Situated Approaches to the Aesthetic Experience of Music

Over recent years, within the cognitive sciences a number of approaches have been developed that free themselves from the idea of an exclusive location of cognitive processes in the brain. Accordingly, cognition has been conceptualized as embodied, as embedded in a relevant environment, as extended beyond the borders of the body, and even as enacted on the basis of a relational process comprising brain, body, and environment (see Wilutzky, Walter & Stephan, 2011). It has also been suggested that cognitive processes may be distributed among several agents (see for example Hutchins, 1995). Corresponding approaches subsumable under the term “situated cognition” have recently been taken up by affective sciences and aesthetics.

Unfortunately, the usage of the concepts “embodied,” “embedded,” “extended,” “enacted,” and “distributed” is rather inconsistent with regard to the underlying philosophical theses. Therefore, a precise application of these approaches in the field of music research calls for terminological clarification. Based on this, we can examine, if these concepts might offer proper descriptions of our usage of music. What role does our bodily constitution and environmental embeddedness play in the course of our production and reception of music? How can we specify this relationship between musical practice to body and environment—for instance as a constitutive relationship or one of causal dependence?  

In the course of this research project we will focus on aspects of the aesthetic experience of music. Complementary to our theoretical reflections, we will discuss whether philosophical hypotheses on situated cognition might be supplemented or even supported with empirical data. Conversely, we will address the challenges and possibilities for empirical research on the aesthetic experience of music from a situated perspective.

External research partner: Christoph Seibert (Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe / Institut für Musikinformatik und Musikwissenschaft)


SAMPLE – Situated Aspects of Musical Practice in a Longitudinal Examination
SAME – Situated Aspects of Musical Experience