Musical Cognition

Musical Cognition

A Science of Listening

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ISBN: 978-1-4128-5292-0
Pages: 165
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 10-09-2013
Also available as:
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Why do people attach importance to the wordless language we call music? Musical Cognition suggests that music is a game. In music, our cognitive functions such as perception, memory, attention, and expectation are challenged; yet, as listeners, we often do not realize that the listener plays an active role in reaching the awareness that makes music so exhilarating, soothing, and inspiring. In reality, the author contends, listening does not happen in the outer world of audible sound, but in the inner world of our minds and brains.

Recent research in the areas of psychology and neuro-cognition allows Henkjan Honing to be explicit in a way that many of his predecessors could not. His lucid, evocative writing style guides the reader through what is known about listening to music while avoiding jargon and technical diagrams. With clear examples, the book concentrates on underappreciated musical skills—"sense of rhythm" and "relative pitch"—skills that make people musical creatures. Research on how living creatures respond to music supports the conviction that all humans have a unique, instinctive attraction to music. Everyone is musical.

Musical Cognition includes a selection of intriguing examples from recent literature exploring the role that an implicit or explicit knowledge of music plays when one listens to it. The scope of the topics discussed ranges from the ability of newborns to perceive a beat, to the unexpected musical expertise of ordinary listeners. The evidence shows that music is second nature to most human beings—biologically and socially. This paperback edition contains a new afterword that details cutting-edge research on musicality and language.

Editorial Reviews

“The big story on what precisely we know about listening to music.”

Volkskrant (Dutch national newspaper)

“An important contribution to music research.”

NRC Handelsblad (Dutch national newspaper)

“[A] well-written and accessible introductory text that avoids technical jargon whilst encapsulating the main cognitive processes of music. One of the key messages that resonate throughout this book is how music is experienced within the mind. Although music is capable of manipulating our emotions, memories, and perceptions, we often fail to appreciate the active and subjective role that our minds play in listening to it. Musical Cognition also challenges conceptions regarding what it truly means to be ‘musical’, using recent evidence to persuasively demonstrate just how ‘musical we all really are… [R]efreshing, engaging, enlightening and, most importantly, intelligible by all.”

—Karima Susi, The Psychologist

“An intriguing study of consciousness and the things that we listen to every day of our lives, Musical Cognition is a fascinating read, an excellent addition to music or psychology community and college library collections.”

Library Bookwatch

“Honing’s volume… does something more of us in academe ought do: it summarizes his research for a lay audience and tries to show both (a) just what this research is about, and (b) why it is interesting and important.”

—Justin London, Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain

“Honing demonstrates that ordinary listeners, whether children or adults, are a lot more musically savvy than they think they are.”

Sandra Trehub, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto at Mississauga

“A graceful and precise introduction into the intricacy of what ordinary humans manage to learn about music, naturally and automatically, just by listening.”  

Gary Marcus, Professor of Psychology, New York University andAuthor of Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of The Human Mind

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Table of Contents

Part 1: De do do do, de da da da | Babble Music
  1    First Listening Experiences   
  2    The Illiterate Listener   
  3    What this Book Is About   
Part 2: Ooh-ooh-ooh | The Magic of Music
  4    Music as Mystery   
  5    Music as Language   
  6    Music as Sound   
Part 3: Hmmm . . . | Music and Musicality
  7    We’re Musical Creatures   
  8    Measuring the Beat   
  9    Do You Recognize this Melody?   
Part 4: Tá-ta-ta-tá-ta | Music as Cognition
10    The Secret of the “Loud Rest”   
11    The Secret of the Details   
12    The Secret, Mapped Out   
Part 5: Aha! | Music in Our Heads
13    The Musical Listener   
14    Listening and Learning   
15    Encore