Thursday 11th July
8.45-9.20 Registration and coffee | Great Hall
9.20-9.30 Introductory words | Safra Lecture Theatre
9.30-11.00 Keynote I
Jenefer Robinson (University of Cincinnati)
‘Musical Emotions’ as Aesthetic Emotions
Chair: Andrew Huddleston
Safra Lecture Theatre
11.00-13.00 Parallel Sessions I
Philosophies and Theories of Musical Transcription and Arrangement [SWB21]
Convenors Frankie Perry (Royal Holloway) and Peter Asimov (University of Cambridge)
Drawing on theories of arrangement (Szendy 2008), ontology (Goehr 1992; Kane 2017), and ludomusical (re)play (Gibbons 2018), I show that what Gibbons calls the “classifying” of game music leads to an explicit (postmodern) reversal of Szendy’s Lisztian (and Benjaminian) process of translation and the Schumannian notion of arrangement. I demonstrate this with Masashi Hamauzu’s contribution to the Final Symphony concert program: Final Fantasy X – Piano Concerto. Specifically, I examine the second movement, “Inori”, which is primarily arranged from Nobuo Uematsu’s “Hymn of the Fayth,” a piece which itself has multiple (diegetic) arrangements scattered across Final Fantasy X’s epic narrative.
A Musical Matter of Mind
Convenors Nanette Nielsen and Simon Høffding (University of Oslo)
In this talk, I adopt a 4E approach to music cognition. I argue that music is a beyond-the-head resource that affords offloading. Via this offloading, music potentially scaffolds access to new forms of thought, experience, and behavior. I focus on music’s capacity to scaffold self-regulative process constitutive of emotional consciousness, as well as shared behavioral mechanisms (mimicry, behavioral synchronization, affectively motivated movements, interactions, etc) responsible for our empathic connections with others. In developing this idea, I consider both the “material” and “worldmaking” character of music, two features of musical engagements largely overlooked in the philosophical literature. I argue that music not only scaffolds the development of individual perceptual and affective skills needed for empathy but, additionally, that it can also be used to construct empathic spaces: sonically-structured environments engineered to connect, share, and collaborate with others. From a 4E perspective, music should thus be seen both as a medium for empathic engagement as well as affording an empathic world in which we may explore, experiment with, and enact a range of subject positions and social formations. In developing these ideas, I discuss several case studies, including music as a weapon for torture and music therapy in autism.
One recent point of contention about the anticipatory features of auditory perception is whether it involves internal representational models, or if it relies instead on bodily or external mechanisms. Various authors (Krueger 2009, Schiavio 2014, Forlè 2016) have endorsed fully enactive accounts, while others (Maes et al (2013), Maers & Leman (2014)) endorse more moderate views. This debate (which I will try to assess critically) suggests an important way in which to incorporate insights from embodied cognition into the philosophy of music and epistemology. Indeed, I think this connection could also provide an independent way to defend the idea that our minds are “musically scaffolded” (Krueger 2014, 2019), effectively extending evolutionarily selected cognitive capacities into affective and social domains. From this I will extract some lessons for the modal epistemology of music.
Is There a Medieval ‘Music and Philosophy’?
Convenor and Chair: Nicholas Ball (University of Cambridge)
I suggested in a previous paper that the Exitus-Reditus pattern is repeated at different “magnifications” in every Mass, through liturgical seasons and finally through the Eschaton. This microcosm-macrocosm relationship, found also in Christian Platonism, may underlie the editorial arrangement of chants in the Mass. Here, I examine the thought of Maximus the Confessor (particularly in his Mystagogia) and his use of this concept to explain the meaning of liturgy. As an Eastern theologian, he is presenting the Byzantine liturgy, but his explanation does not hinge on its details. Instead, his starting point is a metaphysical account of the cosmos and its symbolic structure. Patterns Maximus uses to articulate theology map plausibly onto patterns in the chants promulgated in Francia in the eighth century. The Expositiones can be defended as a pedagogical “flattening” of a complex pattern. The historical facts of Maximus’ career suggest that his work could have influenced the organization of the Roman chant Propers, but this is not strongly argued. Rather, the investigation suggests an approach to meaning that allows for change and variation while conforming to larger patterns, honouring the intellectual acumen of its editors and compilers.
Eduard Hanslick’s Concepts – Meaning, Translation, Reception
Convenor: Alexander Wilfing (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna)
Chair: Matthew Pritchard (University of Leeds)
The talk aims at reconstructing Hanslick’s usage of ‘beauty’ and related concepts (‘schön,’ ‘das Schöne,’ ‘Schönheit’) and their role in Hanslick’s aesthetic theory. Most importantly, ‘das Schöne’ resp. ‘das Musikalisch-Schöne’ (‘the musically beautiful’), as used in OMB, refers to both, (a) a set of abstract aesthetic properties (resp. the whole class of aesthetic properties), and (b), a concrete aesthetic object (resp. the whole class of aesthetic objects), depending on the context. This is an important ambiguity at the core of Hanslick’s aesthetics that demands systematic investigation. The ambiguity also enables Hanslick to avoid clear ontological commitments, leaving a central part of his aesthetic theory somewhat underdetermined.
A second, frequently overlooked, conceptual tension in OMB is between descriptive and normative usage of beauty related vocabulary. While the descriptive usage of ‘schön’ (‘beautiful’) relates to Hanslick’s program of formulating a more abstract theory of aesthetic properties relatively independent of value judgments (thus reflecting on the historically contingent nature of such judgments), the normative usage focuses on ‘beautiful’ as an antonym of ‘ugly’ and aims at establishing criteria for the aesthetic evaluation of concrete works of music. The basic tension between the different aspects of beauty related concepts is seldom reflected in Hanslick scholarship, yet central for any more elaborated understanding of his aesthetic approach.
