The Kinesthetic Dimension of The Music Listening Experience
This study sought to answer the question “How, precisely, does music produce a sense of movement in the listener experiencing that music?” The kinesthetic dimension of the music listening experience was examined through an analysis of pertinent literature from the fields of philosophy, psychology, neurology, music theory, and music education.
Certain identified characteristics of the music listening experience, such as (a) the integration of bodily, cognitive, and emotional experience; (b) immersion in sound; (c) the integration of space and time; and (d) the perception of flow, flux, and ephemerality, were found to be significant contributors to the feeling of movement during music listening.
There appears to be a biological basis for a connection between music listening and perceived movement through parallel and distributed neural processing, where incoming stimuli are directed to various specialized areas of the brain before impulses are reunited into a single representation. The functions of the auditory system in hearing, balance, and movement may also hold implications for an association between heard music and felt movement. Musical sounds may also work directly upon the muscles and viscera, in a form of bodily cognition or knowledge in which “thinking” is preconceptual, and what is commonly thought of as “mind” is dependent upon bodily experience.
Whether its origins are biological or psychological, the human propensity to anthropomorphize inanimate objects has been proposed as a significant factor in the kinesthetic dimension of the music listening experience. The “quasi-subjectivity” of music, in appearing to take on a life of its own and to present itself to the listener as will, life force, or human utterance unfolding over time, is also implicated in the attribution to music of the characteristics of movement. Metaphor plays an essential role in associating the patterns of music with the patterns of life and movement.
Finally, elements of various musical systems have traditionally been arranged with the intent to create impressions of tensions, expectations, inhibitions, and resolutions. Through convention and custom, certain combinations of sounds are culturally interpreted as being goal-oriented and directional, thus implying movement, thus implying movement.