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Autotelism, degeneracy and choreutic cognition: Features of humanly organised expression that shape cultural transmission.

presented at Moving Minds, Wednesday 2 March 2016.

Paul Mason

on 2 March 2016

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Transcript of Autotelism, degeneracy and choreutic cognition: Features of humanly organised expression that shape cultural transmission.

Dance Anthropologist Joann Kealiinohomoku (1965) outlines four basic categories of dance and music performed by the same person contemporaneously:
Self-accompanied dance with emphasis on music
Mutually accompanying dance and music
Self-accompanied dance with emphasis on dance
Dance with characteristic but incidental musical accompaniment
Human behaviour is modulated by and experienced with reference to specific landscapes of cultural activity. Ethnographic fieldwork can uncover the content & organisation of the subjective interactions that influence human acts. Where these interactions give rise to music & dance, the structures of human activity can be investigated through ethnomusicology, dance anthropology and choreomusicology. A study of music & dance can simultaneously inform us about the evolving context of the encultured brain and the processes of the brain within those contexts.
culture-environment interactions
Humanly organised expressive systems such as dance can be used to study the reiterative causality between brains & culture.
The brain is the organ of society
& the biological vector of culture.
Music, dance and language are humanly organised expressive systems that come into being through the interactions of the brain, culture & environment.
CHOREOMUSICOLOGY is the study of the relationship between music and dance. There are four broad theoretical categories of dance/music interactions that exist along a continuum (Smith 1981; Ungvary, Waters & Rajka 1992):

Analogue interactions
Dialogue interactions
Structurally interdependent interactions
Totally independent interactions
"The power of music to motivate unusual, aesthetically interesting bodily movement is a strange, hardly understood neurophysiological phenomenon..." (Toepfer 1997: 321).
"...Exact relations between music and movement are unstable and subject to all sorts of cultural relativism." (Toepfer 1997: 321)
Paul H. Mason
Paul H. Mason PhD
Dept. of Anthropology Macquarie University NSW 2109, Australia paul.mason@mq.edu.au

Autotelism, degeneracy and choreutic cognition
Mason, P.H. (2009) Brain, Dance and Culture, Brolga, 31, 19-26.
The Grobalisation of Combat-dancing
West Sumatra
Improvised training
No relationship between music and movement
West Java
Choreographed training
Music follows Movement
Salvador da Bahia
Improvised and choreographed training
Movement guided by music
Movement repertoires
are not well preserved
when they travel
Music has not been exported
Choreographed sequences travel well
Music is only just
beginning to be exported
Movement travels well
Music is almost always exported with the
But internationally…
“The term ‘autotelic’ derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing is itself rewarding” (Csikszentmihalyi 1990: 67).
Choreutic cognition
Thank you.
Among the Minangkabau, “Silek Minang” is a generic name for a patchwork of situated, disparate, locally organised repertoires of physical pedagogy that have been constituted through a variety of social, political and kinship processes.
Pencak Silat Seni is the name of a Sundanese
choreographed form of martial arts that was set to music and put on stage in postcolonial West Java.
Capoeira emerged from the interaction of African, European and indigenous peoples in the port-cities of Brazil during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
AUTOTELISM - if a humanly organised expressive system is self-sustaining and does not rely on external events and social circumstances to maintain popularity, then it will have longevity
Comparison of Three genres of Combat-dancing
1. Silek from West Sumatra, Indonesia
2. Pencak Silat Seni from West Java, Indonesia
Humanly organised expressive systems
Borobodur: 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple Central Java, Indonesia.
Referring to embodied modes of expression that are improvised or choreographed, choreutic cognition is a nonverbal skill involving the spatial and temporal exploration, selection, and development of intrasubjective and intersubjective bodily movement.
Mason, Paul. H. 2011. “Modes of Transmission: Traditional West Sumatran and Contemporary West Javanese Practices of Indigenous Martial Arts.” In Hybridity in the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia. Proceedings of the ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia, edited by Mohn Anis Md Nor, 113–17. Kuala Lumpur: NusPARC.
3. Capoeira from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Mason, P. H. (2016). “Silek Minang in West Sumatra, Indonesia”, in U.U. Pätzold and Paul H. Mason (Editors) The Malay Fighting Art of Pencak Silat and its Music—from Southeast Asian Village to Global Movement, Koninkleijke Brill NV, pp. 205-234.

Mason, P. H. (2016). “Pencak Silat Seni in West Java, Indonesia”, in U.U. Pätzold and Paul H. Mason (Editors) The Malay Fighting Art of Pencak Silat and its Music—from Southeast Asian Village to Global Movement, Koninkleijke Brill NV, pp. 235-264.
CHOREUTIC COGNITION - if a humanly organised expressive system can capitalise upon the way the embodied brain acquires and remembers movements and sequences of sounds then it will be more easily passed on and globalised
DEGENERACY - if a humanly organised system exhibits a high degree of internal degeneracy, then it will be more robust over time
Mason, P.H. (2012) Music, Dance and the Total Art Work,
Research in Dance Education
, 13(1), 5-24.
Music-movement relationships
Mason, P.H., Domínguez D., J.F., Winter, B., Grignolio, A. (2015) Hidden in plain view: degeneracy in complex systems.
, 128, 1-8.
Hebets, E., Barron, A., Balakrishnan, C., Hauber, M., Mason, P.H., Hoke, K. (2016) A Systems Approach to Animal Communication
, Proceedings of the Royal Society B
concept from complex systems theory
in the context of humanly organised expression:
multimodal correspondences between bodily movement and musical sound
Mason, P.H. (In Press) “Combat-dancing, Cultural Transmission and Choreomusicology: The globalization of embodied repertoires of sound and movement”, in Micheline Lesaffre, Marc Leman and Pieter Jan Maes, Routledge Companion to Embodied Music Interaction, Routledge.
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