The paper takes as a point of departure the understanding of language as a vehicle for communicating sense and meaning through deliberate, strategic use of vocabulary, syntax, and rhetoric. Because languages differ from one another fundamentally in their means and modes of expression, beyond serving as vehicles for communicating meaning, languages also constitute meaning. Translation thus necessarily reconstitutes in the target language the thoughts and ideas expressed in the characteristic forms of the source language. Referring to various passages in Hanslick’s treatise, the essay contrasts the new, foreignizing translation with both Gustav Cohen’s mostly domesticating one of 1891 as “The Beautiful in Music”, and Geoffrey Payzant’s mixed-mode one of 1986 as “On the Musically-Beautiful”, which is at times foreignizing, at others domesticating, and yet others simply incorrect. Given the complexity of Hanslick’s ideas and the idiosyncrasies of his writing style, it is not surprising that it has prompted different approaches to translation. Further complicating the translator’s task in general is that the reconstituted meaning in a translation is in some measure always a matter of speculation because an author’s intent is never fully open to us.
These choices pertain to the privileging of “advanced” versions of OMB as well as to the rendition of specific concepts. Their impact on the Anglo-American reception of Hanslick’s aesthetics is the topic of my paper. The importance of editorial decisions for the comprehension of Hanslick’s concepts becomes apparent especially in regard to Cohen’s translation of OMB as The Beautiful in Music. This translation contradicts Hanslick, who did not propose an abstract principle of beauty, retroactively applicable to music, but was concerned exclusively with musical beauty. Cohen’s rendition suggests a theoretical essentialism totally absent from Hanslick’s aesthetics, which shaped the interpretation of generations of scholars.
With this context in mind, I will pay special attention to Hanslick’s (in)famous sentence that the content of music consists in “sound and motion,” “tonally moving forms,” or “sonically moved forms.” These three translations—taken from the full-text English editions of OMB—are nothing but the most prominent examples of more than four dozen attempts to capture the meaning of Hanslick’s statement. These attempts fall into certain conceptual categories (“form” versus “forms,” the derivatives of “sound” versus those of “tone” etc.), which stand for distinct modes of interpretation. These modes in turn rely on general discursive features of Anglo-American scholarship in musicology and philosophy that will be explored as part of my paper.
Musical Thought in the Enlightenment
Chair: Tom McAuley (University of Cambridge)
However, as I go on to show, clarity and simplicity of percepts and concepts—immediate, effortless aesthetic and cognitive perspicuity—had since antiquity played an equally foundational role in precisely the intellectual field in which Descartes was working in the Compendium, that is, musica theorica or speculativa: the “Pythagorean,” mathematical theory of music. Thus it is no mere accident, nor is it entirely owing to his unique genius, that the young Descartes here invests these perceptual and cognitive properties with so much value: it is, rather, a quite natural consequence of his engagement, in the Compendium, with traditional musica theorica. After making these points I turn to the philosophical reasons why mathematical music theory—unlike geometry—from antiquity through early modernity had always rejected the irrational in favour exclusively of rational quantities, and had moreover sometimes regarded as “irrational” certain proportions that are in fact not so. In this way I identify an archaic and idiosyncratic “Pythagorean” form of “rationality,” the lifespan of which extended from antiquity into at least the seventeenth century, when, transmuted in the alembic of Descartes’ thought, it came to play an unlooked-for role in the foundation of modern philosophy.
My goal is to show how the theoretical transfer undertaken by Rameau was driven both by the inner development of his theory and by the external intellectual context. Considering the former, it was primarily the abandonment of belief in the lower harmonic partials. As for the latter, it was the growing polarity between the camps of supporters of John Locke and Christian Wolff, which nevertheless sparked some fascinating attempts to reconcile and synthesize these philosophical systems. While in the philosophy such an enterprise was undertaken by Johann Heinrich Lambert in his celebrated Neues Organon (1764), in music theory it was Rameau with his Nouvelles réfléxions sur le principe sonore (1760) and especially unfinished Véritées egalement interessantes et ignorés (1764). I will argue that a proper contextualisation might overcome some of the misunderstanding these treatises have been suffering from for many years.
13.00-14.00 Lunch | Great Hall
14.00-16.40 Parallel Sessions II
Music, Muse, Mimesis: Figures of Deconstruction
Convenor and Respondent: Naomi Waltham-Smith (University of Warwick)
This paper works through these competing claims to conclude that, while not all music might be musica ficta, music is indeed inseparable from a more general notion of mimesis that Lacoue-Labarthe develops in “The Echo of the Subject” and later in Le chant des muses. There, music is a “catacoustic mimesis” of the “absolutely anterior” experience of hearing the mother’s voice while in the womb. This is the “original” music—essentially phrasing and rhythm—of which the rest is amplification and echo. Jean-Luc Nancy has explored the consequences of this thought for a theory of the subject in On Listening but, I argue, catacoustic mimesis is also what produces music’s affective, mimetic potential and thus the possibility of its being harnessed by totalitarianism through musica ficta. To conclude, I show how catacoustic mimesis echoes Plato’s accounts of music in the Republic, and how it also responds to Freudian and Girardian mimetologies where art is the sublimated repetition of originary murder or sacrifice.
Evaluative Terms and Metaphors for Music
Today, “beauty” has to some extent been replaced in contemporary analytical philosophy, by a variegated notion of “aesthetic properties” (denoting e.g. “harmony”, “vividness”, or emotive properties such as “being mournful”). This paper explores how this shift of locus may offer philosophical progress from a Wittgensteinian point of view, as it allows for a more complex image of appreciation. Nevertheless, the depth of our aesthetic engagements arguably still eludes us in our new focus on the generality of ‘properties’. Recognizing some of these pitfalls, philosophers such as Peter Kivy and David Michael Levin have drawn on Wittgenstein’s treatment of so-called ‘aspect perception’ to advance the debate. Interrogating Kivy and Levin, I argue that their contributions still fail to incorporate temporal, cultural and embodied dimensions integral to Wittgenstein’s own investigation of aspect perception. Drawing in particular on Wittgenstein’s suggestion that “grief” – more than picking out properties – is a variation-concept (deeply woven into various practices), I suggest that a way forward may be to pay attention to musical instruction in connection with hearing aspects. I present a brief case study drawing on the work of contemporary composer Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi. If – as Wittgenstein suggests – philosophy should understand musical appreciation through a lens of culture, Ahvenniemi’s instructions to the musicians who play her work serve as a potent example of how a more musical philosophical investigation may be carried out.
