Challenging and enhancing the theoretical framework part 2

1st stage expansion of theoretical framework.

For many years I have been inspired by the work of Dr Andrea Schiavio and his developing concept of the 4E’s of music creativity . His 4E approach ‘conceives of the musical mind as Embodied, Embedded, Extended, and Enactive’. In short these are defined as

(taken from Musical creativity and the embodied mind: Exploring the possibilities of 4E cognition and dynamical systems theory ):


Considering the mind as embodied means rethinking the boundaries between the neural and extra-neural (e.g., metabolic, thermodynamic, and muscular, among others) factors that drive cognitive processes. From this perspective, the brain becomes a part of a larger network that involves the nervous system and the sensorimotor capacities of the entire organism (e.g., Gallagher, 20052011). In a sense, therefore, separating brain and body, perception and action, experience and behavior, may in fact be a largely artificial move that offers only limited accounts of what mental life really entails (Hurley, 19982001Thompson, 2007).


As we have begun to consider, the body does not simply provide biological support for an otherwise detached brain that “commands” behavior. Rather, it participates in driving cognitive processes. But this does not happen in a vacuum. Indeed, embodied minds are parts of broader physical and socio-cultural systems that shape and are shaped by the agents who inhabit them. As such, a growing number of scholars also consider cognition as embedded within such systems. This approach draws inspiration from the influential work of psychologist James Gibson (1966,1979), who explored perception as an “ecological” process (see Mace, 1977). 


The enactive dimension describes how organisms and their environments mutually determine each other (Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991). Most centrally, this perspective highlights the active role living creatures play in developing patterns of (sensorimotor, neural, metabolic, interactive) activity that allow them to maintain a viable existence. Such sets of meaningful activities constitute what enactivists refer to as “sense-making,” which is ultimately equated with “cognition” (see Thompson & Stapleton, 2009). The enactive approach, therefore, replaces the more traditional input–output model of mind with a more relational story—where an agent’s ongoing history of interactivity (structural coupling) with the environment becomes central to his or her mental life.


By now it should be evident that while each of the E’s in the 4E approach offers a certain perspective on the nature of cognition, they are not discrete. Rather, they overlap—aspects of one dimension will necessarily be reflected in the others. With this in mind, we conclude our look at the 4E approach with the “extended” aspect of cognition and creativity. This is an important dimension to consider because although many embodied approaches to cognition do, by necessity, focus on the situated aspects of cognition, it is often argued that too much focus on neural and bodily factors can obscure the dynamical processes of co-determination that occur between (musical) agents and their environments (Clark & Chalmers, 1998Menary, 2010bRowlands, 2010).

The 1st stage new theoretical framework as 4 simultaneous Dimensions: breaking down the relationship-proposing phenomena

There are clear relationships between Schiavio’s 4E framework and my digital score framework. The taking-in/affect domain corresponds to notions of Extended, and the taken-into/ embodied, relates directly to Embodied. But what of enacted and embedded, and how do they relate to digital score creativity and musicianship?

This was the challenge we posed ourselves today: to enhance the existing framework by expanding it to 4 dimensions. However, it would need to also adhere to these principles:

  • It needs to be broad enough to sufficiently incorporate much of the relationship-proposing phenomena ecosystem as introduced in part 1 of this post
  • that these 4 dimensions need to be conceptualised as simultaneously present in musicking, so this should not lead to an axiomatic approach.
  • it needs to be specific to musicking with digital scores
  • it should speak simply to other musicians who may not be academics
  • it should focus on the things that form relationships in these domains
  • it needs to enhance the what-you-mean-to-me, so that it can explain this from the perspective of the “I” of the musician. Perhaps the what-you-mean-to-I where “you” is the relationship-proposing phenomena (I really must find a new term for this … I guess “stuff” would work)

As a starting point, the reconceptualised digital score theoretical framework is outlined below. Throughout, I will use an example of a digital score to illustrate each domain and to highlight how all 4 could be co-present in musicking. This example digital score is created from a combination of standard Western European sheet music read as a PDF on a tablet and a pre-recorded archive sound file of a violinist from 1920 playing along. Please note that I only analyse a small selection of relationships and phenomena in the ecosystem created by this digital score. In reality, there would be many more relationship-proposing phenomena present through each moment of musicking.

Embodied World ~ Musicking Space (“Where I am”)

Musicians already embody their instrument to a point where they are so attuned that they have returned to a sense of wholeness with it: this we can call being the musician. They also go through another stage of embodiment when they make music, that of the music-space they inhabit through musicking, and the sense of others in this space through their presence and sense of liveness. However, for clarity of the framework, we will deal with this latter embodied relationship through the Extended domain.

