Music, consciousness, and the brain: Music as shared experience of an embodied present

Andy McGuiness*, Katie Overy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the neural basis of musical experience alongside theories of the embodied nature of consciousness. Drawing on previous theoretical work on the role of the human mirror neuron system in emotional responses to music, it proposes that the nature of the musical listening experience is of a shared subjectivity between individual listeners and performers, underpinned by innate bodily responses to musical gestures. Based on an outline of this broad theory, it offers a number of conclusions that include a reassessment of the ideas of 'musical meaning' and 'musical communication'. It is argued that, while communication can be found in music, one of the attributes that distinguishes music from language is that music provides an intimately shared, embodied experience rather than communicating a specific message.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Consciousness
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780191728617
ISBN (Print)9780199553792
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2012


  • Bodily response
  • Consciousness
  • Embodiment
  • Mirror neuron system
  • Musical communication
  • Musical experience
  • Musical listening
  • Musical meaning


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