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Musical events and perceptual ecologies

Clarke, E; Williams, AE; Reynolds, D

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E Clarke

D Reynolds


This paper, followed by two responses, discusses the application of ecological theory to an understanding of a number of issues in the aesthetics of music. It argues for an understanding of music as based in event perception, with an expanded conception of the sources that are specified by those events. Building on the theory of affordances, it considers the limitations of an information theoretic conception of musical complexity, discusses the importance of perceptual learning (understood as shaping by a structured environment) in understanding the affordances of music for different listeners, and raises the challenging problem of the terms in which musical materials might be appropriately described. The apparent tension between ecological and aesthetic positions—in which adaptation and accommodation seem to be at odds with a modernist aesthetic perspective which prioritizes the unsettling and defamiliarizing function of art—is confronted, before the paper concludes with some observations about different disciplinary perspectives on aesthetics, and matters of specificity and generality.


Clarke, E., Williams, A., & Reynolds, D. (2018). Musical events and perceptual ecologies. Senses and Society, 13(3), 264-281.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 13, 2018
Publication Date Nov 13, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2020
Journal The Senses and Society
Print ISSN 1745-8927
Publisher Routledge
Volume 13
Issue 3
Pages 264-281
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs


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