Distributed Cognition and Music: Listening With and Beyond the Body

27 January 2022



Maral Attar-Zadeh (Cambridge)



Recent scholarly and artistic interest in the idea of distributed cognition––that cognitive processes do not take place solely in the brain, but are rather distributed throughout the body and even the world––has encouraged lively inter- and cross-disciplinary exchanges between a broad range of fields such as neuroscience, literary studies, theology, Anthropocene studies, and performance studies. Scholars in these fields, joined by artists, creative writers, and musicians, come together under the shared belief that our modes of being, seeing, knowing, and acting in the world cross the ‘skull barrier’ and are embodied, extended out into the world, and embedded into or enacted by our environment.

This event series aims to reflect on how distributed models of cognition apply to, and change our perception of, musical engagement. Growing interest in music-making practices outside the normative, and ideally sterilised, settings of the concert hall and the studio has already highlighted the extent to which ‘musicking’ creates living, distributed assemblages out of performers, listeners, instruments, and architectural spaces. In each session of the series, the academics, performers, and practitioners interviewed will share their reflections on the way the language and insights of distributed cognition engage and enrich models of aural encounter in fields such as music performance, environmental studies, history, religious studies, and literature.

We hope that the series is not only an exploration of the links between distributed cognition and music but also an exercise in distributed thinking, mutual listening, and communal sound-making, making room for challenging and illuminating cross-disciplinary conversations about music in and across minds, bodies, and worlds.


2022 Event Dates:

Thursday Live Q&A's

27 January 
Maral Attar-Zadeh (Cambridge)
Introduction to the 'Distributed Cognition and Music' programme


Future Q&A's:

Ian Cross (Cambridge)
Introductory interview on ‘music and distributed cognition’

Murphy McCaleb (York St John University)
'Embodied knowledge in ensemble performance'

Katie Larson (University of Toronto)
'Early modern embodied soundscapes’ and intersections of literary scholarship and musical practice

Laura Bishop (RITMO, University of Oslo)
‘Experiential ensemble togetherness’

Bettina Varwig (Cambridge)
‘Early modern musical physiology’

Thursday Podcasts

20 January
3 February
17 February
3 March
17 March
31 March


Supported by:
crash grey logo



If you have any specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Conference Assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk