Rhythm, time experience and the body: Re-thinking musical time
Professor Udo Will, Ohio State University, USA

Institute of Advanced Study
Fellows’ Public Lecture
06 November 2012, 8.00 – 9.00pm
Senate Suite, University College, Durham University

Abstract: In Western Music one meets the idea that time is a pre-existing framework that organizes sound events and gives them unity – an idea that finds its visual expression in the scores of Western Music. Many other cultures do not feel the need for an external, abstract time frame, because for them music only exists in and through the creation of sound sequences, and thus musical time is linked to production of and interaction with these sounds.  What do these different cultural concepts tell us about time and time experience? Why is there such diversity? What is it about time that allows for this variety of ideas and experiences about time? Following an inspection of basic features of time perception and revisiting a core typology of time experiences (simultaneity, sequential order, now, duration) on the background of recent cognitive research, the argument is put forward that musical time perception is a complex, non-unitary process, and that experienced time is a construct of an embodied brain – with all possibilities and limitations that this entails.

Biography: Udo Will is a visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study between October and December 2012.  He is professor of Cognitive Ethnomusicology at Ohio State University. He studied music, sociology, and neuroscience, holds PhDs in both musicology and neurobiology and publishes widely in both fields. His research covers topics from functional neuroanatomy and evolution of the vertebrate auditory system to cognitive aspects of music performances in oral cultures, rhythm and melody processing by the human brain and the relationship of the cognitive architecture of music and language processing.  He currently leads research projects on brainwave and heartbeat entrainment to musical rhythms and on memory processing of vocal and instrumental rhythms.


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