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Music Theory

Musical Bodies, Musical Minds

Enactive Cognitive Science and the Meaning of Human Musicality

by (author) Dylan van der Schyff, Andrea Schiavio & David J. Elliott

MIT Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2022
Theory, Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology, Cognitive Science
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2022
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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.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Dylan van der Schyff is Senior Lecturer in Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at the University of Melbourne and a musician who has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe. Andrea Schiavio is Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Systematic Musicology of the University of Graz. David J. Elliott is Professor of Music and Music Education at New York University, coauthor of Music Matters: A Philosophy of Music Education, and an award-winning jazz composer and arranger.

Editorial Reviews

“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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