of loudness, timbre, and note duration. Moreover, it can be used to achieve musical goals that are in fact acoustically impossible. As such, understanding the benefits of embracing (and the costs of ignoring) vision’s role is essential for all musicians. Furthermore, since music represents a pervasive and ubiquitous human practice, this topic serves as an ideal case study for understanding how auditory and visual information are integrated. Given that some musically-based studies have challenged and even contributed to updating psychological theories of sensory integration, this topic represents a rich area of research, relevant to musicians and psychologists alike. 

perception, auditory, visual, crossmodal development, music perception, sensory integration, performance, education, cognitive function