Musical Cognition in Creative Processes – CMPC

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Marcos Nogueira, coordinator
Guilherme Bertissolo, external member (UFBA, Phd.)
Yahn Wagner Pinto, external member (UFRJ, doctorate)
Gustavo Ballesteros, external member (UFRJ, master)
Anderson Alves, doctorate student (UFRJ)
Alexandre Ferreira, doctorate student
Eduardo Torres, master student
Nilo Rafael, master student
João Gabriel Ferrari, undergraduate


The growing interest of the scientific community, especially from the 1980s and 1990s, driven by the advances of embodied cognitive science and the consequent investigations about the relations of sensory-motor experiences with the formation of meaning in music, resulted in the construction of the musical mind paradigm incorporated. The concept of embodiment in this context assumes that what occurs in the mind is directly associated with and depends on the properties – such as the kinesthetic – and conditions of our body. Thus, in the field of studies on embodied musical cognition, perception is understood as something based on action.

In Brazil, the results of the researches in Musical Cognition have been communicated in several scientific events, but mainly in the Symposium of Cognition and Musical Arts, whose first edition occurred in 2004, in Curitiba, giving rise to the Brazilian Association of Musical Cognition – ABCM. In the same year, the coordinator of the present proposal, doctoral thesis in the field of musical cognition, began to publish the results of this research in congresses such as those of ANPPOM (2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013), and ABC (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015) and TeMA (2014), and publish them as chapters of the books Mind in Music (UFPR) ), Creative Music Thought (TeMA), and as articles from scientific journals such as Musica Hodie , Claves, Musica em Perspectiva, OuvirOUver, and Música em Contexto. This bibliography is pioneer in the Brazilian context of research in Music, and is responsible for the presentation of the paradigm of embodied musical cognition into the Music area in the country.

The creation of CMPC represents the consolidation of this pioneering academic production, especially in the field of research in creative processes, in our country. The coordinator of this proposal was a member of ABCM’s board of directors for the 2008-2011 triennium and is editor of Percepta – Revista de Cognição Musical, electronic journal of ABCM, published since 2013. We believe that the publication of CMPC’s production results will effectively contribute to turn the PPGM-UFRJ as one of the leading research centers in Music Cognition in Brazil.

General goal

To explore the current state of cognitive science (especially its psychological, linguistic, philosophical and neurophysiological biases) related to research in musical cognition, promoting the updating of this knowledge and its diffusion, from a critical examination of the issues and problems recently raised by the area, aiming the double scope of justifying (1) the importance of research in musical cognition for cognitive research in general, and (2) the essential role of research in musical cognition for the advancement of knowledge about the meaning of music, the basis of development of research and extension projects that should result in partnerships and exchanges with other research groups and foreign national institutions.

Specific goals

  1. Cognitive Semantics of Music: structure and develop projects in cognitive semantics of music, with emphasis on the conceptual foundation of the enacionist paradigm (embodied musical cognition), aiming at the systematic publication of the results of the investigations;
  2. Musical Cognition and Interfaces: developing theory on the interfaces of the poetics of the musical mind with the objects of cognitive psychology (affordances, memory, psychoanalysis of music, psychoacoustics, generative theories, pulse induction, expectation, emotion, development, motivation), cognitive linguistics (psycholinguistic, syntax, cognitive semantics, conceptual metaphor, gesture), cognitive philosophy (musical aesthetics) and neurosciences (bioacoustics, entrainment, melodic processing, motor control, spatial organization, sensory-motor interactions, emotion, attention, amusia, dystonia, absolute hearing, auditory image/audiation, therapeutic effects), providing contacts, exchanges and partnerships with researchers and related institutions;
  3. Cognitive research protocols: to develop research protocols for the investigation of the creative and perceptive acts related to the experience of music as a focus of attention (composition, interpretation / performance, listening and interaction/reconfiguration experiences) and as a component of complexes audiovisual experiences.

Research project

The central research project that guides the direction of CMPC research is entitled The poetics of the musical mind: cognitive semantics and creative processes, coordinated by the proponent of this RP, and linked to PPGM-UFRJ, since August 2014.

Description and theoretical framework

Claiming, as did the nineteenth-century formalism, a scientific basis for the aesthetic perception of music and for examining the origin of the musical meaning, we highlight in the present project the important collaboration of cognitive psychology for the development of musical formalism since the end of the nineteenth century, especially from the psychology of the form in the first decades of the last century. However, it is assumed here that it is only with the emergence of research in embodied cognition (cognitive enacionist science) that it has become possible to construct a more adequate foundation for the development of a semantics of musical understanding. This theoretical-methodological framework was able to overcome the paradigm that places knowledge in the condition of representations that the brain makes about a predetermined world observed by the individual. Instead, the cognitive process would involve the construction of a world, and this construction takes place through the dynamic interactions of the individual with a congruent world to him: experience is the place of all cognitive unity and perception is the principle of experience.

To perceive is thus a way of acting; perception is an inner simulation of action and an exercise of anticipation of the effects of action. In the enacionist realm, therefore, perception is something that we do actively and decidedly in a world that is available to us, in which we are capable of moving bodily and thus interacting with it.

Rationale and objectives

It is plausible, therefore, to investigate, in the light of cognitive enacionist science, the idealistic foundations that underpinned the original formalist system of Musicology, in order to know the potentialities of this system in a different perspective from the one under which it has been approached and updated since then, but mainly in order to clarify the deficiencies that have kept it restricted to the descriptive practice of a syntax of the musical work. The specific objectives of the project are linked to the following questions about the formal knowledge of a musical work: what aspects of a certain segment of the work make possible the inference of suspension (imbalance or incompleteness) or completion (balance or completeness) of the work? In the listening to a work for the first time, what aspects make it possible to anticipate (imaginatively anticipate) the moment of a formal first closing of this work ? What aspects of a certain segment of the work make it possible to infer that it is about the opening or the conclusive follow-up of the work? How can we realize how coherent a work of long duration is, if we do not have it entirely in present experience, in listening or in memory? We are, therefore, facing the traditional linguistic controversy between a formal semantics, which in music would point directly to the field of reference (expression, ideas, feelings, representation, symbolism), recurrently approached by modern music theory, and a cognitive semantics, how we construct the musical sense, that is, with the study of the cognitive processes by which we formally organize the musical events in the act of listening what modern aesthetics have never considered.


Uma semântica cognitiva de base enacionista promete contribuir, portanto, com a fundamentação das respostas às questões acima formuladas, a partir de estudos como o do mapeamento de correspondências que estrutura nossas projeções metafóricas, especificamente a investigação da percepção de movimento, de espacialização, de agrupação, de limite (cesura), de simetria, de centralidade, de ciclicidade, de direcionalidade, de verticalidade, de profundidade, de finalidade, dentre outros fatores de constituição formal em música.

A cognitive semantics with enunciative basis promises to contribute, therefore, to the fundaments of the answers to the questions formulated above, from studies such as the mapping of correspondences that structure our metaphorical projections, specifically the investigation of the perception of movement, spatialization, limit (cesura), symmetry, centrality, cyclicity, directionality, verticality, depth, purpose, among other factors of formal constitution in music.


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CMPC in the Directory of Research Groups of CNPq