Musical Thought

William Forde Thompson*, Paolo Ammirante

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Listening to music entails processes in which auditory input is automatically analyzed and classified, and conscious processes in which listeners interpret and evaluate the music. Performing music involves engaging in rehearsed movements that reflect procedural (embodied) knowledge of music, along with conscious efforts to guide and refine these movements through online monitoring of the sounded output. Composing music balances the use of intuition that reflects implicit knowledge of music with conscious and deliberate efforts to invent musical textures and devices that are innovative and consistent with individual aesthetic goals. Listeners and musicians also interact with one another in ways that blur the boundary between them: Listeners tap or clap in time with music, monitor the facial expressions and gestures of performers, and empathize emotionally with musicians; musicians, in turn, attend to their audience and perform differently depending on the perceived energy and attitude of their listeners. Musicians and listeners are roped together through shared cognitive, emotional, and motor experiences, exhibiting remarkable synchrony in behavior and thought. In this chapter, we describe the forms of musical thought for musicians and listeners, and we discuss the implications of implicit and explicit thought processes for musical understanding and emotional experience.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning
EditorsKeith J. Holyoak, Robert G. Morrison
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199968718
ISBN (Print)9780199734689
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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