Exploratory expertise and the dual intentionality of music-making

Simon Høffding, Andrea Schiavio

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In this paper, we advance the thesis that music-making can be advantageously understood as an exploratory phenomenon. While music-making is certainly about aesthetic expression, from a phenomenological, cognitive, and even evolutionary perspective, it more importantly concerns structured explorations of the world around us, our minds, and our bodies. Our thesis is based on an enactive and phenomenological analysis of three cases: the first concerns the study of infants involved in early musical activities, and the two latter are phenomenologically inspired interviews with an expert jazz improviser, and members of a prominent string quartet. Across these examples, we find that music-making involves a dual intentionality - one oriented towards the exploration of the sonic, material, and social environment, and one oriented toward the self, including the exploration of bodily awareness and reflective mental states. In enactivist terms, exploration is a fundamental way of making sense of oneself as coupled with the world. Understanding music-making as a pre-eminent case of exploration helps us explicate and appreciate the developmental, sensorimotor, and more advanced cognitive resources that exist in music-making activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-829
Number of pages19
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date18 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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© The Author(s) 2019.

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