Panel: Autopoietic, Enactive, and Extended Musical Practices

Michael Golden, Music Emergent: Autopoiesis and Connected Worlds

A survey of ethnomusicological studies of traditional cultures from around the world shows that, although the specific functions attributed to music are diverse, a common thread is that they involve connecting us to our environments: social, physical, and/or metaphysical. If we consider this phenomenon in the context of the work of Maturana and Varela (autopoiesis, the Santiago theory of cognition) and their successors, human musicking can be understood as continuing the development of processes essential to all living things in their interactions with their environments, in other words, as an emergent property of life itself.

Beginning with the ideas of autopoiesis, cognition and structural coupling, the Santiago theory explains that, with a sufficiently complex nervous system, organisms such as ourselves “bring forth” an interior world, and integrate or connect it with the external world that we bring forth through our senses. The nervous system, linked to sense receptors, the motor system, and the brain (i.e., other neurons), functions to integrate the “brought forth” worlds of all the living cells in the bodies of second-order autopoietic unities. Musicking, because it engages sense (auditory perception), motor activity (sound production, entrainment) and our interior states (thought and emotion), appears to be an effective behavior in support of this integrative process; recent findings in neuroscience indicating the scope of connected brain activities in musically engaged subjects also support this idea. Furthermore, the often-noted effects of social cohesion and integration through musicking suggest the possibility, if we allow that social units might be understood as third-order autopoietic unities, that musicking has an important role at that level as well.

Thus, we may be able to explain the awareness expressed in traditional cultures that music is essentially connective, as mentioned above, on the basis of contemporary understanding of the biology of cognition.

Simon Høffding, “We-ing” in Joint Music Performance: Phenomenological lessons with “The Danish String Quartet”

This paper concerns the phenomenology of expert musicianship and targets the various modes of communication found here. The data for the research is derived from a developing methodology with the working title of “A Phenomenological Interview” (Høffding & Martiny 2015) which integrates qualitative interviews and phenomenological analyses.

Through phenomenological interviews with one of the world’s leading classical quartets, “The Danish String Quartet” (DSQ), three forms of communication are identified: 1) Motor resonance, 2) Explicit coordination, and 3) Interkinesthetic Affectivity. The first refers to the subconscious system of canonical neurons (Pacherie 2014) and the second to explicit and reflective processes of planning and prediction as described by music psychologist Peter Keller (Keller 2008). The third, however, has not been thoroughly described in prior literature and concerns when musicians experience a strong, unified “we-intentionality” characterized by a high degree of trust and labelled as a “hive-mind” or as subject to unusual “zone-forces” (DSQ). This third form of communication has strong pre-reflective, affective and bodily components, and in the mind of the DSQ musicians instantiates the most beautiful and pleasant kind of performance.
The paper concludes by suggesting that interkinesthetic affectivity is an emergent form of consciousness that is best understood in enactive and interactionist terms.

Joel Krueger, Dimensions of the musically extended mind

Increasingly influential views in 4E cognitive science portray minds as embodied, embedded, enacted, and even extended beyond the head. Proponents argue that we routinely “offload” cognitive functions onto artifacts and symbols of our material environments — we use pen and paper to augment mathematical reasoning, smartphones as memory aids — flexibly transforming our cognitive profile in real-time in order to realize new modes of thought and experience. In light of the interrelation between mind and material culture, 4E proponents insist that understanding how minds work entails looking beyond the head.

In this talk, I apply principles of 4E cognition to music cognition and defend a picture of the musically extended mind. I argue that music affords different forms of cognitive and emotional offloading: it can function as a persistent environmental resource supporting the development of experiences and cognitive practices that might otherwise remain inaccessible. In developing this claim, I focus especially on the materiality of music. This is meant to emphasize two things: first, from birth music shows up for us, experientially, as something we use, something we do things with; second, this is because music is always mediated by artefacts and environments — musical worlds — that afford different uses. I support this picture of the musically extended mind by drawing upon multiple streams of empirical work from neuroscience, developmental psychology, and music therapy. I also consider several examples of musical worlds, including mu

Maria Witek, ‘Feeling at one’: Distribution of minds, bodies and beats in dance music

Vibe is a well-known phenomenon in research on dance music, clubbing and rave culture. It is an affective atmosphere that is collectively shaped by the rhythmic interlocking of its different elements, such as the DJ, the music, the dancers, the space, the lights and the temperature. Ethnographic and phenomenological accounts of dance music consciousness are filled with subjective reports of feelings of oneness, unity, ego dissolution, ecstasy and oceanic experience. However, until now, such dissolving of subjectivity during clubbing and raving has been treated largely as metaphor. This paper advances the notion of affective distribution by suggesting how the cognitive processes of clubbing and raving literally extend across the beat and the body. I consider vibe from the phenomenological perspective of socio-affective Extended Mind and focus on its musical correlates. I illustrate how the temporal structure of syncopation opens up spaces or gaps in the rhythmic surface that invite the body to ‘fill in’ through synchronised body-movement, thus providing the body with opportunities to physically occupy the musical beat. The paper thus asserts that the breakdown of boundaries between body, brain, music and environment is not just metaphorical but also material and physiological, and in doing so argues for a non-anthropocentric view of music and affect.