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Laurel J Trainor and Andrea Unrau (2011)

Development of Pitch and Music Perception

In: Human Auditory Development, ed. by Lynne Werner, Richard R. Fay and Arthur N. Popper. Springer, New York, vol. 42, chap. 8, pp. 223-254. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research. (ISBN: 978-1-4614-1420-9).

Music, like language, is found in all known human societies, past and present, and although music has some precursors that can be found in other species, it is a defining characteristic of the human species (Wallin et al. 2000). Although the perception of music has multisensory aspects (Thompson et al. 2005; Phillips-Silver and Trainor 2007), it is based in sound. The vibrations that give rise to music can be created by many different means, including striking percussion instruments, blowing resonating air columns in wind instruments, plucking and bowing strings under tension, and vibrating the vocal chords during singing. The boundary between sounds that are perceived as music and sounds that are not is fuzzy; indeed a definition of music remains elusive. However, the vast majority of music in the world involves spectral and temporal organizations that can readily be processed by the nervous system and for which specialized brain processing develops.