The alchemy of musical memory
connecting culture to cognition
Studying musical memory offers a unique window to investigate how culture, cognition and consciousness are interconnected. Proponents of situated cognitive theories believe that memory is neither constructive nor reproductive, but a richly contextual segue between present agency and past experience. Developing musical skill requires the functional coupling of culturally embodied memory with spontaneous action-based restructuring that empowers a fluid consciousness that includes the self, external symbol systems and the environment. In traditional settings of imitative musical learning, cultural prerogatives are psychocognitively embodied as memories using a variety of multisensory strategies—from metaphors, visual patterns, synaesthetic experiences, auditory imagery, invoking people, places, images and a rich tapestry of contextual sound information. This chapter reviews current neuroscientific findings on how musical memory is embodied in response to cultural stimuli, how brain neural pathways are formed in imitative learning and current scientific, epistemological and methodological models available to investigate the brain-cognition-culture nexus from neuroanthropological and cultural neuroscience perspectives. Such a review is crucial to understand how culture is embedded in the brain as a synergistic product of behavioural, neural and cognitive events.
Navaratna, D. (2017)., The alchemy of musical memory: connecting culture to cognition, in S. Menon, N. Nagaraj & V. V. Binoy (eds.), Self, culture and consciousness, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 191-205.
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