chapter  12
New music theatre and theories of embodied cognition
WithBjörn Heile
Pages 21

This chapter explains new music theatre through the lens of theories of ‘embodied cognition’, according to which musical perception is governed by the ‘mimetic hypothesis’, namely that listening involves an actual or imaginary attempt to imitate the sound-producing actions. It discusses their relevance for an understanding of modernist and experimental opera and music theatre, closing with an analysis of two case studies, Mauricio Kagel’s String Quartet II and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza V. One of the distinguishing features of theories of embodied cognition is their basis in experimental findings in the neurosciences. An analytical method for the study of opera and other multimodal art forms involving music based on theories of embodied cognition would have to develop ways of describing and theorising levels and forms of congruence. An analysis of musical gesture in accordance with theories of embodied cognition is most usefully executed in experimental music theatre, more than in operatic forms.