This paper’s aim is to examine the conceptual relationship between the notion of dynamics in music and the idea of dynamics as “power” and “potentiality” in metaphysics. What is implicit in both notions is the idea of “force”, as configured in a philosophical tradition from Aristotle to Nietzsche, Heidegger and Deleuze. It is no coincidence that the system of symbols that, in music, indicates the intensity of sound, its strength and its expression, takes its name from this philosophical concept. In which sense does the term dynamics, as a theory of force and potentiality, step into the field of music? The Aristotelian concept of dynamis, Leibniz’s theory of vis activa and the Nietzschean “Will to Power” reveal their profound meaning when related to the specific dynamic ontology realized by music. Two contemporary musical examples, taken from flute works by Sciarrino and Hosokawa, show with particular evidence how to understand a metaphysical idea of musical dynamics.
Calling on recent work in ethics and aesthetics on the nature of “thick” and “thin” terms, which tries to explicate exactly how the functions of description and evaluation are differently combined in different sorts of term, this paper will offer an explication of the way these two functions are related in a number of terms now commonly used to describe the experience of listening to contemporary music. In doing so, the author hopes to shed a little light on the changing nature of avant-garde or “cutting-edge” musical experiences, as revealed in the terms listeners now use to talk about them.
Perception and Meaning
Rather than rejecting these seemingly oppositional positions as inconsistent, I propose that they can and should be reconciled. In this way, the very reason why Merleau-Ponty thinks music is only able to represent the ‘ebb and flow’ of experience, is also the foundational reason for thinking that music is an exemplary model of perceptual experience. In order to argue for this, I will use Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the ‘chiasm’ to reconstruct an account of the perception of music. Such an account emphasises music’s importance as an intermediary moment of transition between our sensible perception of music as ‘sound’, and our perception of music as ‘idea’. I will ultimately conclude that the disparaging characteristics bestowed on music in Eye and Mind, and the complimentary discussion of the musical idea in the posthumous texts are not just compatible, but mutually necessary for understanding Merleau-Ponty’s later phenomenological project.
This proposal does not work. On the one hand, the theory does not overcome the flaws of CT. The problems related to the role of resemblance recur when it comes to explaining how and in what sense music and human expressive behaviour share the same elemental perceptive features. Benenti and Meini simply move to a “deeper” level, from perceptual patterns to their elementary components, the place of the resemblance (which remains a prerequisite of their version of CT). On the other hand their theory seems able to explain only a “shallow” kind of expressivity (negative vs. positive emotions), modelled on an elementary visual expressiveness, underestimating the role of temporal development in shaping musical expressiveness. Consequently, this proposal does not explain the aesthetic complexity of musical expressiveness which is reduced to that of visual static emoticons. Moreover, as I shall argue, elementary perceptive features cannot ground musical expressiveness independently from the – musical, cultural, social, etc. – context in which they are perceived. Even at the purely perceptual level, the musical experience is organized holistically and it is this holistic organization that allows the musical articulation of a complex, profound, as well as aesthetically elaborated musical expressiveness.
Matter, Process and Product
In this paper, I use Slavoj Žižek’s account of fetishism to complicate commonplace assumptions about products and processes in music. Crucially, in The Plague of Fantasies, Žižek suggests that postmodernism connotes a fetishization of the ephemeral, often manifested in a staging of production. In this view, fetishism – a fetishism related to but distinct from Marx’s and Freud’s uses of the concept – still might function where one turns away from products produced and instead puts on show one’s processes of production. I ask what this might mean for post-Cagean indeterminacy, and for Steve Reich’s influential envisioning of a ‘compositional process and a sounding music that are the same thing.’
This paper thus theorises musical product, process, and fetishism in a manner taking us beyond Theodor W. Adorno’s infamous proposal that the ‘counterpart to the fetishism of music is a regression of listening.’ It contributes to a critical theory of musical production, under which artistic production is related to broader (nonartistic) regimes of production – a connection more firmly established in studies of visual and plastic arts (cf. Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells, Kim Grant’s All About Process, Antonio Negri’s ‘Metamorphoses’), but underdeveloped in philosophies of music.
“Each and every important work of art leaves traces behind in its material and technique,” Theodor W. Adorno postulates. This quote demonstrates an interesting reversal: Instead of art being considered the expression or the outcome of an idea of the artist, art itself is regarded as a source for change; the work may come to affect its own tools and materials, and the social space around it. In the context of musical composition this quote suggests that it may not be the composer herself, who by intention, rises above existing techniques and communicates new ideas to the surrounding world. The primary question of this paper is: what is it in composition that leaves the traces?
I will discuss the relationship between the composer and the work of music from a specific perspective: while the work of art is traditionally regarded as a creation of the composer, I will attempt to throw a light on the complex dynamics in the process of making an artwork. Art is not a passive product of composition, but it “speaks back” to the materials applied. Simultaneously, the discussion of philosophy of music is often blurred by the focus on finished compositions rather than asking questions about how a work came to exist. Although none of them say so directly, theories that discuss musical meaning tend to assume the work, in one way or another, the expression of a composer, an externalised expression of the inwardly. From the perspective of finished works compositional process may appear as straightforward and the musical material as “determined”.
I will present a new concept, lingering reflection, to picture an activity which may slowly challenge paradigms over time. I present it as an epistemological concept with the purpose of highlighting the complex dynamics of a musical work in the making: reacting on existing cultural codes, understanding music both as a handcraft and a social activity, and letting these aspects converge. In the end it may be this reflective activity that causes fractures on existing ideas.
