Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Language, Music, and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Language, Music, and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship

Article excerpt

Language, Music, and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship, Edited by Michael A. Arbib. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2013, 662 pp. ISBN: 978-0-262-01810-4. $52.00

Photo and brief biography of the author is available as supplemental materials.

Supplemental materials:

For the researcher, or for anyone interested in research using a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of the interrelations between language, music, and the brain, this anthology is at the same time a rich "Handbook of . . and "A Companion to . . . As such the book ought to be a priceless resource on any reading list for master and graduate courses in a wide range of disciplines as, for instance, psycholinguistics, linguistics, psychomusicology, musicology, cognitive and evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and cognitive semiotics. The review at hand reflects the extensive bibliography of publications referred to in the book, in that it is a bit longer than reviews usually are.

The book contains 21 chapters, divided into five parts (including the introduction) covering different aspects and proficiencies of the interrelations and evolution of language and music on the one hand, and the brain on the other. The disposition of the book is pedagogic, and the chapters and the themes of the book are well connected through the careful editing. Moreover, there is a comprehensive introductory chapter by the editor of the book, the theoretical neuroscientist and computer scientist, professor Michael A. Arbib, who was the organizer of the 10th Ernst Striingmann Forum, of which the book is a result. The aim of the book is to explore the problem of interrelations between language, music, and the brain in combination with two additional important aspects, namely the action-perception cycle and emotion. The layout of the book reflects the four discussion groups at the forum, making up four of the five parts of the books (the first including the introduction): (a) An expanded perspective, (b) Action, emotion, and the semantics, (c) Structure, (d) Integration, and (e) Development, evolution, and culture. Each part on a particular theme (excluding Part 1) ends with a chapter written by the majority of the members in that particular discussion group. The ending chapters are thus more of recapitulation than the other chapters written by one to three authors, as they reflect the discussion of the general theme of the forum group. Moreover, each part represents the interdisciplinary approach of the Forum, which is also evident in the dynamic discussions in the ending chapters.

Thus, this book, part of the Strüngmann Forum reports series edited by Julia Lupp, span over five "terms" as Arbib calls them: language, music, brain and action, and emotion. Important is that the term action-perception cycle defines a dynamic approach to action and perception. Here perception is held not only to activate perceptual schemas and patterns, but also motor schemas and appropriate motor control to adapt to the situation of, for instance, recognizing a leopard and running away from it (p. 7). However, the schema theory outlined in the chapter shows that there are many schemas and a good deal of them are not primarily perceptual or motor. In an evolutionary perspective, a flexible utilization of "multiple schemas" may be the result (and perhaps also a driving force) of the same brain mechanisms that hold up music and language and manifested not only in auditory forms but also in human ways to interact more generally (p. 8). Moreover, emotions are strong modulators of the action-perception cycle, on an individual level and on a group level and play an important part in the human evolution phylogenetically and ontogenetically.

The third term to be discussed in the chapter is language, which expands on fundamental grounding in "sensorimotor experience" (p. 15). Language is not the same as speech, and manifests itself in spoken language as well as in signed language. …

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