Music is mapped onto Space

We all know that as per the conceptual metaphor theory, music (especially melody and tones) is mapped onto space. Thus, we speak of high notes and low notes and thus use spatial terms to conceptualize the musical scale.

A new study by New Zealand researchers indicates that this mapping may not be just metaphorical and conceptual, but there might be neural basis and mechanisms that indicate that same mental abilities, and possibly brain areas, are involved in music and spatial represnetations.

The study found that people who have amusia, or are tone deaf, are also poor at mental spatial rotation tasks. The fact that tone deafness and spatial abilities are correlated is a strong indicator that same mental abilities may be underlying the representations of space and tones .

In a second experiment, they found that doing a mental rotation task and a tone related task simultaneously caused poorer performance in normal controls , than in amusics. This is indicative of the fact that spatial and melodic representations are related and cause greater interference in normal controls, than in amusics who have both capacities in diminished form originally and so preform relatively better than the normal controls.

If it is true that the same brain areas/networks, mechanisms are involved in spatial and melodic representations than there seems to be a strong case for embodiment and also for conceptual metaphor theory which posits that abstract concepts like melodies and tones are mapped onto concrete entities like space.

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1 thought on “Music is mapped onto Space

  1. Anonymous

    Tone is an abstract concept? Tone is a relatively low level percept. I don’t see how you could use this study as evidence for conceptual metaphor theory. In addition, the study doesn’t show that music is mapped onto space, only that there is some association with mental rotation performance and tone detection.

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