This paper takes a novel approach to the matter. It initially points to “proto-Deleuzian” themes in Messiaen´s fascination with the interwar movement renouveau catholique. Readings in e.g. Maritain and Bachelard inspired a dialectical cosmology, including a distinct hylomorphism which sees the presence of a living force even in inchoate matter. This background is combined with examples of close analysis, primarily of the Catalogue d´Oiseaux. Recent scholarship by Robert Fallon and Peter Hill has instilled new levels of insight into Messiaen´s creative process and aesthetic ideals in this seminal work. Their work establish how natural representation in a seemingly Deleuzian way include a distinct “deterritorializing” of naturally given sounds, in which the creation of novel musical forms are called for. A central argument and novel argument in the paper is that even the concrete sensualism in such a music of “becoming” is situated within a dialectics between absence and presence of truth. The various natural fragments represented in music are only held together by an overarching unity of the work, which also symbolizes an “aural spectator” outside representation itself. Messiaen´s music is thus neither held within fixed natural boundaries, nor is an ideal unity of the work forlorn in its becoming. His birdsong realism rather creates a music of absent coherence that programmatically refers beyond itself.
Musical Works, Musical Objects
Chair: Sam Ridout (University of Leeds)
Pierre Schaeffer’s Treatise on Musical Objects (1966) appeared on the heels of over a decade of performative farewells to musique concrète, and to music composition. Schaeffer explained his break with composition as a reaction to two failings of musique concrète: the lack of control the composer could exercise over the effect of the sounds and musique concrète’s “inhumanity,” its failure to communicate with listeners. Driven by these two lacks, Schaeffer called upon phenomenology and structural linguistics to sketch a theory of an ideal music that would be perfectly wedded to what the human ear is capable of hearing and that would communicate in a language intelligible to all. And yet, rather than committing to composing this music, Schaeffer inaugurated a grand research project into the nature of sound and its perception that would culminate in the sprawling, ambitious tome that is the Treatise. Schaeffer believed that delaying music composition to lay this irreplaceable foundation regarding sound and perception would ensure that this utopian music could one day materialize. Despite this attempt to separate the sonic and the musical, the specter of an ideal music warps and bends Schaeffer’s text in ways that have yet to be traced and critiqued. Ultimately, Schaeffer’s attempt to combine phenomenology, structural linguistics, and sound in a way that would result in a music made of the titular musical objects fails; Schaeffer never returned to composition. However, I suggest it is Schaeffer’s very failure to reconcile these philosophical ideas with any actual music that should interest us. By exploring Schaeffer’s intense program of sonic research at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, this paper will explicate the tensions and contradictions that result from this separation between the sonic and the musical, and the irreconcilability of Schaeffer’s chosen philosophical frameworks and music composition. Indeed, I contend that this irreconcilability has everything to do with this severing between the sonic and the musical, a severing whose consequences are still felt in music and sound studies today.
Philosophers often consider better compliance with prevalent pre-theoretical intuitions to be an advantage of a theory of ontology of musical works. However, despite many predictions of what these intuitions on relevant questions might be, so far there is only one experimental philosophy study on the repeatability of musical works (Bartel 2018). We decided to examine the intuitions concerning the individuation of musical works by creating scenarios reflecting the differences in the positions of musical ontologists. These positions include pure and timbral sonicism, instrumentalism, and contextualism. There were seven scenarios, all involving two classical music performances. They were: (a) identically sounding performances of two identical scores which were independently created by two composers; (b) identically sounding performances of two identical scores which were created by two different composers using the same technique (rewriting backwards an already existing work); (c) differently sounding musical performances of two different scores written by different composers when one score is a reversed version of another; (d) two performances different only in respect to emotional expressivity; (e) different only in instrument and timbre; (f) different only in instrument (but not timbre); (g) different only in respect to the images evoked in the listeners. Altogether 445 people either with or without music education participated in the study. All of them were asked if the described performances are of one musical work or of two distinct musical works. The results show that emotional expressivity, instrument, timbre, and images evoked in the listeners were not considered as properties individuating musical works. However, the musical works were held to be different if the composers were different (and even more so if the compositions also sounded differently), but there seems to be a dependence on the nature of compositional creation: it might be that two different works are thought to be composed if there is “genuine creativity” involved (a) but not necessarily so if the compositional act involves manipulation of an already existing work (b). In most cases (all except (b)), the participants had clear intuitions which often were the same but stronger among those having music education.
Philosophers who write on musical experience often set aside how the music reaches our ears. Yet, whether we are listening to musicians performing live or to a recording, via a streaming service or staticky radio broadcast, and so on, significantly affects our musical experiences. In this paper, I consider the particular puzzle of why certain individuals have an aesthetic preference for vinyl records when most of the music they listen to is readily available in digital formats that reproduce the music with greater sonic clarity. First, as physical artifacts, vinyl records possess a tactility and histories of ownership that digital music does not. A used record changing hands allows the new owner to think of herself as becoming part of its history. This leads the vinylphile to treat the record more like a relic than a mere artifact, as possessing an “aura” that positively enhances their musical experience. Second, vinylphiles prefer vinyl records, not despite, but because of their defects (the pops and clicks), assigning them positive aesthetic value because they seem to imbue the music with a warmth, richness, and vivacity that digital formats lack. One might argue that these two factors result from magical thinking. Yet, even if this is correct, as Carolyn Korsmeyer argues about being in the presence of old things, the phenomenal character of the vinylphile’s beliefs penetrates how they perceive the music, enhancing (and perhaps partly constituting) their aesthetic encounter with it. Third, the ritual aspects of how the vinylphile listens to music add a dimension to the experience that digital formats cannot. Before the stylus touches a groove, the vinylphile removes the record from its cover, inspects it for scuffs and scratches, and cleans it of dust. Because the mere act of playing the music requires more care, the musical experience will typically be more immersive than that afforded by digital formats. Together, these considerations reveal that it’s less the sound quality and more the way the artifact structures our interaction with the music that leads vinyl records to engender richer aesthetic experiences than their digital counterparts; and this accounts for the vinylphile’s preference.
