The Illiterate Listener
The Illiterate Listener
On Music Cognition, Musicality and Methodology
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The Illiterate Listener - 2 Music and language - 9 Music cognition - 13 Musicality - 16 Methodology - 18 Epilogue - 20 Acknowledgements - 21 Notes - 22 References - 24

Henkjan Honing

The Illiterate Listener

On Music Cognition, Musicality and Methodology

We have known for some time that babies possess a keen perceptual sensitivity for the melodic, rhythmic and dynamic aspects of speech and music: aspects that linguists are inclined to categorize under the term ‘prosody’, but which are in fact the building blocks of music. Only much later in a child’s development does he make use of this ‘musical prosody’, for instance in delineating and subsequently recognizing word boundaries.
In this essay Henkjan Honing makes a case for ‘illiterate listening’, the human ability to discern, interpret and appreciate musical nuances already from day one, long before a single word has been uttered, let alone conceived. It is the preverbal and preliterate stage that is dominated by musical listening.

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Henkjan Honing

Henkjan Honing is knaw-Muller Professor in Music Cognition at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and is affiliated with the Department of Musicology, the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (illc), and the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam (csca). This endowed chair is designated on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (knaw). Honing conducts research on the temporal aspects of music (such as rhythm, timing, and tempo), the role of perception, attention, expectation and memory in the process of listening to music, and studies the cognitive mechanisms underlying musicality.