How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 4: Developing Methods - Traces of Time

For the research task, I decided to look at Jonathan Berger’s article How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time (Berger, 2014). The reason behind this choice was two-fold. One, I feel my knowledge of music is probably the weakest of all the creative arts and so I was interested to challenge myself to look at an area that I would usually avoid, secondly because Christian Marclay was featured in the introductory lecture and I wasn’t particularly drawn to their work then.

Jonathan Berger is an American composer and researcher. Berger’s research explores how and why humans persistently, even obsessively engage with music (Berger, 2015). His article starts with recalling how he was listening to Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major and how during the second movement he had an unnerving feeling that time was literally grinding to a halt.

I managed to find a recording on Youtube and decided to listen:

I completely agree with Berger, I couldn’t even finish listening to the recording as it induced an almost panic-like sense in me. The piece is one of the most unnerving I have listened to, it is powerful and visceral and I felt completely overwhelmed. You get a real sense of time slowing down and feel like it is about to stop in the next beat. A very uncomfortable listen but very thought-provoking.

Listening to this gave me the idea of marking marks whilst listening to different pieces of music, to see if the playing with time came through in my mark-making.

To draw I put in earphones, closed my eyes and just drew as I listened to the music. You can see definite differences in the types of marks in the different pieces of music:


Berger, J. (2014). How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time. [online] Nautilus | Science Connected. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2022].

Berger, J. (2015). Jonathan Berger. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2022].