The body behind music: precedents and prospects


Dogantan-Dack, M. 2006. The body behind music: precedents and prospects. Psychology of Music. 34 (4), pp. 449-464.
TitleThe body behind music: precedents and prospects
AuthorsDogantan-Dack, M.

Psychology of Music is the official journal of SEMPRE – Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research. This paper acknowledges that the involvement of the body in musical experiences is a phenomenon that has been noted since ancient times - many authors cite the organic rhythms of the body as providing the experiential basis for musical rhythm - whereas the input of bodily experiences to the comprehension of music has recently been investigated by various researchers in music theory. This concern is central in multidisciplinary terms to performing arts research at Middlesex. A similar interest in the bodily basis of music is also seen in studies of expressive music performance. I argue here that the roots of the recent research on the bodily basis of expression in performance are to be found in 19th-century theories of performance, which took shape in the light of the newly rising science of psychology. The rise of scientific psychology from within experimental physiology of the period gave 19th-century theories concerning the workings of the human mind a decisively embodied character. The article refers particularly to the works of Ernst Mach, and Christian von Ehrenfels, and argues that the proposals made and the conclusions reached in early studies of expressive performance involve all the essential hypotheses put forward in recent research. It identifies two basic models for musical rhythm that could provide the basis for expressive performance: the model of upbeat-accent-afterbeat, and the model of repose-action-repose. It is conceivable that the first model can account for the local expressive fluctuations in performance, while the second one can explain the global expressive profile.

PublisherSAGE Publications
JournalPsychology of Music
Publication dates
Print01 Oct 2006
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Dec 2008
Output statusPublished
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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