16.40-17.15 Coffee | Great Hall
Including an opportunity to meet committee members to discuss involvement in or collaboration with the study group
17.15-18.45 Keynote II
Alexander García Düttmann (Universität der Künste, Berlin)
Why Opera Is A Bit Much
Chair: Peter Osborne
Safra Lecture Theatre
19.15 Dinner | Masala Zone
Friday 12th July
9.00-10.00 Registration and coffee | Great Hall
9.00-10.00 Early Career Session (plus registration and coffee) | River Room
This session will involve a Q&A session with Peter Nelson, editor of Contemporary Music Review, and Maria Witek, Senior Birmingham Fellow in the music department at the University of Birmingham, on interdisciplinary research, successful journal submission and navigation of the early career process.
Chair: Férdia Stone-Davis
10.00-12.40 Parallel sessions III
From 1945: Philosophy and New Music
Convenor: Max Erwin (University of Leeds)
Using John Law’s (2007) conceptions of semiotic relationality, heterogeneity, materiality, process and its precarity, and space and scale, I consider whether the ‘echo’ of late modernism should be rather considered as a spectre—after Derrida (1993) and Iddon (2013)—or a trace of the journey of the artist and the listener in the altermodern archipelago, expressive of a course—rather than a fixed space- time—in which lines of flight and chains of heterogenous events articulate each other. This latter idea is further explored in aspects of contemporary practice which are both seemingly removed from Nono’s compositional tradition and yet express the same ‘echo’: Iris Garrelfs’ Lauschen (2016) for improvised voice and listening cones, and Marlo Eggplant’s DIY improvisations, which further foreground these issues of voice, virtuality, ‘sounding’ and the unsung, and situate the aesthetic legacy of post-war modernism beyond its linear, technical development, but rather within its archipelago.
A recent criticism levelled at Osborne’s proposition comes from the musical field, no less, with one commenter announcing that music seems to sit outside of this generic notion of contemporary art. Indeed, if we accept Osborne’s theory, the question of music (or any specific aesthetic medium) does become problematic. So much so, it begs one to ask whether or not music can ever be considered contemporary under these terms; and if it can, would it still be called music? In this talk, I will argue that ‘music’ can indeed be thought of as both a critical and medium-specific category that operates within the discourse of contemporary art. To do this, I will suggest that new conception of medium-specificity must be theorised, which steps away from Greenbergian formalism, under the rubric of a Marxist materialist aesthetics. To finish the talk, I will begin to make an argument for the relevance of music, as a culturally and artistically specific medium, for the cultural production of historical contemporaneity more broadly, suggesting perhaps that music is the art of contemporaneity.
This paper theorizes a connection between the practices of musical improvisation referred to as ‘non-idiomatic improvisation’, ‘improvised music’, ‘real time composition’, ‘free improvisation’ or just ‘improv’, and Pyrrhonian skepticism. This will help to develop possible philosophical consequences of this musical practice, which (following Benjamin Piekut) can be understood as being one of the crucial practices of the ‘vernacular avant-garde’. As philosopher Arnold Davidson has argued, musical practices can be read as having philosophical implications or as being a form of philosophical practice and exercise, comprehensible in the holistic terms of ‘philosophy as a way of life’ irreducible to linguistically expressed or defined theories, and thus providing (via authors such as Richard Rorty, Umberto Eco, Alva Noë, and others) theoretical foundations to understand the musical act as philosophical act.
To develop a Pyrrhonian perspective on free improvised music I take two steps: 1) following authors such as George E. Lewis, Marcel Cobussen and others in the field of Critical Improvisation Studies I want to argue for understanding improvisation as composed of three central characteristics of action: agency; logical field; and indefiniteness; 2) I argue for a Pyrrhonian interpretation of ‘Free Improvised Music’ in close-reading one of the practice’s philosophically central aspects: in its act of ‘unfixing the fixed’, its constant revaluation of fixed parameters (such as the use of an instrument, the musical materials, the forms of interaction, pitch-content, dynamic levels, etc.) and creation of indefiniteness within a logical field it puts the (skeptical) discussion of its own structures on display in the performance of the music. It thus can be read as deploying the Pyrrhonian ‘suspense of judgement’ and its play of skeptical tropes and dogma-resolving argumentative strategies and practices in an aesthetic conception and make it the centre of its attention. Furthermore, Pyrrhonism and ‘Free Improvised Music’ seem to be dealing with the same ‘impossibility’ that they exercise against perspective on ‘Free Improvised Music’ can thus help to develop and expand the understanding of its philosophical consequences.
In 2015, the Mostly Mozart Festival, de Doelen Concert Hall, Koorbiennale Haarlem, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony co-commissioned the public domain from American composer, David Lang (1957-). Written for 1000 singers, the public domain is a sequel to crowd out, Lang’s 2014 composition also for 1000 people. the public domain features five ‘strands’ of 200 each – singers of all abilities – organized by ‘group leaders.’ Choreographer Annie-B Parson created gestures that she calls ‘pedestrian’ – walkable. On August 13, 2016, amateur and professional volunteers from every borough of New York gathered on Lincoln Center’s plaza to give the world premiere. On May 19, 2018, the public domain received its European premiere in Berlin; 2019 will see performances in London and Utrecht.
In his program note to the public domain, Lang focuses on the inclusive potential of the text, a catalog of results from an internet search he issued (‘one thing we all have is our…’), which he set to repeating motives. He also conveys the social action in the piece through terms of spectatorship and corporeality: ‘Performers and audience should be indistinguishable from each other…mixed together.’ These elements point to the avant-garde heritage of the public domain: process art, Fluxus happenings, Yvonne Rainer’s tasklike movement. My paper locates the political philosophy latent in the public domain that turns the music toward the future. Mobilizing Adriana Cavarero’s new work on political phonospheres, and drawing on the score of the public domain, my interviews with Lang, my experience at the world premiere, and performance videos, I argue that the public domain is an event of pluriphony: the sound of germinal democracy. the public domain, I propose, advocates for voice in its material, practical dimensions of timbre, dynamic, melody, and rhythm, and its theoretical dimensions of uniqueness and personhood, as the medium of relational subjectivity – political community in the making. This philosophical profile of voice, exemplified in Lang’s work, offers a resource for thinking about the political promise of participatory new music. It defines an inclusive practice that can create experiences of plurality and cultivate nascent democratic life in a time of alienation.
