Biological roots of musical epistemology: Functional cycles, Umwelt, and enactive listening

Semiotica 2001 (134):599-633 (2001)
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This article argues for an epistemology of music, stating that dealing with music can be considered as a process of knowledge acquisition. What really matters is not the representation of an ontological musical reality, but the generation of music knowledge as a tool for adaptation to the sonic world. Three major positions are brought together: the epistemological claims of Jean Piaget, the biological methodology of Jakob von Uexküll, and the constructivistic conceptions of Ernst von Glasersfeld, each ingstress the role of the music user rather than the music. Dealing with music, in this view, is not a matter of representation, but a process of semiotization of the sonorous environment as the outcome of interactions with the sound. Hence the role of enactive cognition and perceptual-motor interaction with the sonic environment. What is considered a central issue is the way how listeners as subjects experience their own phenomenal world or Umwelt, and how they can make sense out of their sonic environment. Umwelt-research, therefore, is highly relevant for music education in stressing the role of the listener and his/her listening strategies.
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