4e music pedagogy and the principles of self-organization

Andrea Schiavio*, Dylan Van Der Schyff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent approaches in the cognitive and psychological sciences conceive of mind as an Embodied, Embedded, Extended, and Enactive (or 4E) phenomenon. While this has stimulated important discussions and debates across a vast array of disciplines, its principles, applications, and explanatory power have not yet been properly addressed in the domain of musical development. Accordingly, it remains unclear how the cognitive processes involved in the acquisition of musical skills might be understood through the lenses of this approach, and what this might offer for practical areas like music education. To begin filling this gap, the present contribution aims to explore central aspects of music pedagogy through the lenses of 4E cognitive science. By discussing cross-disciplinary research in music, pedagogy, psychology, and philosophy of mind, we will provide novel insights that may help inspire a richer understanding of what musical learning entails. In doing so, we will develop conceptual bridges between the notion of ‘autopoiesis’ (the property of continuous self-regeneration that characterizes living systems) and the emergent dynamics contributing to the flourishing of one’s musical life. This will reveal important continuities between a number of new teaching approaches and principles of self-organization. In conclusion, we will briefly consider how these conceptual tools align with recent work in interactive cognition and collective music pedagogy, promoting the close collaboration of musicians, pedagogues, and cognitive scientists.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: A.S. is supported by a Lise Meitner Postdoctoral Fellowship granted by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): project number M2148. D.v.d.S. is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • 4E cognition
  • Interaction theory
  • Music pedagogy
  • Music psychology
  • Self-organization

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