Mental Health Research Institute, University of Michigan
Behavioral Science vol:5 pages:1-26
This paper provides an attempt to conceive of music in terms of a sounding environment. Starting from a definition of music as a collection of vibrational events,
it introduces the distinction between discrete-symbolic representations as against
analog-continuous representations of the sounds. The former makes it possible to conceive of music in terms of a Humboldt system, the latter in terms of an experiential approach. Both approaches, further, are not opposed to each other, but are complementary to some extent. There is, however, a distinction to be drawn between the bottom-up approach to auditory processing of environmental sounds and music, which is continuous and proceeding in real time, as against the top-down approach, which is proceeding at a level of mental representation by applying discrete symbolic labels to vibrational events. The distinction is discussed against the background of phylogenetic and ontogenetic claims, with a major focus on the innate auditory capabilities of the fetus and neonate and the gradual evolution from mere sensory perception of sound to sense-making and musical meaning. The latter, finally, is elaborated on the basis of the operational concepts of affordance and functional tone, thus bringing together some older contributions from ecology and biosemiotics.