Music, Motion, and Emotion. Theoretical and Psychological Implications of Musical Embodiment (completed)
This project aims to throw light upon both aesthetic and therapeutic/prophylactic dimensions of musical meaning; the primary objective being to increase our awareness and understanding of the positive powers of music in everyday life, as well as in crisis.
About the project
The project also has two main theoretical aims: to gain insight into the cognitive and psychological processes underlying music’s rich array of affordances; and to further develop a listener-oriented music-analytical approach that seeks to reflect the cross-modality of musical experience.
Primary objective of the project:
- to increase our awareness and understanding of the positive powers of music in everyday life as well as in crisis.
Secondary objectives of the project:
- to create an international, interdisciplinary research network devoted to a study of the fundamental embodiment and emotionality of musical experience.
- to gain new insight into the cognitive and psychological processes underlying image formation during music listening.
- to further develop a listener-oriented music-analytical approach that seeks to reflect the cross-modality of musical experience.
The background for this project is an enduring fascination with the question of how music – which, physically speaking, is a mere constellation of soundwaves – can come to mean so much to us. Music anthropologists have found that music plays a fundamental role in the constitution of identity in all human cultures that have been studied; thus, a capacity for the appreciation of music appears to be inherent in humans (see e.g. Wallin, Merker, & Brown, 2000).
Most of the project manager’s research, including her doctoral dissertation (Aksnes, 2002a), has been devoted to attempts to understand the cognitive and psychological processes that enable music to be imbued with such richness and heterogeneity of meaning; examining how music engages not only our ears, but also our bodies and emotions by playing upon recognizable body-based gestures, which are associated with emotive gestures through metaphorical projection and metonymic transfer. (Metaphor and metonymy are here understood in accordance with cognitive semantics, and are defined in the project description.)
Due to music's fundamental embodiment and emotionality, its metaphoric richness and semantic openness, as well as its ability to invite us into vast, multimodal conceptual domains by means of metonymic associations, music is a powerful tool for the creation of cultural as well as private narrative scripts, and thus stands in a privileged position to mediate between psyche and soma.
This brings us to a second enduring interest: Can music play a positive role in the maintenance of sound mental and physical health, as well as in psychotherapy and somatic medicine – and, if so: How? The large and rapidly increasing field of music therapy research has presented overwhelming evidence of music’s great – and partially unrealized – potential both within health maintenance and therapy.
However, there is still much to learn about the cognitive and psychological processes underlying these positive effects. This will be the main focus of the proposed project, which is more strongly oriented towards basic theoretical problems pertaining to musical meaning than towards clinical aspects of music therapy. It is hoped, however, that the discussions of music’s fundamental embodiment and emotionality will throw light upon both aesthetic and therapeutic/prophylactic dimensions of music, thus offering new theoretical insights within both fields.
An important objective for this project is to establish an international, interdisciplinary research network devoted to a study of the fundamental embodiment and emotionality of musical experience. Network activities include plans for two research workshops (2010, 2011), as well as a conference in
An important objective for the project has been to establish an international, interdisciplinary research network devoted to a study of the fundamental embodiment and emotionality of musical experience. Network activities have included two research workshops (2010, 2011), as well as a conference in collaboration with the Centre for Music and Health at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2013.
The project group at the University of Oslo has, in addition to the project manager Hallgjerd Aksnes, consisted of AMI Fellow (GIM therapist) Svein Fuglestad (Assistant Professor at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences), guest researcher Steve Larson (professor of music at the University of Oregon), PhD fellow Anita Høyvik, post-doctoral fellow Ole Kühl, researcher Hans T. Zeiner-Henriksen (Associate professor, University of Oslo), research assistants Maria Witek, Ingvild Koksvik Amundsen and Ragnhild Torvanger Solberg, and master fellows Mari Romarheim Haugen, Ragnhild Torvanger Solber, Anne Cecilie Røsjø Kvammen and Stian Omdal.
The host institution of the project group is the Department of Musicology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo.
The project was jointly funded by The Research Council of Norway under the program FRIHUM, and the