The night, the music: a cognitive hypothesis

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  • Maurício Dottori Universidade Federal do Paraná



In this article I present a discussion, based on cognitive psychology and on philosophy, about the application of the metaphor “music as play, instead of the metaphor music as language.” In it I try to distinguish what is properly biological in our hearing system from what is cultural, in order to emphasise, firstly, the hypothesis that music represents the creation of a territory of comfort where sounds are placed in places in which, according to the rules of a game, of a cognitive puzzle, they should be a hypothesis that points to music as art; and, secondly, the idea that cognition of music may be understood as an enlarged auditory scene analysis, based on categorisation, rhythmicalization, and recursive schemes of sounds. This makes possible the building of a capacity to judge the rules of the game of music according to their latent potential and to their functionality; and, not least, to judge how well the creator “plays” the game, because in music (distinctly from the language) a conventional relationship with the world is superfluous, the rules are transmitted to those who attend by the very act of playing the game. As the specific context is not cultural, but that of the game itself, the determination of a great move in play does not depends on a class hegemony, but only on Kantian disinterest.


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Biografia do Autor

Maurício Dottori, Universidade Federal do Paraná

After completing his studies of clarinet with José Botelho in his native Rio de Janeiro, Mauricio Dottori studied in 1984-85 in Florence, at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole with Sylvano Bussotti and Mauro Castellano. Thereafter he received a Master in Arts degree at the Universidade de São Paulo, and a PhD in Music at the University of Wales, Cardiff. From 1992 until 2001, Dottori was Professor of Counterpoint and Composition at Escola de Música e Belas Artes do Paraná, and, currently, is full professor of Counterpoint, Composition and Electroacoustics at the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil. In both institutions he formed a generation of composers who are now spread all over the world. He stood as Visiting Professor at the Universití  di Bologna during the years 2018-19. Dottori's music has been played in concerts and festivals in Brazil, in Europe and in the Americas. He has performed commissions by the New-Yorker pianist David Witten, the Welsh PM-ensemble, the German Ensemble cross.arts, the Swiss Streiff String Quartett, the Brazilian Duo Dialogos and Camerata Novo Horizonte (subject of a recent article in the British Tempo magazine), among others. Dottori has received several composition prizes, among them the Brazilian National Arts Foundation Biennial Composition Prize in 2010, for the orchestral work A rosa trismegista, and in 2012, 2014 and 2016, for a variety of chamber music ensembles. Since 1999 he is the director of the Nova Camerata, a contemporary music ensemble in Curitiba, Brazil. Along with his career as a composer, Dottori has published in musicology (on eighteenth-century Neapolitan and Brazilian music, on Modernist music, and, more recently, on the cognition of music) and on the pedagogy of contemporary music composition. His most recent published book is The night, the music: essays on philosophy and musical creation. ORCID:



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Como Citar

Dottori, M. (2020). The night, the music: a cognitive hypothesis. Revista Vórtex, 8(1), 7.