[CFP] Frontiers | Music and the Embodied Mind

Music and the Embodied Mind: a jam session for theorists on musical improvisation, instrumental self-extension, and the biological and social basis of music and well-being

Hosted by: Adam M. Croom, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Deadline for Abstract Submissions: 28th February 2013
Deadline for Article Submissions:  31st August 2013

“As animals our lives are marked by rhythms, and the rhythmical activities of ventilation and heart beat are tangible evidence of the life force in each of us”, Taylor and colleagues write in their (1999) Physiological Reviews article on the cardiovascular and respiratory system. With this “life force” as a pulse reverberating deep through the body, it’s as if our heart beat and breath breaks the silence of non-life as rhythms of nature that move us like music. One might ask: Are we not something akin to an instrument of music, our lives, something of an improvisation? What is the nature of the undeniably intimate relationship between music, the body and mind?

Concerns like these have been common to both scholars and performers alike. For instance, Einstein once reported that “I see my life in terms of music” and that “Life without playing music is inconceivable for me”. In Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-Ponty discussed the “kinetic melody” of the body, while the great jazz musician and saxophone improviser Ornette Coleman explained his technique as one of “activating the idea that’s going through my nervous system”. Sally Ness (1992) further discussed “the dynamic mentality of one’s neuromusculature” during her analysis of dance in Body, Movement, and Culture, and the saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax argued that the “true” musician and their music “exist through each other, and are but one”. Advancements in the cognitive sciences have additionally enabled new evidence regarding the bodily basis of music perception, cognition, and action to come to light, inspiring fresh insights and more empirically informed theorizing.

Yet despite a wide and growing interest in the relationship between music, the body and mind, along with promising technological advances, relatively little empirical and theoretical work has been explicitly devoted to investigating the topic of music and the embodied mind, and what work does exist remains largely dispersed across different publication sources spanning different academic fields. Accordingly, the aim of this Research Topic will be to unite an interdisciplinary group of scientists, theorists, and performers to address several of the liveliest questions regarding music and the embodied mind.

Scientists working on music from all disciplines are encouraged to submit original empirical research, philosophers and theorists of music are encouraged to submit fresh hypothesis and theory articles, and musicians as well as dancers are encouraged to submit perspective and opinion pieces reflecting their first-person knowledge of these performing arts. The aim is for an integration of theory, empirical data, and first-person reports in order to better understand, and drive new research on, the topic of music and the embodied mind.

Articles of interest include, but are not limited to, those discussing musical improvisation, self-extension through musical instruments, the evolution and development of music, the biological and social basis of music and well-being, and conceptual frameworks for understanding the nature of music and the embodied mind more generally. Critical commentary will also be warmly received.

Abstract submissions should not exceed 1,000 words and will be carefully selected by the Frontiers editor.

Further information is available from Frontiers.

A small warning: Frontiers journals are open access (good!) of the kind you have to pay to publish in (not so good unless you have a chunky research grant or a very supportive institution!).

Bodily Hearing: Infrasound

There are some lovely, lovely sounds and sound-makers in the current issue of Art Practical (13.3 The Sound Issue). Matt Sussman’s short article introduced me to an aspect of Randy H. Yau’s work that I hadn’t come across before: his collaboration with Scott Arford under the name ‘Infrasound‘. The duo’s manifesto strikes a chord (*groan*) with the interests of this blog:

“Hear with your body.  This is not about music. This is not about performance or the performer . . . It is about provoking new modes of perceiving and experiencing one’s own body “

Yau and Arford create performances using sounds in the 20 – 60 Hz range, playing with acoustic phenomena to higlight sound as a physical force. Bodies abound in Sussman’s account: “The fact that I’m wearing earplugs is now irrelevant. Crossing to the other side of the room is more like swimming than walking. With every step I am more conscious of my body and the invisible particles brushing against and off of it, their paths tracing and re-tracing the surfaces of every other body and object within the room.” This is more than just a psychological submersion in sound; it’s a process of feeling as hearing, the listening body as more than an ear. As for swimming . . . I’ll be coming back to immersion later. Stay tuned.

Interactive Instruments and Embodied Learning Experiences

Rostratt: The Mobile Room, Interactive Environments and Music Sharing.

Just before Christmas I received a newsletter from MEDEA (a centre for collaborative media at Malmo University) about a project being carried out in a pre-school. Researchers are designing various interactive technologies to allow the children to explore the corporeal experience of sound and music-making. The games and instruments being developed include a visualisation tool that allows participants to see the correlation between vocal qualities and the amount of air in the lungs (I’m a bit sceptical about role of, and need for, visualisation in this one) and ‘The Insect Instrument’ for ‘singing and composing quiet sounds’. The project is still at the pilot stage at the moment, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about its findings as the research develops.

You can read more about the project by clicking on the orange subtitle at the top of this article, or by visiting The Right to your Voice: New Musical Instruments, Environments and Creativity.

[Conference] Inner Movement: the motor dimension of imagination

University College Ghent, Belgium. 1 – 3rd December, 2011.

This conference explores the role of the moving and gesturing body in the imaginative perception of works of art. Bodily resonance with the way a work of art is or has been created or performed is an essential part of much of our aesthetic experience and appreciation. This kind of ‘inner movement’ is part of our experience of a whole range of works of art, from an implicit tracing of the draftsman’s hand in drawings to an embodied listening in audiovisual works or an explicit feeling of co-embodiment in dance or theatre performances. The notion of ‘inner movement’ refers not to the representation of movement in works of art, but to the constitutive and creative dimension of the motor body in the perception of works of art, and more generally, to the motor dimension of imagination.

Further information is available on the conference website.