What do musical chairs afford? on Clarke's ways of listening and Sacks's Musicophilia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007) and Eric F. Clarke's Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning (2005) purport to show the active nature of listening. Sacks, a neurologist, examines the transformative effects of music on his patients' behavior, which he traces to their active engagement. Clarke, a musician, focuses on the intersection between worldly and aesthetic perceptions; he describes various dimensions of the musical environment, drawing on Gibson's (1979/1986) idea of the affordance to show how musical objects and events carry meaning for the active listener. Despite their stated intentions, however, Sacks and Clarke characterize the listening experience as one in which the musical stimulus is imposed on the listener, a subject whose responses are largely determined by outside forces. Problematic issues arise from Clarke's loose definition of the terms "affordance" and "environment" and lack of distinction between percepts and concepts and Sacks's hesitancy to acknowledge the processes and implications of perceptual learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-295
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Computer Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'What do musical chairs afford? on Clarke's ways of listening and Sacks's Musicophilia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this