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In this article, I bring together research from ethnomusicology, ecology, neuroscience, ‘4E’ cognition theory and evolutionary musicology in support of the idea that musicking, human musicking in particular, can best be understood as an emergent ecological behaviour. ‘Ecological’ here is used to mean an active process of engaging with and connecting ourselves to our various environmental domains – social, physical and metaphysical – and although I will focus on musicking, these concepts may apply to other artistic behaviours as well.
The essential ideas from the Santiago theory of cognition, the work of Maturana and Varela and one of the foundations of contemporary 4E cognition theory, are that we as living beings ‘bring forth’ both the inner and outer worlds we experience, and this process (cognition) is common to all life. Music is also a process (not an object), one that emerges from properties of life itself and serves to link body/mind and environment. Understood this way, ‘co-constructing body-environments’ applies to the arts in general.
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