Wind and Wood: Affordances of Musical Instruments: The Example of the Simple-System Flute

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to explore and describe the relationship and interaction between musicians and their instruments. In order to achieve a high level of detail, a certain instrument is in focus: the simple-system flute. Although primarily developed as a product of 19th-century Western art music, this instrument has since become established in other genres and traditions.
Empirical data is generated through two qualitative studies. Study A consists of interviews with six flute players, including one flute maker. Together they represent a variety of European music traditions, and hence, the simple-system flute is perceived and used in different ways. In the cooperative inquiry of Study B, six flute players came together to investigate their own musical practice and approach towards their instruments.
The central analytical concept is affordances, as coined by ecological psychologist James J. Gibson. The concept of affordances is combined with ideas from the emerging research paradigm of 4E cognition, in particular ideas from the extended and enactive dimensions.
Through the analysis, affordances of musical instruments are defined as: perceived opportunities for actions arising from the sensorimotor relationship of the interaction with the instrument, as these unfold in the flow of musical practice.
The analysis also shows that the cross-modal perceptual experience of the instrument varies between musicians. Viewed through the lens of affordances, this variation entails qualitatively different ways of playing.
The perspective on musical learning that emerges through the analysis is discussed in terms of self-organization in which the development of the relationship between musician and instrument allows for an increasing capacity to perceive and act upon affordances of the instrument.
This perspective on musical learning implies an understanding of music education as a form of eduction, where the learner is given appropriate space for self-organization and the educator assumes to role of sense-maker of the learning process, and facilitator and moderator of new musical experiences. The dynamic relationship between the individual learner and the educational environment is articulated as an ecological responsibility.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Malmö Academy of Music
  • Saether, Eva, Supervisor
  • Folkestad, Göran, Assistant supervisor
Award date2021 Mar 19
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-88409-26-3
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb 19

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2021-03-19
Time: 10:00
Place: NB! This dissertation defense will be conducted online only.
External reviewer(s)
Name: Lundberg, Dan
Title: docent
Affiliation: Statens musikverk

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Music
  • Pedagogy

Free keywords

  • Music education
  • Musical affordances
  • Musical instruments
  • Ecological Psychology
  • 4e cognition
  • Cooperative inquiry


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