Music and Embodied Cognition

Music and Embodied Cognition

Listening, Moving, Feeling, and Thinking
Arnie Cox
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/06/2016
ISBN: 978-0-253-02167-0
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Taking a cognitive approach to musical meaning, Arnie Cox explores embodied experiences of hearing music as those that move us both consciously and unconsciously. In this pioneering study that draws on neuroscience and music theory, phenomenology and cognitive science, Cox advances his theory of the "mimetic hypothesis," the notion that a large part of our experience and understanding of music involves an embodied imitation in the listener of bodily motions and exertions that are involved in producing music. Through an often unconscious imitation of action and sound, we feel the music as it moves and grows. With applications to tonal and post-tonal Western classical music, to Western vernacular music, and to non-Western music, Cox’s work stands to expand the range of phenomena that can be explained by the role of sensory, motor, and affective aspects of human experience and cognition.

Author Bio

Arnie Cox is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Aural Skills at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. His writings and teaching focus on the relationship between embodiment, affect, metaphor, and musical experience. He has published essays on music and gesture, the role of embodiment in music analysis, and the nature of musical subjectivities. He has been an invited speaker at numerous universities and other venues.


“This is an impressive and invaluable book, and one I am sure scholars from numerous fields will be citing for years to come.”
 — Music Theory Spectrum

“Highly recommended.”
 — Choice

“This book puts forth a beautiful account of what it's like to listen to music.”
 — Elizabeth Margulis, author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind

“One of the best studies on the role of conceptual metaphor in music comprehension and theory I've ever read.”
 — Mark Johnson, author (with George Lakoff) of Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Weste

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Table of Contents

Part One: Theoretical Background
1. Mimetic Comprehension
2. Mimetic Comprehension of Music
3. Metaphor and Related Means of Reasoning

Part Two: Spatial Conceptions
4. Pitch Height
5. Temporal Motion and Musical Motion
6. Perspectives on Musical Motion

Part Three: Beyond Musical Space
7. Music and the External Senses
8. Musical Affect
9. Applications
10. Review and Implications
Appendix I. Mimetic Subvocalization and Absolute Pitch
Appendix II. Levels of Abstraction Among Metaphors