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Musicality is sensitivity to, knowledge of and/or talent for music. It is also used to refer to qualities in music such as melodiousness and harmoniousness.[clarification needed] A musical person has the ability to perceive differences in aspects of music including pitch, rhythm and harmonies. One usually differentiates between two types of musicality: To be able to perceive music (musical receptivity) and to be able to reproduce music as well as creating music (musical creativity).
Musicality may also refer to fitting a dance to the music being played, with the goal of relating the dance to the music's rhythm, melody, and mood. Beginner dancers usually think they should step on the beats of the music, and may vary the size of their movements with the volume of the music, while more advanced dancers dance to the melody, variations of rhythm, and mood. This is the key characteristic of improvised dancing. Unlike most ballroom dances, which tend to use the music as a metronome to guide the dance, Lindy Hop, West Coast swing, Argentine Tango, for example, view matching your dancing to the spirit and mood of the music as the highest goal achievable.
Music and Musicality
Many studies on the cognitive and biological origins of music are centered around the question of what defines music. Can birdsong, the song structure of humpback whales, a Thai elephant orchestra, or the interlocking duets of Gibbons be considered music? This is now generally seen as a pitfall. In trying to answer this question, it is important to separate between the notions of ‘music’ and ‘musicality’. Musicality can be defined as a natural, spontaneously developing trait based on and constrained by our biological and cognitive system, and music as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality. Or simply put: without musicality no music.
However, it is still a challenge to demarcate precisely what makes up this complex trait we call musicality. What are the cognitive and biological mechanisms that are essential to perceive, make and appreciate music? Only when we have identified these fundamental mechanisms are we in a position to see how these might have evolved. In other words: the study of the evolution of music cognition is dependent on a characterization of the basic mechanisms that make up musicality.
Tempo: Slower music gives dancers more time to play, more time for style and variations. Faster music forces dancers to be more creative in their application of style, or possibly use simpler variations depending on the skill of the dancer.
Follow: Follow may mirror the lead with her arm, feet, and head styling, or she may do the opposite of the lead, or she can do something independent of the lead.
Footwork: For advanced dancers, footwork is largely independent of body work. Except for needing to move, which foot moves is unimportant. Advanced dancers can do any kind of footwork. The footwork is open to any interpretation.
Song Structure: Certain types of music have a regular structure, which an experienced dancer can frame his or her moves around. For example, the chorus in some swing music consists of 32 bars, which follows an AABA structure, where each letter consists of four 8-count sections and the B letter has a different melody. The fourth 8-count section of each letter is often an ideal time to execute a break. Other songs have six 8-count sections followed by a chorus of four 8-count sections. "In The Mood" from Glenn Miller is a good example of this type of structure.
- Wallin, N.J., Merker, B., & Brown, S. (2000). The Origins of Music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Honing, H., & Ploeger, A. (2012). Cognition and the Evolution of Music: Pitfalls and Prospects. Topics in Cognitive Science (TopiCS). http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01210.x/abstract
- Honing, H. (2012). Without it no music: beat induction as a fundamental musical trait. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1252: The Neurosciences and Music IV — Learning and Memory, 85–91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06402.x
- What makes us musical animals? Cognition, Biology and the Origins of Musicality http://www.lorentzcenter.nl/lc/web/2014/628/info.php3?wsid=628
- AABA: The Map to Swing Music (Rusty Frank)
- Understanding Musicality, academic symposium 2012.
- Salsa Musicality: Moving Beyond Patterns (Ben Leane)