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Henkjan Honing, Music Cognition Group, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands: What makes us musical animals

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  • Distinguished Lecture
When Oct 20, 2016
from 04:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Tanna Schulich Hall, Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West.
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The lecture will take place in TANNA SCHULICH HALL, followed by a wine and cheese reception in room A832-833 (8th floor of the Elizabeth Wirth New Music Building).


Musicality can be defined as a natural, spontaneously developing trait based on and constrained by biology and cognition. Music, by contrast, can be defined as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality. One critical challenge is to delineate the constituent elements of musicality. What biological and cognitive mechanisms are essential for perceiving, appreciating and making music?
 Progress in understanding the evolution of music cognition depends upon adequate characterization of the constituent mechanisms of musicality and the extent to which they are present in non-human species. I will argue for the importance of identifying these mechanisms and delineating their functions and developmental course, as well as suggesting effective means of studying them in human and nonhuman animals. It is virtually impossible to underpin the evolutionary role of musicality as a whole, but a multicomponent perspective on musicality that emphasizes its constituent capacities, development and neural and cognitive specificity is an excellent starting point for a research program aimed at illuminating the origins and evolution of musical behavior as an autonomous trait.



HoningHenkjan Honing is professor of Music Cognition at both the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He conducts his research under the auspices of the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) and the University of Amsterdam’s Brain and Cognition (ABC) center. He is known as a passionate researcher in this new interdisciplinary field that gives us fundamental insights in the cognitive mechanisms underlying musicality. In 2013 he received a Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship, a prize granted by the Lorentz Center for the Sciences and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS). This fellowship resulted in several publications, including a theme issue on the cognitive and biological origins of musicality in Philosophical Transactions B (Honing et al., 2015).


APA video citation:

Honing, H. (2017, July 5). What makes us musical animals -
CIRMMT Distinguished Lectures in the Science and Technology of Music. [Video file].
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