Comparing the aesthetic experience of classic–romantic and contemporary classical music: An interview study

Iris Mencke*, Christoph Seibert, Elvira Brattico, Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Current models of aesthetic experience of music (AEM) have emerged in the recent years capitalizing on evidence from psychology and neuroscience research, thus modeling mainly cognitive and information processes in the brain. However, a large part of the empirical research on which these models are based is related to Western tonal music, while another style of Western music, namely, contemporary classical music (CCM), has been almost neglected. CCM is often dissonant and lacks a tonal hierarchical structure, as, for example, in serial musical pieces. The current study qualitatively explored aesthetic dimensions of a CCM experience by contrasting it to classic–romantic music (CM). To this end, 16 semi-structured interviews with experts of both CCM (n = 8) and CM (n = 8) were conducted. The interview guide consisted of questions relating to physiological, affective, and cognitive dimensions of music listening. We applied qualitative content analysis on the textual material and compared the emerging main and sub-themes between the groups. Our findings show that especially the categories of expectations, physiological and emotional responses, pleasurable aspects, and, lastly, existential relevance revealed striking differences which allow us to conclude that CM and CCM afford distinguishable types of AEM in listeners.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Music
Pages (from-to)274-294
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • aesthetic experience
  • atonal music
  • contemporary classical music
  • musical pleasure
  • qualitative


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