Reconceiving Musical Notation
Convenors: Clément Canonne, Nicolas Donin, and Pierre Saint-Germier (IRCAM)
When musical compositions from around 1500 survive in multiple sources, these sources frequently bear witness to significant musical variety, with variant cadential figuration, added or removed passing tones, minor changes of pitch or rhythm, and longer recomposed voices or sections—not to mention the numerous errors that found their way into the transmission. But visually, the notational differences between sources, even sources with similar readings in terms of pitch and rhythm, can be more striking. Mensural notation from this period is more open to subtlety than the common practice notation which develops from it. Thanks to aspects like mensuration and verbal canons, coloration, dots, and ligatures, the same performative output can be notated in multiple different ways. And the transmission proves that interchangeable aspects are indeed frequently exchanged.
This paper will examine questions of agency in the presentation of musical notation. In copying compositions, some scribes felt a great deal of autonomy with regard to certain notational aspects. Nevertheless, other aspects might have been considered more inherent to a specific composition and would therefore be less likely to change in transmission. This might point to specific notational details of the composer’s original conception. Behind this all are the performers, for whom the various composers and scribes made their notational decisions. In the absence of autographs, agency on the part of scribes is sometimes difficult to prove, but the evidence in transmission and music theory provides a channel for distinguishing between compositional and scribal decisions. This in turn provides a window into the assumed roles of composers and scribes, their representational priorities, and the status of music notation.
I define notations as interfaces for imagining virtual musical relations: they construct various forms of musical knowledge, condition performers’ relation to their instruments and fellow musicians, and offer different ways of imagining sound as music. I argue that notations compose musical cultures through three interrelated processes: mobilization, which describes the co-formation of representation and musical reality by notation’s assemblage of a socio-material infrastructure; entextualization, which describes how notation functions as a tool to negotiate music’s existence between process and product in the course of performance; and remediation, which describes how notation plays into and modifies existing relations between musicians and their instruments, reshaping the bodies of both musician and instrument in the process.
This paper forms the methodological outline of a comparative ethnographic project studying a range of different notation systems and their uses. Although my emphasis will be on this methodological argument, I illustrate it by drawing on my work with various practices, including conducted improvisation, Braille music notation, and historically informed performance.
Drawing on case studies of Wolff’s solo and ensemble music, this paper approaches Wolff’s notations as objects of ambiguity and disruption, and investigates their consequences for the performers’ embodied relationships to their instruments, and their socio-musical interactions with one another. First we focus upon a selection of Wolff’s solo piano music, in which indeterminate notations are not necessarily concerned with a sounding result, but with physicality: inviting the pianist to make decisions about pitch and continuity in relation to finger placements and hand coordination. We then discuss one of Wolff’s most recent works––Resistance, for eleven or more players (2017), composed for and premiered by Philip Thomas and Apartment House––, which, the composer has suggested, is an assemblage of notational strategies employed in earlier works. Drawing on observational studies undertaken of the rehearsal, concert, and studio performances, we examine the choreographies, interactions, and sounding results of the many varied notations employed in both the solo and ensemble pieces––from rhythmicised sections, to open durations, cueing, text-based and other indeterminate forms. In addition, interviews with the musicians explore how the particular challenges and ambiguities presented by the notations are experienced and negotiated in the actual circumstances of music-making. By investigating how the indeterminate notation of Wolff’s music both mediates and unsettles (collective) musical experience, our paper sheds new light on the function of notation in performance.
What Is a Music-Philosophical Argument?
Convenor: Anthony Gritten (Royal Academy of Music)
This position is preferred to an exclusionary model whereby arguments function as instruments of personal assertion and power. If, in a competitive framework, the ‘winning’ of an argument discounts and silences the opponent, then what is lost is solidarity. Being ‘right’ adds to personal and professional capital, to reputation and esteem, but perhaps this comes at too great a social cost. In fact, dialogical, decidable argumentations are not the norm, and are not common. I would like to seek out and examine subtle forms of argumentation that inhere in everyday evaluations, in the lyrics of songs, in the banalities of Radio 3 continuity announcers. It is here, in the structured and structuring habitus of everyday aesthetics, that some subtle work is being done to close-down thought, to routinise judgements.
It is the emergence of generic truths (generic since indiscernible to inhabitants of the worlds in which they emerge – they cannot be evaluated according to the norms, discourses or state of knowledge of this world), however, and the subjectivity that obtains from fidelity to these truths, that are Badiou’s principal concern. But such evental truths do not obtain from within philosophy, which is dependent upon its outside, its conditions: art, science, politics and love. Philosophy, then, is not itself a truth procedure, but pursues the ‘compossibility’ of its conditions whereby their truths are articulated and affirmed.
Badiou’s recent The Immanence of Truths (2018) serves to confirm the ultimate orientation of this project, since he admits at the outset that his task isn’t yet complete. He intends, in fact, to construct a place for the absolute, for truths that emerge immanently within worlds but are thereafter universal. This place (V for le Vacuum, le grand vide and les Vérités) is modelled on Spinoza’s infinite substance (though not in the form of the One) and its infinite attributes. It is music’s connection to this putative absolute, in the guise of condition, as truth procedure, that I reflect on here.
My talk will focus on how this latter relation can manifest, and explore the function and efficacy of specifically sound installation and performance for addressing and embodying philosophical arguments. In particular, I’ll explore this in connection to my own artwork which concerns ‘drone’ as a sonic phenomenon, and its relation to the arguments of Schopenhauer and Russolo. I will argue that we can experience a philosophical argument through an ‘aesthetics of affect’, and that while this is somewhat detached from logical principles such as validity, the sound-art event-site can still function as a source of knowledge by generating a distinctive ‘know-how’ as opposed to ‘know-that’. I conclude that such ‘affective noise arguments’ can be successful if they get us to feel the appropriate or intended experience.
