Functions of Music in Everyday Life: An Exploratory Study Using the Experience Sampling Method

Antonia Ivaldi, John A Sloboda, Susan A O'Neill

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290 Citations (SciVal)


The aim of this exploratory study was to (a) test the viability of the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) as a means of identifying unfolding episodes of everyday musical experience, (b) examine the consistency of situations where music listening occurs by comparing the findings of previous studies involving retrospective data, and (c) investigate the extent to which degree of personal choice over the music and psychological outcomes such as mood change, are associated with participants' descriptions of the functions of music in particular contexts. Eight non-musicians between the ages of 18 and 40 were asked to carry an electronic pager with them for a one-week period. A remote computer activated the pagers once at random in every two-hour period between 0800 and 2200. On each paging, participants were asked to stop what they were doing as soon as practicable and complete a diary of self-report forms with open-ended and scaled items, allowing “on the spot” thoughts and feelings in real life everyday situations to be recorded as sequential episodes. At the end of the week, each respondent was individually interviewed. Results indicated that the ESM is a robust method for exploring daily musical experiences. Although music was heard during 44% of all episodes, few episodes involved listening to music as the primary focus. Rather, music tended to be used as an accompaniment to other activities. Findings also indicated that the experience of music resulted in participants becoming more positive, more alert, and more focussed in the present, particularly where personal choice over the music was involved. The discussion considers some of the implications of the study for future investigations of the functions of music as they occur in everyday evolving situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-32
Number of pages24
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001


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