Musical creativity and the embodied mind: Exploring the possibilities of 4E cognition and dynamical systems theory

Dylan van der Schyff*, Andrea Schiavio, Ashley Walton, Valerio Velardo, Anthony Chemero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phenomenon of creativity has received a growing amount of attention from scholars working across a range of disciplines. While this research has produced many important insights, it has also traditionally tended to explore creativity in terms of the reception of products or outcomes, conceiving of it as a cognitive process that is limited to the individual domain of the creative agent. More recently, however, researchers have begun to develop perspectives on creativity that highlight the patterns of adaptive embodied interaction that occur between multiple agents, as well as the broader socio-material milieu they are situated in. This has promoted new understandings of creativity, which is now often considered as a distributed phenomenon. Because music involves such a wide range of socio-cultural, bodily, technological, and temporal dimensions it is increasingly taken as a paradigmatic example for researchers who wish to explore creativity from this more relational perspective. In this article, we aim to contribute to this project by discussing musical creativity in light of recent developments in embodied cognitive science. More specifically, we will attempt to frame an approach to musical creativity based in an 4E (embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended) understanding of cognition. We suggest that this approach may help us better understand creativity in terms of how interacting individuals and social groups bring forth worlds of meaning through shared, embodied processes of dynamic interactivity. We also explore how dynamical systems theory (DST) may offer useful tools for research and theory that align closely with the 4E perspective. To conclude, we summarize our discussion and suggest possibilities for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalMusic and Science
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: D.v.d.S. is supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. A.S. is supported by a Lise Meitner Postdoctoral Fellowship granted by the Austrian Science Fund(FWF): project number M2148. A.C. is funded by the Charles Phelps Taft Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • 4E cognition
  • dynamical systems theory
  • embodied cognition
  • improvisation
  • musical creativity

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