Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Music



First Advisor

Edward A, Roth, M.M.

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen M. Tasko

Third Advisor

Dr. Kenneth H. Smith


Music, dissonance, EMG, music education, music therapy

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Knowing the human response to musical dissonance could have important therapeutic implications in the music therapy setting. The listener’s musical experience could significantly impact their response and subsequently its effect in a therapeutic setting. Thus, this study aimed to examine both the psychophysiological and subjective responses to dissonance and the difference in these responses between those with high experience and those with low experience. Participating groups, categorized as high experience (HE) and low experience (LE) in terms of musical knowledge, listened to consonant and dissonant musical excerpts, and rated each excerpt on its pleasantness; their physiologic responses were measured to determine pleasantness and unpleasantness. Facial electromyography (EMG) using the corrugator (eyebrow) and zygomatic (cheek) regions was used to evaluate the emotional valence response to the pleasantness and unpleasantness of the stimuli. The results of our study showed that the HE participants did exhibit stronger reactions to both the dissonant and the consonant excerpts, with the response to dissonance being the strongest. Contrary to our hypothesis however, this response was greatly varied, as HE participants showed more response in the zygomatic muscle during the dissonant excerpts.