Set(ting) Texts: Music and Literature
For Adorno, “intimacy between people is forbearance, tolerance, refuge for idiosyncrasies.” Queer music studies has yet to engage this side of Adorno, with good reason. Scholars have pointed out the homophobia underpinning many modernist discourses of aesthetic autonomy; and Adorno’s critique of identity-thinking runs counter to any affirmation of sexual identity. Recognizing music’s representational capacity, queer music studies has instead celebrated the multiplicity of expressive techniques used to convey antinormative sexual identity. Yet as Heather Love notes, though the repertoire of queer practices expands, it still values a social legibility that does not capture ordinary or individual experience of sexual oppression. While queer listening strategies are adept at identifying myriad representational practices, they are less equipped to understand the ways that idiosyncrasies of intimate life resist such identification.
This paper argues that intimacy created by music destabilizes normative social logics of sexual identity and representation, but cannot fully escape these logics. To develop this argument, I read Adorno’s writings on Friedrich Hölderlin in counterpoint with two settings of his poetry: Britten’s Sechs Hölderlin Fragmente and Henze’s Kammermusik 1958. While Henze and Britten’s compositions are antithetical to Adorno’s sensibilities, I argue that all three share a model of intimacy rooted in fidelity and mutual presence rather than explicit communication. I use their mutual attachment to Hölderlin to stage a conversation between Adorno and queer music studies that stresses how intimacy resists codification while it remains a vital, if not foundational, source for musical and ethical life. Thus, Henze and Britten’s settings are not merely ideological but negotiate the difficulty of forming intimate relationships in the face of social isolation and oppression. By considering these interpretations together, I explore the intimate relationships afforded by Hölderlin’s poetry as well as the exclusions needed to sustain this closeness.
Mahler titled the first movement of his Third Symphony (composed 1895-1896) “Pan Awakens: Summer Marches In (Bacchus’s Parade),” commenting that he might as easily have called it “What the mountains tell me” since it portrayed the creation of life from “lifeless matter.” Scholars have identified multiple sources for Mahler’s ideas in the Third, which he expressed verbally and in his annotations in the score. Yet his references to “nothing but sounds of nature,” “Pan-All,” Pan sleeping and waking, life “chained in the abyss of rigid, lifeless nature … as in Hölderlin’s ‘Rhein,’” and to Nietzsche’s Gay Science and Zarathustra come together into a strikingly coherent whole when placed in the contemporary “neo-Gnostic” framework as defined by writers such as anarchist and philosopher Eugen Heinrich Schmitt. While developing his own understanding of Gnosis, Schmitt founded the periodical Die Religion des Geistes, which appeared from 1894 to 1896, and wrote an 1898 monograph on Nietzsche, but his later Die Gnosis: Grundlagen der Weltanschauung einer edleren Kultur (1903-1907) is the most suggestive for understanding the context of Mahler’s thought. The two-volume work discusses ideas of Hölderlin, Fechner (a known influence on the Third), and Nietzsche, using phrases that reflect and illuminate Mahler’s: the “absolute All, as ‘Nature’ in the religious sense of the word,” the identification “of man and God with stick and stone,” and the “great ‘Awakening of Pan’…as preparation [for] a new age.” In this context, Mahler’s choices of musical language and style, and, particularly, the movement-wide tension between the pitches f and f sharp, and between the keys of D and F, suggest a working through of the problem of a Gnosis that is at once spiritual and earthly. Beethoven’s “divine spark” and Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” find common ground, and the fine line between spiritual and political redemption is explored (as it is in Hölderlin’s “Rhein” poem). A clear D major resolution referencing the “love motive” from the last movement seems to foreshadow Heidegger’s insistence on the revelations of Hölderlin’s poetry as extraphilosophical truth, and as revealing the necessity of “the god” bringing salvation.
Derrida’s meditations on différance in Of Grammatology prove an interesting companion to Ravel’s movement. In particular, his analysis of Rousseau’s commentary on the relationship between melody and harmony, in which he claims the philosopher’s text reveals how harmony’s supplementarity reveals an inherent lack in the presumed plenitude of ‘natural’ melody, can open a window onto the Forlane. As Abbate and others have acknowledged, the source of the Forlane’s uncanny sound is its bizarre harmonic language, which makes extensive use of unresolved appoggiaturas, a technique of which Ravel was fond. By constructing his harmonic surface from these melodic fragments, Ravel effectively foregrounds a sort of musical différance: While each harmony’s multiple appoggiaturas each project melodic motion, their irresolution freezes them into static, harmonic artifacts; as such, they themselves supply the harmonic context for the melodies they anticipate. The musical progressions that this technique enables effect a constant deferral between melody and harmony, with each suggesting an inherent lack in the other—and in the supposed plenitude of its tons beaux. Thus the Forlane, by staging this model of deconstruction, expresses musically a similar anxiety to that which its pastoral program implies. Its demonstration of différance introduces death to Ravel’s Arcadia.
In this paper, I argue that the isolation of “O Mensch” from the larger text by composers can be understood as both an act of amateur philosophical reading, and a technique directed towards amateur musical performance. In these compositions the poem often acts as both a plausible synecdoche of the whole and an attractively simple poetic object. Through a close comparative analysis of two settings of the text for adult and children’s a cappella choir, I show how amateurism was central to the musical reception of Zarathustra in the attempt to grasp at the irreducible whole through its smallest poetic parts. Such settings also emphasized a mode of reading philosophy focused on apprehending the text, as opposed to fully comprehending it, as goals of their compositional design and their implied performing practices.
Autonomy, Biographism, and Formalism
The critical musicology moment was an important fin-de-millénaire turn against the enduring influence of the absolute music concept. Despite their variety of approaches, critical musicologists aimed to reproach the notion that formal analysis is the proper (read: only) means of musical explanation. The resulting dialectic between form and context is only possible through the notion of the extra-musical, which Carl Dahlhaus identifies as a crucial signifier of the absolute. Peter Kivy, in his polemic against the New Musicology, demonstrates that his Hanslickian view of music—as mere forms—is exactly what is at stake, taunting, “the philosophical problem of absolute music still remains with us.”
