Memory as the Aspatial Domain for the Perception of Certain Genres of Contemporary Art Music

Riccardo Wanke, Vincenzo Santarcangelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper enquires into the nature of the connections between memory and certain genres of contemporary art music whose unique features rely particularly on our early mnemonic processes. Specific sound configurations of this music are often associated, during listening, with visual and tactile sensorial qualities and with abstract geometries. They are perceived fundamentally as the results of acoustic-physical forces and energies and are organized according to Gestalt and kinesthetic principles. This kind of music calls for a specific listening attitude, which we define as the vertical stance, and seems particularly apt to respond to mechanisms of the working memory where echoic, short- and long-term memories assume a central role. In this vertical stance, memory is involved in the mental construction (segregation, storage, and prediction) of the Gestalt configurations of this music within a perceptual domain that crucially has no spatial connection to the external world. In tying in neurophysiological and psychological research with musicological theories, we discuss the perceptual approach to these music practices in the light of the philosophical concept of the ‘No-Space world’ as conceived by the philosopher Peter Strawson. We propose that – under certain conditions – memory may be the realm of the purely spectro-temporal features of music. The sound configurations of this music in particular are part of an internal-external perceptual framework, being decoded in the conceptual space of perception and able to elicit high-order recollections typical of an embodied engagement with the external world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalMusic and Science
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Auditory perception
  • Auditory scene analysis
  • Contemporary art music
  • Gestaltic formation
  • Memory


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