Perception, Ecology, and Music

Eric F. Clarke

in Ways of Listening

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780195151947
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870400 | DOI:
Perception, Ecology, and Music

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This chapter presents a discussion of the principal characteristics of an ecological approach to perception. Adopting many of the principles set out in the ecological work of James Gibson, it discusses the fundamental relationship between perceivers and their environments, and the integrated and complementary relationship between perception and action. When perceivers pick up information about the world, they do so as a result of their actions, and what they discover in turn leads to new actions. This constant process results in adaptations to the environment over the timescale of the perceiver's lifespan — in turn building upon the organism's adaptations that have taken place at an evolutionary timescale. Countering the possible objection that the adaptation of an organism to its environment seems too “convenient”, the chapter shows how work in the connectionist modelling of human musical capacities can be seen as an analogy for the way in which people adapt to their musical environments. The chapter discusses the relationship between nature and culture, and perception and cognition, and introduces a key term in ecological theory: affordance. The chapter concludes with a short discussion of the application of these ideas to three brief sound examples.

Keywords: adaptation; perceptual learning; affordance; cognition; invariance; James Gibson; ecological approach

Chapter.  10019 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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