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Exploring the Musical Mind: Cognition, Emothion, Ability, Function: Cognition, Emotion, Ability, Function Paperback – 15 Mar 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (15 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198530137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198530138
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2.8 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 778,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


It is rare to find an academic book that is emotionally and morally compelling as well as intellectually engaging. John Sloboda achieves this remarkable feat. (British Journal of Music Education)

Throughout the book, Sloboda's writing is clear and approachable; no mean achievement across three decades and such a wide variety of topics. (British Journal of Music Education)

About the Author

John Sloboda is at Professor of Psychology, Keele University, UK.

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Format: Paperback
A collection of academic articles drawn from many sources and dealing with many aspects of music - in the words of the subtitle: cognition, emotion, ability and function.

I was drawn particularly to read the pieces on ability. Sloboda argues convincingly - if the position is initially counter-intuitive - that the way you become good enough at an instrument to be admitted to a conservatory is that you practice enough hours and that this is just the one factor involved. You need to have passed 3,500 hours to have passed Grade 8, he says and to get in the 10,000 hours you need to become an expert technician by the relevant age you would need to practice 2 hours a day for 14 years (though that's probably not how most people do it!)…Parental support is often critical (community support might once have had such a role when people were more churchgoing and there was more music making at home and in the community). Parents without a musical background can be helpful - uncritical praise is often the best way to convince a young person that they are 'the musician in the family'. Though that said, most musicians do have in their recollections some particularly fond recollections of the place of music early in their lives…

It's very interesting to see the scientific evidence laid out like this. But my next action might well be to look again at an account that differs from this one - that of Andrew Solomon in his Far From The Tree, who see musical giftedness in infancy as a given (as much as deafness or autism in his book) and has studied many families who have had a musical genius amongst them. Does it all boil down to the hours, plus the emotional support - plus the same kind of expressiveness available to us all but channelled by different people into different aspects of their lives?

Quite a hard and challenging question still, I think...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Sloboda's description of the contents 16 July 2008
By Stephen Malinowski - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book valuable and would recommend it, but I don't feel I'm qualified to review it. However, a description of the contents might be more useful than a review, so here is some material from the book's preface:

Part A, Cognitive processes

1 The psychology of music reading (Structural cues within notation, The role of musical knowledge in reading, Teaching music reading)
2 Experimental studies of music reading: a review (Review of early reading research, Experiments varying skill level and structure in text, Expressive sight-reading)
3 The use of space in music notation (Comparison of text and music notations, Historical trends in notation development, Conceptual issues in the design of notation, Psychological issues in the design of notation)
4 Immediate recall of melodies (Problems of transcription from sung performance, Analysis of errors in sung recall, Memory representations for melodies)
5 Cognition and real music: the psychology of music comes of age (Nate of scientific paradigms, Is music psychology paradigmatic? The contribution of Lerdahl and Jackendoff)
6 Psychological strictures in music: core research 1980-1990 (Citations as a means of assessing significance of research, The contribution of Krumhansl, Establishing a sense of tonal centre, Hierarchies in tonal representation)
7 Book review of Language, Music and Mind (The relationship of philosophy of music to psychology of music, Nuance and ineffability in music, Different ways in which music might be said to have `meaning')
8 Does music mean anything? (Is parsing sufficient for understanding in music? Dynamic feelings as precursors of meaning, `Thrills' as proto-emotions)

Part B, Emotion and motivation

9 Music as a language (Musical phonology, syntax, and semantics, Peak musical experiences in childhood, Motivation for long-term commitment to music)
10 Music psychology and the composer (Different models of composer-psychologist dialogue, Relationship of composition to functions of music, Music as an aid to cognitive restructuring)
11 Empirical studies of emotional response to music (Free verbal emotional responses to music, Verbal responses within forced categories, Extrinsic and intrinsic antecedents of musical emotion)
12 (Emotional responses to music: a review (Account for variations between and within people, Methods for measuring emotional response, How musical events elicit emotion)
13 Musical performance and emotion: issues and developments (Different expressive roles in performers, connection between music structure and expressive devices, Evidence for deliberate planning of expressive communication)

Part C, Talent and skill development

14 Musical expertise (Social and cultural relativity of musical expertise, Musical skill acquisition in non-instructional settings, Precursors of musical expertise)
15 Musical ability (Cultural exposure as a primary source of basic ability, Expressive playing in sight-reading as a strong test of ability, How to develop technical and expressive skill together) 16 The acquisition of music performance expertise (Is musical skill inherited?, The roll of practice, Different learning mechanisms for technical and expressive skill)
17 Are some children more gifted for music than others? (The role of early learning in skill development, Social support mechanisms for skill development, Motivational factors predicting success or dropout)

Part D, Music in the real world

18 Everyday uses of music (Importance of situation and volition in determining effects of music, Free verbal descriptions of music's role in everyday life, Music in public places)
19 Music: where cognition and emotion meet (mismatch between music's value to people and the level of musical skill, Tracking everyday uses of music in real time, Societal barriers to engagement with music)
20 Music and worship: a psychologist's perspective (Can music have assumed common effects within a defined situation? Parallels between different ways of listening to music and different aspects of worship, Ineffability as a core concept in both music and worship)
21 Emotion, functionality, and the everyday experience of music (Reasons why young adolescents give up instrumental engagement, Cultural trends associated with disengagement from formal music, Responses of the education system to cultural change)
22 The source of music versus the essence of music (Cultural trends which deindividuate the musical experience, How science can be misused in the interests of cultural homogenization of the musical experience, Research which demonstrates the strong contribution of the individual to the nature of the musical experience.
23 Assessing music psychology research (The social benefits of music psychology research, Differentiating the above from the social benefits of music, Differing levels of engagement with social issues evident in research)
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