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Concepts for an enactive music pedagogy: Essays on phenomenology, embodied cognition, and music education

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This thesis consists of an introduction and seven essays that develop possibilities for philosophy of music and music education through the lenses of phenomenology and the ‘enactive’ approach to mind. The phenomenological-enactive perspective presents a compelling alternative to dominant information-processing or so-called ‘cognitivist’ models by embracing an embodied and relational understanding of perception and cognition. It therefore offers new opportunities for exploring the nature and meaning of music and education that have both ethical and practical implications. While the essays may be read as stand-alone pieces, they also share a number of concepts and concerns. Because of this, they are organized into four parts according to the general themes they develop. Part I provides a general introduction to the basic ontological questions that motivate the essays. Here I discuss my path as a scholar, introduce the phenomenological and enactive perspectives, and briefly consider how they align with pedagogical theory. Building on these concerns, the following essay adopts a ‘critically ontological’ orientation. It draws out a number of reductive assumptions over the nature of music, education and what human being and knowing entails. In response, it posits a general framework for a music pedagogy based in enactive bio-ethical principles. Part II explores the nature of musical experience in more detail. Here knowledge in embodied cognitive science is developed towards an enactive approach to musical emotions, and to reconsider the problematic notion of (musical) ‘qualia’. Part III discusses practical applications of phenomenology for music and arts education––first in the context of private music instruction (drumming pedagogy), and then through the development of multimedia arts- inquiry projects. Part IV draws on enactivism to explore the deep continuity between music, improvisation, and the fundamental movements of life. The first paper suggests possibilities for curriculum development and self-assessment in improvisation pedagogy. The concluding essay brings together many of the insights discussed in the previous papers––recasting them in light of Eastern philosophy to reassert the relational, holistic, and “life based” understanding of mind, music and education that lies at the heart of an enactive music pedagogy.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Susan
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etd10162_DvanderSchyff.pdf 3.95 MB

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