The fundamental claim of this thesis is that music perception and cognition are embodied activities. This means that they depend crucially on the physical constraints and enablings of our sensorimotor apparatus, and also on the sociocultural environment in which our music-listening and -producing capacities come into being. This claim shows a strong similarity to that of John Blacking (1973), who wrote, “Music is a synthesis of cognitive processes which are present in culture and in the human body: the forms it takes, and the effects it has on people, are generated by the social experiences of human bodies in different cultural environments.” (Blacking 1973: 89) I shall present some further evidence in its support, by showing how exemplary rhythms of certain kinds of music may relate to such embodied processes. I shall argue that rhythm perception and production involve a complex, whole-body experience, and that much of the structure found in music
incorporates an awareness of the embodied, situated role of the participant. The claim that music perception and cognition are embodied activities also means that they are actively constructed by the listener, rather than passively transferred from performer to listener. In particular, the discernment of entities such as pulse and meter from a given piece of music are not perceptual inevitabilities for any human being, but are strongly dependent on the person’s culturally contingent listening strategies. In addition, I argue that certain kinds of rhythmic expression in what I shall call groove-based music are directly related not only to the role of the body in music- making, but also to certain cultural aesthetics that privilege this role. (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. 1998) audio examples can be found here: