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Listening as Covert Performance

  • Ian Cross


This paper presents a view of musical listening as an active, dynamic and interactive process. After briefly considering the historical valorization of listening as critical act within Western musical culture, the paper describes the cognitive processes of schematization that are involved in musical listening. The central role of active engagement with the auditory environment in eliciting emotional responses to music is then sketched out, and the scope and limits of the attentional and motoric processes involved in processes of entrainment – focal in the experience of musical time – are outlined. Neuroscientific evidence that suggests that music is best conceived in terms of a perception–action cycle is reviewed, and the paper concludes by proposing that music is best conceptualized – from a biological perspective – as a communicative medium that is optimal for the management of situations of social uncertainty.



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39 Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (London, 1997).

40 Ian Cross, ‘Music and Social Being’, Musicology Australia, 28 (2006), 114–26.

Listening as Covert Performance

  • Ian Cross


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