Musical Bodies, Musical Minds

Musical Bodies, Musical Minds © 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Author in the category "Miscellaneous"
  1. Andrea Schiavio
  2. David J. Elliott
  3. Dylan van der Schyff
Musical Bodies Musical Minds

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.


The collection of ideas, arguments, and insights contained in Musical Bodies, Musical Minds is the result of almost a decade’s collaboration between its three authors. The book reflects our backgrounds as musical performers and music educators, as well as our interests as scholars. As such, Musical Bodies, Musical Minds develops a perspective on human musicality that integrates knowledge from across a range of domains, including the cognitive and biological sciences, developmental studies, pedagogical theory, affective science, philosophical traditions, various branches of music research, and more. In line with this, we hope that Musical Bodies, Musical Minds will contribute to the interdisciplinary orientation that characterizes current musicology and especially to scholarship that explores the “embodied” and “ecological” dimensions of musical perception, cognition, and practice. This research area has produced a number of inspiring books, including Eric Clarke’s Ways of Listening (2005), David Borgo’s Sync or Swarm (2005), Marc Leman’s Embodied Music Cognition (2007), Arnie Cox’s Music and Embodied Cognition (2016), Jonathan De Souza’s Music at Hand (2017), Simon Høff- ding’s A Phenomenology of Musical Absorption (2018), Mariuz Kozak’s Enacting Musical Time (2019), and Mark Reybrouck’s Musical Sense-Making (2020). These texts connect in various ways with the account we offer in Musical Bodies, Musical Minds. However, to our knowledge, Musical Bodies, Musical Minds is the first monograph fully dedicated to developing a comprehen- sive enactive/4E view of human musicality.

In addition to the authors just mentioned, we would also like to acknowledge that many of the chapters that comprise Musical Bodies, Musical Minds began as research articles, some of which involved additional collaborators who contributed in important ways to the ideas presented in this book.

Chapter 5, “Music and Emotion,” is based on an article authored by Schiavio and van der Schyff in collaboration with Julian Cespedes-Guevara and Mark Reybrouck (Schiavio et al., 2017). We thank Julian and Mark for their contribution to that article and for their suggestions on the present chapter. Thanks also to Mark for his comments on chapter 1. Chapter 6, “The Empathic Connection,” is based on an article by van der Schyff and Joel Krueger (2019). Thanks to Joel for reading and commenting on this chapter. Chapter 8, “Teleomusicality,” develops sections that originally appeared in an article coauthored by Schiavio, van der Schyff, Silke Kruse-Weber, and Renee Timmers (2017). Thanks to Renee and Silke for reading and commenting on this revised version. Chapter 9, “Creative Musical Bodies,” is based on an article written with Valerio Velardo, Ashley Walton, and Anthony Chem- ero (van der Schyff et al., 2018). We thank Valerio, Ashley, and Anthony for their contributions to the ideas presented in this chapter.

In the first endnote of each chapter, we indicate our previously published articles that contribute to the discussion in Musical Bodies, Musical Minds. We thank the journal editors and the many anonymous reviewers from whom we received important critical feedback that helped us sharpen our arguments. We would also like to express our appreciation to Ezequiel Di Paolo, who commented on chapter 2; to Tiger Roholt, who commented on chapters 1 and 3; to Luca Barlassina, who commented on an early version of chapter 3; to Tom Froese, who commented on a previous draft of chapter 7; and to Mathias Benedek, who commented on chapter 9.

A huge thank you must also go to Eric Clarke, who facilitated and mentored van der Schyff’s 2017–2019 postdoctoral fellowship hosted by the University of Oxford. Professor Clarke read and made detailed comments on drafts of the opening chapters. He also engaged in numerous informal discussions that helped to clarify many of the themes developed throughout the book. van der Schyff would like to acknowledge the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for their financial support of this fellowship. He would also like to thank Professors Nikki Dibben and Susan O’Neill for their generous supervision and support. Schiavio would like to thank Professor Richard Parncutt and his colleagues at the Centre for Systematic Musicology of the University of Graz for extended conversations about and constructive feedback on many of the themes developed in the book. He is also grateful to many friends and colleagues with whom he has recently collaborated, including Mathias Benedek, Michele Biasutti, Nikki Moran, Kevin Ryan, Jan Stupacher, Renee Timmers, Jonna Vuoskoski, and many others. We thank Leigh van der Schyff for her lovely drawings in chapter 2. We would also like to thank Philip Laughlin and the team at MIT Press for their patience and expert assistance. And we are grateful to the anonymous reviewers who read and made useful comments on the final drafts of the manuscript. Last, we express our gratitude and love to our families and friends who supported us during the writing of this book.
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