People hear primarily by detecting airborne sound waves which are collected by the auricle, which also helps locate the direction of the sound’s source. We automatically incorporate reflected ambient sound properties in determining the location of a sound source.
We are even sensitive to the more aesthetic aspects of the environment. Subtle changes are noticeable.
We sense silent objects that obstruct sound. This affords the capability for echolocation. Such hearing sensitivity occurs in other animals and even surpasses ours in various ways.
Memory plays a critical role in audition. Human pitch memory is impressively accurate. In singing or just imagining a song heard before, chances are it will be done in a musical key very close that the one it was recorded in. Small melodic phrases, or even single note, can be accurately remembered by the average person.
Appreciating the deep structure of music is innate. The pitch difference between notes (musical interval) is readily recognized, as are the most common intervals used in popular and classical music.
More abstract qualities are also inherently appreciated, including how melodic themes relate to variations, how notes in successive chords relate to each other and their implied tonal center (root chord), and how melodies resolve to completion.
Despite the fact that most of us are unfamiliar with the technical terminology of music, nearly all of us have implicit knowledge of these characteristics. ~ Lawrence Rosenblum
The deep structure of music underlies how musical pieces are organized to convey emotionally-resonate meaning. Styles of music are readily recognized. Non-musicians can identify similar styles and even have a sense of historical context.
This ability is by no means unique to humans. A carp can tell the difference between baroque and the blues.