Instructor: Perfecto Herrera
Credits: 5 ECTS

This course focuses on perceptual and cognitive processes that make possible our sound and music sensations. A computational, functional and practical perspective is adopted to organize and develop the concepts, in connection with engineering and computing problems. Musical examples play an important role in many sessions.

The course is offered in 12 weeks, with 25 hours of lectures and seminars. The evaluation of the students is based on lab reports, a course project involving empirical research work, a final written test, and some classroom and online activities. Students contributions, under different formats (music, links, class participation) are also items contributing to the final grade.

  • Most of the sessions are devoted to present and discuss the most relevant concepts, data, sound/music examples, experiments and papers related to the topics of the course. A document with slides for each topic will be made available.
  • A team-based empirical project will be discussed, developed, and presented during the course and some sessions will be focused on it.
  • The course involves lab sessions to be carried out individually by each student at their own study time. They require an internet connection in order to download documents, play sounds and answer questionnaires. Every lab report is due in limited time after the assignment.

Topics covered

  • Physiology of music perception and cognition
  • Research methods and techniques
  • Psychophysics of the basic sound dimensions: Frequency Resolution
  • Psychophysics of the basic sound dimensions: Loudness
  • Psychophysics of the basic sound dimensions: Pitch
  • Psychophysics of the basic sound dimensions: Timbre
  • Perceptual organization and musical illusions
  • Music and Memory
  • The What/When frameworks to make sense of music
  • Music and Emotion


  • Ball, P. (2010). The music instinct: how music works and why we can't do without it. London: The Bodley Head.
  • Levitin, D. (2007) This is your brain on music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York: Penguin.
  • Lyon, R.E. (2017). Human and Machine Hearing: Extracting Meaning from Sound. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Purves, D. (2017). Music as Biology : the Tones We Like and Why. Harvard: Harvard University Press.