The Origins of Music: Carl Stumpf

David J Trippett (Translator)

Research output: Book/ReportEdited book


_The Origins of Music_ was first published in German in 1911. In this text Carl Stumpf set out a path-breaking hypothesis on the earliest musical sounds in human culture. During a 53-year career, Stumpf became one of the most influential psychologists of the late 19th century; his breadth of research provided a foundation for gestalt theory, ethnomusicology, phenomenology, and cognitive psychology. On friendly terms with William James and Arthur Nikisch, he worked alongside Hermann von Helmholtz, studied Joseph Joachim's violin playing, and counted Edmund Husserl, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Lewin, and Max Wertheimer among his students.

Stumpf's 1911 book was the culmination of more than 25 years of empirical and theoretical research in the field of music. In the first part, he discusses the origin and forms of musical activity as well as various theories on the origin of music, including those of Darwin, Rousseau, Herder, and Spencer. In the second part, he summarizes his work on the historical development of instruments and music, studies the music of non-European cultures--demonstrating the psychological principles of tonal organization--and provides a range of cross-cultural musical transcriptions and analyses. This became a foundation document for comparative musicology, the elder sibling to modern Ethnomusicology, and the book provides access to the original recordings Stumpf used in this process.

Available for the first time in the English, _The Origins of Music_ appears here in tandem with Stumpf's autobiographical _Self-Portrait_ (1924), forming a fascinating resource for anyone with an interest in the history of psychology and music.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford and New York
PublisherOxford University Press
Commissioning bodyEuropean Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
Number of pages267
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-969573-7
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameClassic Music Science Monographs
PublisherOxford University Press / Ashgate


  • Carl Stumpf
  • ethnomusicology
  • music psychology
  • origins of music
  • comparative musicology
  • phonograph
  • fusion


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  • Bruno Nettl Prize

    Trippett, D. J. (Recipient), 2013

    Prize: Prizes, Medals, Awards and Grants

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