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Hardcover | $46.00 Short | £38.95 | 320 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 54 illus. | August 2007 | ISBN: 9780262122931
eBook | $32.00 Short | August 2007 | ISBN: 9780262252676
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Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology


Digital media handles music as encoded physical energy, but humans consider music in terms of beliefs, intentions, interpretations, experiences, evaluations, and significations. In this book, drawing on work in computer science, psychology, brain science, and musicology, Marc Leman proposes an embodied cognition approach to music research that will help bridge this gap. Assuming that the body plays a central role in all musical activities, and basing his approach on a hypothesis about the relationship between musical experience (mind) and sound energy (matter), Leman argues that the human body is a biologically designed mediator that transfers physical energy to a mental level—engaging experiences, values, and intentions—and, reversing the process, transfers mental representation into material form. He suggests that this idea of the body as mediator offers a promising framework for thinking about music mediation technology. Leman proposes that, under certain conditions, the natural mediator (the body) can be extended with artificial technology-based mediators. He explores the necessary conditions and analyzes ways in which they can be studied. Leman outlines his theory of embodied music cognition, introducing a model that describes the relationship between a human subject and its environment, analyzing the coupling of action and perception, and exploring different degrees of the body's engagement with music. He then examines possible applications in two core areas: interaction with music instruments and music search and retrieval in a database or digital library. The embodied music cognition approach, Leman argues, can help us develop tools that integrate artistic expression and contemporary technology.

About the Author

Marc Leman is Methusalem Research Professor in Systematic Musicology at Ghent University and the author of Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology (MIT Press).


“This book is a veritable gateway to 21st-century technological advances in the analysis, creation, performance, and retrieval of music. Leman's overview of approaches to musical meaning and embodied cognition highlights ecological mediations between physical movements and their intentionality. Building on this theoretical foundation, he turns to his central focus: how humans interact musically with technology. Under the umbrella term 'mediation technology,' he examines two active areas of research: the use of multimodal input to selectively retrieve music from digital storage, and the construction and use of interactive multimedia systems. In clear prose, Leman not only explains but exemplifies the mediation between scientific understanding and artistic concerns that is the guiding theme of his work.”
Robert S. Hatten, Professor of Music Theory, Indiana University, and author of Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert
Embodied Music Cognition re-examines the foundations of musical experience using an ecological approach to perception in which the human body—the need to act and interact with the environment via voice, hands, and motor systems—becomes a primary component of musical perception and understanding. This bypasses the traditional mind/body duality which has relegated much of musical analysis to a linguistic exercise; simultaneously, it moves beyond a mere physical description of musical phenomena. Leman applies the ideas to the problem of designing flexible and intuitive musical instruments and to the young field of music information retrieval.”
William A. Sethares, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Wisconsin
“Leman simultaneously articulates a comprehensive and compelling theory of why music moves us and offers a vision of what the music information technology of the future will come to look like as it embodies the principles by which people interact with music.”
Petr Janata, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis