1st Edition

Body and Force in Music Metaphoric Constructions in Music Psychology

By Youn Kim Copyright 2023
    172 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    172 Pages 45 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Our understanding of music is inherently metaphorical, and metaphoricity pervades all sorts of musical discourses, be they theoretical, analytical, philosophical, pedagogical, or even scientific. The notions of "body" and "force" are the two most pervasive and comprehensive scientific metaphors in musical discourse. Throughout various intertwined contexts in history, the body–force pair manifests multiple layers of ideological frameworks and permits the conceptualization of music in a variety of ways. Youn Kim investigates these concepts of body and force in the emerging field of music psychology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The field’s discursive space spans diverse contexts, including psychological theories of auditory perception and cognition, pedagogical theories on the performer’s bodily mechanism, speculative and practical theories of musical rhythm, and aesthetical discussion of the power of music. This investigation of body and force aims to illuminate not just the past scene of music psychology but also the notions of music that are being constructed at present.


    The human body and musical instruments

    Conceptual dimension of metaphoric construction

    Force and agency

    "Body and force" and "body versus force"

    The discursive space and disciplinary identity of music psychology

    Metaphors as shorthand for music psychology


    Historicizing music psychology

    Chapter 1. The Musicking Body-machine

    Music, machine, and the body

    The emergence of the "human motor" model

    Rhythm: "an inevitable corollary from the persistence of forces"

    Psychological studies in the era of rhythm

    Musical rhythm and labor

    Rhythm in the "body culture"

    The "irrational," continuous rhythm

    Rhythm and the piano-playing body

    Concluding remarks

    Chapter 2. "A Force of Nature": Tracing Voice

    Animal, machine, and voice

    Speech theory of music

    Voice, the body machine, and the issue of agency

    Voice as both object and subject

    Voice of the "primitive" soul

    Recorded Voice

    "Dragging movement"

    "How the voice looks"

    Concluding remarks

    Chapter 3. Motion, Force, and "Rhythm Form"

    The "‘co-working of motion’ with one’s own will"

    Piano theories

    Motion in piano playing

    Force and the will

    The will, physiology, and piano-playing

    Force and posture

    Action–perception coupling at the turn of the twentieth century

    "Rhythmic massing"

    Concluding remarks

    Chapter 4. Minding Gaps and Musical Energy

    The ball analogy

    The human motor capable of locomotion

    Capturing the musicking body

    Music as streams of energy

    Gliding between tones

    The agency of motion

    Revisiting the ball analogy

    Music as motion across disciplines and times

    Concluding remarks

    Chapter 5. Force at a Distance

    Force acting at a distance

    In the words of amateur pianists and psychologists

    Force affecting the audience

    The metaphor of vibratory waves in psychology

    Force at a distance and The power of sound

    "Brain waves" in communication

    Inhibition and waves in music psychology

    The vibratory energy of music

    "Sympathetic oscillation"

    Concluding remarks





    Youn Kim obtained her PhD in music theory from Columbia University and is currently Associate Professor of Music at The University of Hong Kong. Kim’s previous publications include a monograph History of Western Music Theory (2006) and articles in Journal of Musicology, Psychology of Music, and Journal of Musicological Research, among others. She also co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Music and the Body (2019) and co-authored several articles published in Scientific Reports and PLOS One.

    What Kim presents in her "meta-psychology" of music is a story, circa 1900, in which music theorists and physiologists, economists and educators, physicists and philosophers create a whole new way of thinking about music—a musical thought that starts from the body and takes metaphors such as motion and force seriously. In this wide-ranging book, Kim shows how these discussions have not lost any of their relevance but strongly resonate with current musical concerns.

    Alexander Rehding, Fanny Peabody Professor of Music, Department of Music, Harvard University

    Youn Kim is one of the very few contemporary musicologists whose work is of true value to both historians of music as well as historians and philosophers of science. Her new book, Body and Force in Music: Metaphoric Constructions in Music Psychology captures the emergence of a complex new way of imagining music in the course of the rise of the new sciences of biology and human nature by psychologists and philosophers (Darwin, Spencer, William James) in the course of the late 19th century. Concepts such as "soul," "force," and "body" become at this time simultaneously scientific "facts" and powerful metaphors that shape an understanding of music as phenomenon and relocate the question of its social and cultural meanings. Youn Kim’s book offers a rethinking not only of what music means today but how it came to have such meanings. Any one engaged with discussions about music as a "scientific" or "social" phenomenon, ethnomusicologists and those engaged in post-colonial studies of music; any one captured by the idea that our musical minds both pre-determined by genetics and yet shaped by our environment, will benefit from reading Youn Kim’s seminal work.

    Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry (Emeritus), Emory University; Author of "I Know Who Caused COVID-19": Pandemics and Xenophobia (2021)

    What exactly is music? Scientists have long wrestled with this question, often resorting to metaphors about movement, force, and the human body. In this well researched volume Professor Kim surveys the historical landscape that eventually becomes the modern field of music psychology. Along the way we are introduced to a singing sloth, a mechanical voice, and all manner of graphical representations as writers from previous centuries wrestle with the fleeting experience of music. The author brings together a chorus of fascinating voices—performers, critics, scientists, historians, dancers, neurologists—all grappling, as we still do today, with the mysteries of music.

    Robert O. Gjerdingen, Professor Emeritus of Music Theory and Cognition, Northwestern University