Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 785–809 | Cite as

Enacting musical emotions. sense-making, dynamic systems, and the embodied mind

  • Andrea SchiavioEmail author
  • Dylan van der Schyff
  • Julian Cespedes-Guevara
  • Mark Reybrouck


The subject of musical emotions has emerged only recently as a major area of research. While much work in this area offers fascinating insights to musicological research, assumptions about the nature of emotional experience seem to remain committed to appraisal, representations, and a rule-based or information-processing model of cognition. Over the past three decades alternative ‘embodied’ and ‘enactive’ models of mind have challenged this approach by emphasising the self-organising aspects of cognition, often describing it as an ongoing process of dynamic interactivity between an organism and its environment. More recently, this perspective has been applied to the study of emotion in general, opening up interesting new possibilities for theory and research. This new approach, however, has received rather limited attention in musical contexts. With this in mind, we critically review the history of music and emotion studies, arguing that many existing theories offer only limited views of what musical-emotional experience entails. We then attempt to provide preliminary grounding for an alternative perspective on music and emotion based on the enactive/dynamic systems approach to the study of mind.


Music and emotion Embodiment Sense-making Dynamic systems Enaction Embodied music cognition 



We would like to thank Fred Cummins for providing us with insights that helped greatly in the early stages of preparing this manuscript. We are also grateful to Renee Timmers, Tom Cochrane, Giovanna Colombetti, and to the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Schiavio
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dylan van der Schyff
    • 3
  • Julian Cespedes-Guevara
    • 2
  • Mark Reybrouck
    • 4
  1. 1.School of MusicThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of MusicThe University of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  4. 4.Section of MusicologyKU Leuven - University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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