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Musical Bodies, Musical Minds: Enactive Cognitive Science and the Meaning of Human Musicality

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posted on 2023-12-10, 04:17 authored by Dylan van der SchyffDylan van der Schyff, Andrea Schiavo, David J. Elliott

An enactive account of musicality that proposes new ways of thinking about musical experience, musical development in infancy, music and evolution, and more.

Musical Bodies, Musical Minds offers an innovative account of human musicality that draws on recent developments in embodied cognitive science. The authors explore musical cognition as a form of sense-making that unfolds across the embodied, environmentally embedded, and sociomaterially extended dimensions that compose the enactment of human worlds of meaning. This perspective enables new ways of understanding musical experience, the development of musicality in infancy and childhood, music's emergence in human evolution, and the nature of musical emotions, empathy, and creativity.

Developing their account, the authors link a diverse array of ideas from fields including neuroscience, theoretical biology, psychology, developmental studies, social cognition, and education. Drawing on these insights, they show how dynamic processes of adaptive body-brain-environment interactivity drive musical cognition across a range of contexts, extending it beyond the personal (inner) domain of musical agents and out into the material and social worlds they inhabit and influence. An enactive approach to musicality, they argue, can reveal important aspects of human being and knowing that are often lost or obscured in the modern technologically driven world.

“This is a really exciting and important contribution to music psychology and music education. Situating their account within writing on music stretching back to Plato and Aristotle, the authors make a compelling case for the enactive approach that they adopt and use that framework to address a host of fascinating questions ranging from the fundamentals of organism-environment relations to the nature of musical consciousness via Ghanaian drumming and improvisation—and concluding with important insights about musical praxis, ethics, and education. Written in appealingly direct and jargon-free language, this is a book that brings fresh new thinking to the field and which will continue to exert its influence for many years to come.”

– Eric F. Clarke, FBA, Heather Professor of Music, University of Oxford

“An inspiring contribution to the rapidly changing field of contemporary musicology drawing on the latest developments in enactive and ecological perspectives on embodiment. The authors deftly combine a wide range of disciplines to put forward an integrated view of human musicality as situated and intersubjective meaning-making. Touching on questions of affect, musical experience, education, and creativity, this book shows how theories of the embodied mind make us rethink music-making. In turn, it also shows how music makes us rethink the embodied mind.”

– Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Research Professor, Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science

Musical Bodies, Musical Minds represents the fruits of sustained scholarship of the highest order in musical cognition. The 4E principles—being enactive, embodied, embedded, and extended—call us to reconsider the meaning of human musicality and the imperative of redrawing the parameters of music education in the twenty-first century. A must-read for music educators, researchers, practitioners, and academics.”

– Pamela Burnard, Professor of Arts, Creativities and Educations, University of Cambridge, UK

“Ambitiously contributes to the interdisciplinary orientation that is so typical of current music studies....opens up new avenues for future research on musical learning, development and creativity....It is to be hoped, therefore, that the ideas offered in this book will inspire new approaches and ways of thinking about the nature and meaning of human musicality which align closely with the actual experience of music in human life.”

– Music & Science


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