Musicality (music-al-ity) is "sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music"[1] or "the quality or state of being musical",[1] and is used to refer to specific if vaguely defined qualities in pieces and/or genres of music, such as melodiousness and harmoniousness. These definitions are somewhat hampered by the difficulty of defining music, but, colloquially, "music" is often contrasted with noise and randomness. A person considered musical has the ability to perceive and reproduce differences in aspects of music including pitch, rhythm and harmony (see: ear training). Two types of musicality may be differentiated: to be able to perceive music (musical receptivity) and to be able to reproduce music as well as creating music (musical creativity).[1]


In dance, musicality is the matching of movement and form to the rhythm, melody, and mood of the music being played.

Dancers may demonstrate musicality in a variety of ways. For example, dancers may synchronize (or syncopate, as in tap dance) movements with music beats, vary the magnitude or speed of movements with music volume, employ expressive movements that are influenced by melody, variations of rhythm, and mood, or combinations of these.

Infant musicality

Colwyn Trevarthen has researched the musicality of babies, including its use in communication.[2][3][4]

Music vs. musicality

Many studies on the cognitive and biological origins of music are centered on 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?[5] This is now generally seen as a pitfall.[6] In trying to answer this question, it is important to separate between the notions of 'music' and 'musicality'. Musicality – in all its complexity – can be defined as a natural, spontaneously developing trait based on and constrained by our biological and cognitive system, and music – in all its variety – as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality. Or simply put: without musicality no music.[7]

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.[8]


See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Musicality",
  2. "Why attachment matters in sharing meaning - Colwyn Trevarthen",
  3. Schogler, Ben and Trevarthen, Colwyn. "To Sing and Dance Together", On Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy.
  4. "Colwyn Trevarthen - Human Nature and Early Experience",
  5. Wallin, N.J., Merker, B., & Brown, S. (2000). The Origins of Music, . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262731430.
  6. Honing, H.; Ploeger, A. (2012). "Cognition and the Evolution of Music: Pitfalls and Prospects". Topics in Cognitive Science. 4 (4): 513. doi:10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01210.x.
  7. Honing, H. (2012). "Without it no music: Beat induction as a fundamental musical trait". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1252: 85–91. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06402.x. PMID 22524344.
  8. Honing, H.; Ten Cate, C.; Peretz, I.; Trehub, S. E. (2015). "Without it no music: Cognition, biology and evolution of musicality". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 370 (1664): 20140088. doi:10.1098/rstb.2014.0088.

External links

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