This Embodied domain seeks to understand the worlds of creative possibilities established by the digital score. This acknowledges that a digital score creates music-worlds, but also inspires imaginative thought-spaces, and perceived spatial immersion. It is the musician’s embodiment (taken into) of these spaces and how they shift and offer new relationships that are the focus of study.

For example, how the music-space created by the pre-recorded archive sound file, generates a new spatial playground and relationship with the musician so as they are taken-into this new world and operate in a transformed way. In a sense, they might feel that they are taken back in time to the 1920’s.

In short – the music-world established by the digital score

Extended (“What I become”)

As mentioned in the Embodied domain (above), a musician is extended through the sounds, media, intelligent behaviours, visual images, mediated presences, behavioural traits etc of the digital score. These things reach out to the musicians and offer relationships, which in turn transforms the musician by extending their sense-of-self.

In the digital score book, I discuss this as emanation and stimulus (p58). By that I mean that relationships from these things can be generated through either directly speaking out and suggesting ways of behaviour or being (emanation) or stimulate ways being, doing, feeling, thinking through their presence (stimulus).

For example, the presence of a violin in a pre-recorded archive sound file, could be felt by the live musician. This presence could directly emanate choices and relationships such as a way of articulating a melodic line, or stimulate a way of playing such as stylistic phrasing.

In both examples the sense of self of the live musician is extended by the presence of the pre-recorded archive sound file. Without this presence the what-I-am of the musician would not be shifted. For example, they might feel like they need to make a bigger sound, or quieter, or more playful, or be subservient to the pre-recorded line. The extended nature of the musician is linked directly to a sense of being and behaviour, and is a critical aspect of digital score musicianship.

In short – the shifts in possible actions and understanding of the experience of musicians in digital score musicking

Embedded (“The stuff you are”)

The “stuff” in here refers to the material, cultural, socio-political make-up underpinning the variety of sounds, behaviours, actants, relationships, that make up the complex system of musician-digital score-performance-music-audience.

The word “you” refers both to the stuff that is present and emergent in the digital score and musicking, AND to the stuff that has gone into the making, training, skillset and aesthetic development of you the human underpinning the musician. All of these are embedded into this complex system and in turn meaning is generated.

For example, the melodic line that is embedded in the pre-recorded archive audio will itself be embedded with meaning: meaning to the original composer, their community and culture, the original violinist. Equally, this melodic line will be interpreted by the live musician through their own training, cultural upbringing, geo-political location, and general personality make-up.

By extension, if this pre-recorded audio was played back on an old gramophone this playback technology would be embedded with a different type of relationship than if it was a digital .wav file. (yes I know a gramophone is digital technology, but as explained in the Digital Score book, my definition is focused on hardware and/or software solutions so accommodates analogue hardware.)

As a more complex example, the socio-political understanding that this archive material was recorded during a civil war, say, brings with it added layers of complex meaning that are embedded in the digital score, can extend the musician, or create a conceptual space for further embodied relationships.

This is a fascinating aspect of the digital score and can bring about new forms of musicking, new relationships, new experiences and new meanings for all involved.

In short – the material, cultural, socio-political, characters, behaviours that are present in the digital score actants and environments.

Enacted (“What I do”)

The music-worlds and things within can offer suggestions and possibilities about action choices for the musician. This might be triggering existing behaviours and actions, choices and creative threads, or they might be emergent and Big-C creative (novel, new, surprising). They emerge out of the embodied, extended, and embedded shifts, and may or may not be conscious actions, behaviours, thought-processes. These acts of doing are in-turn brought back into the perception of the “I” and further meaning is formed.

For example, the presence of a violin in a pre-recorded archive sound file, could be felt by the live musician. This presence could reach out and invite the live musician into collaborative adventure, which in turn changes how they play or what they play. The melodic line in the recording might be fixed, but to the live musician the relationship between what they play and what this pre-recorded violin is playing adds additional layers of interpretation and meaning. This might be sub-consciously enacted, in this sense, the live musician has been extended by this presence, and their musicianship has been shifted as a result.

Additionally, abstract dimensions could be considered, such as ludic engagement, time, temporal development, sensation, imagination and perception, and many others. For example, the pre-recorded archive sound file might invite/suggest/inspire/stimulate a way of playing that the live musician adopts and therefore plays differently. The way the pre-recorded presence plays the line, or the phrasing, might indicate new ways of phrasing for the live musician. Either way, the live musician has been extended by the pre-recorded violinist, or embodied the presence of it, and shifted the enaction of their digital musicianship accordingly.

In short – how musicianship is manifested through the embodied, extended and embedded relationships.

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