University of California, Berkeley
Department of Music

The 1999 Ernest Bloch Lectures

Music and Mind:

Foundations of Cognitive Musicology

David Huron

The 1999 Ernest Bloch Lectures endeavor to introduce the field of cognitive musicology to a general audience. The lectures address questions concerning the origins of music, the emotional experience of music, the relationship between music and culture, and questions of musical taste and value. Professor Huron argues that investigating the musical mind is one of the central tasks of music scholarship.

Six lectures are scheduled:

1. Music and Mind Monday, September 13, 1999; 8:00 PMHertz Hall
2. Is Music an Evolutionary Adaptation? Friday, September 24, 1999; 4:30 PM Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall
3. Empiricism and Post-Modernism Friday, October 8, 1999; 4:30 PM Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall
4. What is a Musical Feature? Friday, October 22, 1999; 4:30 PM Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall
5. A Theory of Music and Affect Friday, October 29, 1999; 4:30 PM Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall
6. A Cognitive Anthropology for Music Friday, December 3, 1999; 4:30 PM Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall

Lecture 1: Music and Mind

"My first lecture provides an introductory tour of the field of cognitive musicology. The lecture traces some of the history of the field, clarifies some of the premises and assumptions that motivate scholars, and relays some sample research accomplishments in the areas of music performance, composition, perception, music history, and in social and cultural areas. My hope is that this first lecture will convey some of the flavor for what people do in the discipline, and why it might matter to other music scholars, musicians, and music-lovers."

Lecture 2: Is Music an Evolutionary Adaptation?

"My second lecture addresses the question of music's origins. The archeological evidence suggests that music is at least 50,000 years old, and perhaps a quarter of a million years old. In addition to the archeological evidence, there is biochemcial, neurological, behavioral and anthropological evidence that suggests that it is possible that music (or aspects of music) may be an evolutionary adaptation. The motivation for Lecture 2 is not to convince my audience that there are genes for music. Rather, what I hope to do is convince my audience that the evidence for music as an evolutionary adaptation is at least as strong as comparable evidence that has been advanced supporting the idea that language is an evolutionary adaptation."

Lecture 3: Methodology

"Cognitive musicology lies at the intersection between the sciences and the arts. It is an intersection that has produced many head-on collisions between scientific and humanities approaches to scholarly research. In particular, cognitive musicology directly faces the methodological schism between empiricism and post-modernism. In my third lecture on methodology, I will attempt to explain contemporary empiricism to humanities scholars and to explain post-modernism to scientists. I will then re-interpret both of these methodological currents in a way that shows they are different sides of the same coin we call skepticism. I will also attempt to identify the circumstances when a scholar should choose one or another method in the course of their investigations."

Lecture 4: What is a Musical Feature?

"In talking about musical works, musical styles, and musical cultures, it is essential to consider the descriptive languages we use. In my fourth lecture, I will ask the question "What is a musical feature?" I will illustrate my lecture by analyzing a movement from the first string quartet by Johannes Brahms. I will contrast my analysis with a well-known set-theoretic analysis done by Professor Allan Forte, and will show how a set-theoretic analysis fails to capture musically important features. The motivation for this analysis is not to discredit Prof. Forte. Rather, the motivation is to establish some criteria that lead to greater clarity in how we describe artifacts. That is, Lecture 4 will address the question of how to evaluate a music analysis."

Lecture 5: A Theory of Music and Affect

"In my fifth lecture, I will delve into the area of music and emotions. The emotional dimension of musical experience has been poorly served by conventional music scholarship. But it is an area of investigation that is especially well served by a cognitive approach. In this lecture I will present a theory of how music evokes emotions."

This lecture is divided into three "chapters." Only Chapter 1 ("Musical Expectation") is currently available online.

Lecture 6: A Cognitive Anthropology for Music

"In the sixth and final lecture, I will examine how a cognitive approach can illuminate the social and cultural bases of music. Drawing on the field of cognitive anthropology, I will give a number of examples of research projects -- many of which I've been involved in -- that examine cultural differences and similarities from a cognitive perspective."

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