Music, Science, and Culture


in Imaginative Minds

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264195
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734540 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Music, Science, and Culture

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Music is conceptualized as a product and a process of imagination. It is often assumed that engagement in music initiates the developmental and evolutionary emergence of imagination. This conception of music and its relationship to human powers of imagining is treated differently in science and musicology. For science, music is simply a complex pattern of sound or the experience of structured sound. For musicology and ethnomusicology, music cannot be separated from the cultural contexts in which they are embedded. This chapter proposes a broad operational definition of music which can be acceptable and applicable cross-naturally. This radical redefinition of music may provide ways of understanding music as both a culturally embedded practice and biologically grounded structure. Apart from providing a redefinition of music, the chapter also investigates some of the potential implications and consequences of this radical redefinition of music such as the possibility that the human capacity for culture may have been supported and consolidated by the emergence and presence of musicality.

Keywords: music; musicology; sound patterns; structured sound; ethnomusicology; cultural contexts; culturally embedded practice; biologically grounded structure; musicality

Chapter.  8579 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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