Iris Mencke
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt a.M.

Contemporary Music as a Challenge

For a considerable number of concert-goers, contemporary music is a challenge. Foreign sound worlds, a dearth of hummable melodies – often the lack of the familiar is disturbing. Indeed, studies in the field of cognitive psychology confirm that contemporary music – especially the atonal kind – is not an easy listening experience: the music is harder to remember, harder to recognize and, most importantly, harder to predict than classical or romantic music.
Looking a bit deeper into the brain, we note that predictive mechanisms for complex interactions are controlled between different areas of the brain. Neuroscientific research is currently trying to unlock various processes of predictive coding as a basic brain mechanism. Our brain is obviously not only specialized in predicting future events correctly, but also calculates in a parallel process how well such events can actually be predicted.
When confronted with the unpredictable, our predictions are reduced to a minimum. What does that mean for the experience of contemporary music? And what is the actual challenge while listening?

Meet the Expert

Iris Mencke studied systematic musicology in Potsdam and Berlin and is currently working as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt a.M. Apart from her studies, she worked as a culture manager, an assistant stage director at the theatre and as a music journalist. She also completed research internships at the Music, Mind & Brain group of Goldsmiths College in London and at the excellence cluster Languages of Emotion at the Free University of Berlin. This year, a research fellowship will take her to the Center for Music in the Brain (MIB) at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Before the end of this year, she will complete her doctorate in the psychology department of the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her interdisciplinary doctoral project researches a topic that has been underrepresented in empirical music research so far: the special challenge of the perception of contemporary music. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, she examines which mechanisms lead to a positive experience of such music, and which specific dimensions the experience of contemporary music evokes in the listener.

6:30 pm at the Werner-Otto-Saal
Free admission with concert ticket.

The language of this event is German.