Music and the Human Body
[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]
The course will illustrate the full extent of the role of the body in music making and listening. Our goal is to revisit the ear’s synthetic and analytical powers in the context of a holistic view of music as the (literal) embodiment of sound. To this end, we will use the human body as a map for the topics covered in the semester. More than a mere gimmick, the idea of the body-as-map will help the students grasp the rationale that guides the choice of topics while at the same providing a clear anchor for their tutorials, readings, and assignments. The repertory will mingle the familiar with the less familiar. Many of our case studies will be drawn from the vocal and instrumental repertories of the Western Classical Tradition, Opera, and Musical Multimedia. There will also be significant forays into early musical practices as well as dance, religious, and popular music of other traditions.
Whether performed, danced or listened to, music is an appealing starting point for challenging the old, rigid separations between nature and culture on the one hand, and body and mind on the other. Music and the Human Body aims to make good on this premise by examining the fluid and extraordinarily productive relationship between physiology, psychology, and culture as exemplified by a wide range of types of musical behaviour.
Course Learning Outcomes
On completing the course, students will be able to:
- Demonstrate a deep awareness of music and its roots in the body through the appraisal of various functions of the body in perceiving and making music.
- Critically revisit the traditional separation of the mind and the body in the light of embodied nature of musical thinking.
- Illustrate an understanding of the intertwined nature of the relationship between biology and culture through the paradigmatic example of music.
- Utilize a broad conceptual and perceptual toolkit for the appreciation of music as a creative art.
- Integrate knowledge gained from multidisciplinary perspectives and apply such knowledge to the experience of music in everyday life.
Offer Semester and Day of Teaching
First semester (Wed)
|Activities||Number of hours|
|Reading / Self-study||48|
Assessment: 100% coursework
|Class / tutorial participation||10|
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- Davidson, J. W. (2005). Bodily communication in musical performance. In D. Miell, R. MacDonald & D. J. Hargreaves (Eds.), Musical communication (pp. 215-238). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Gritten, A., & King, E. (Eds.). (2006). Music and gesture: New perspectives on theory and contemporary practice. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
- Hodges, D. A., & Sebald, D. C. (2011). Music in the human experience. New York: Routledge.
- Hutcheon, L., & Hutcheon, M. (1996). Opera: Desire, disease, death. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. [pp. 48-59]
- Johnson, M. (2007). The meaning of the body: Aesthetics of human understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [pp. 243-247, 259-262]
- Levitin, D. J. (2006). This is your brain on music: The science of a human obsession. New York: Dutton. [pp. 83-110]
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- Miell, D., MacDonald, R., & Hargreaves, D. J. (Eds.). (2005). Musical communication. New York: Oxford University Press.
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