Musical discourse since the critical turn remains divided. It has either adopted the lessons as given or treated them with indifference—as evidenced by the growth of neo-structuralist methods: corpus studies, geometrical transformation theory, cognitive (“empirical”) musicology, etc. Like Seth Brodsky’s understanding of modernism, the absolute music concept is a Freudian drive, which lives on wherever interpretation attempts to get inside music by quarantining certain meanings as external, extra-musical.
Two conceptions of musical modernity stand in radical opposition. On the one side, there is Schönberg’s idea of a musical idea. Such musical thoughts cannot be abstracted from its sensual concretion, even if, what is expressed, the thought, does not coincide with its expression, the material form of the artwork. Schönberg’s idea is close to Kant’s concept of the aesthetic idea: It is the seemingly paradoxical conception of a thought that has no conceptual, but only an intuitive form. Thus Schönberg understands music as a kind of thinking. This leads to the imperative of the new and the primacy of the avant-garde: Only new thoughts are worth being presented, only new art is art. As musical thoughts are inseparable from their means of expression, music must renew the means of expression if it wants to express thoughts that are worth being thought.
On the other side stands the largely accepted idea of the (post-)conceptual nature of contemporary art. The course of modern art has lead to a situation where conceptual reflection on the conditions of art is essential to the artistic activity itself. But as a conceptual reflection, this activity is not bound to the material form of the artwork. A gap is opened between the conceptual content and its material realisation: to push artistic reflection further does not mean to renew the material forms of expression, but rather to expose an indifference between the conceptual and the material aspect of the work. In this way, even the notion of music itself becomes problematic. This line of thought has often been traced back to the Hegelian claim of the end of art and it is increasingly present in recent debates on contemporary music. I want to show that the common ground of these two oppositional standpoints is the autonomy of artistic reflection. The two paradigms can be reconciled if one reconsiders the sense of this idea. As the sensible manifestation of a certain indifference between concept and sensibility, conceptualist artworks can themselves be understood as specific musical thoughts.
How is art related to life? During the 19th century that seemed to be, both to the educated public and to scholars, a question of prime importance. The 20th century, by way of contrast, brought that issue in disrepute. Yet there is cause to reconsider it. Admittedly, there once was (and perhaps is, in popular literature) a psychological brand of simplistic biographism that was (and is) bound to fail. Reasons for categorical anti-biographism, however, are quite feeble. Simplistic biographism can be avoided, if we distinguish (at least) three potential relations between art and life. Firstly, art can become the image of life. Secondly, an artist may seek out experiences that fit his artistic vision, so that these experiences may ‘fill his vision with life’. Thirdly, art is sometimes the antithesis of life, related to it as a negative image. A biographic poetics that is sensitive to historic context can disclose significant traits of a work of art, as a (though sketchy) case study of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) indicates.
12.40-13.30 Lunch | Great Hall
13.30-16.20 Parallel Sessions IV
Unhearing the Absolute: Theorizing Music after Absolute Music
Convenors: G Douglas Barrett (Salisbury University), Georgina Born (University of Oxford) and Christian Grüny (Universität Witten)
This paper will reflect upon the concepts and forms of negation and negativity at stake in making sense of the encounters between music after New Music and that generic conception of art characteristic of ‘contemporary art’ since the 1960s. Does the negation of music produce something we might consider to be ‘conceptual music’ in the same manner that the negation of painting led to various forms of conceptual painting; and the negation of photography to conceptual photographies, for example? Or are these analogies in some way fundamentally flawed? On what other theoretical model should we be trying to think about that ‘music’ that is a practical negation of music itself? Drawing upon but going beyond the problematic of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory and late writings on music, it will confront the classically dialectical negations of the development of musical modernism with those negations of the modernist dynamic itself, associated with the material and conceptual expansions of music into the sphere of the generic ‘postconceptuality’ of contemporary art. It will thus critically reflect upon the movement from absolute music to sound art, noise, and their own dissolution into a more radically materially and sonically indeterminate institutional space for the production, documentation and reproduction of ‘events’.
This constellation prevailed through the first half of the 20th century—the reference lost its exuberance but hardly ever disappeared, and there was never a contradiction between listening and form, not even for Schoenberg and his students. Since the middle of the century we find tendencies to separate the two, with a focus on structure that devalued listening on the one hand (Babbitt, early serialism etc.) and later with an evocation of listening that was explicitly directed against form on the other (Schafer, sound art). Since then, listening has become the epitome of openness to the world, embodying a quality that simply cannot be argued with, while in contemporary music it has mostly regained its traditional status and is associated with sophistication and differentiation. My thesis is that both tendencies are heir to the idea of absolute music, making listening into a virtue that embodies openness and sophistication at the same time. To actually unhear the absolute, a critique of listening seems to be indispensable. I will try to do this by following the discourse on listening in the second half of the 20th century, focusing on writings and statements by composers and sound artists.
Contemporary art’s own contemporaneity has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, although the very concept of contemporary music has only begun to receive such scrutiny. This paper elaborates recent conceptions of the contemporary from art theory along with formal differences between contemporary music and contemporary art as expressed in their respective historiographical constructions. The fields of music and contemporary art developed from initially entwined but eventually distinct art-historical genealogies constructed through diverging views of artistic medium, the status of language, and the social. Contemporary art, on the one hand, emerges as a result of the radical transformations of the postwar avant-gardes into what Peter Osborne, along with others, has called postconceptual art—a generic art beyond specific mediums that prioritizes discursive meaning and social process—while contemporary music, on the other, continues to struggle with its formal status as a nonconceptual, sound-based medium of art that inherits its concept from aesthetic modernism and absolute music. I’ll also consider the category of sound art, which unlike new music has been articulated within contemporary art, while discussing some of the ways it falls short of contemporary art’s radically generic and postconceptual condition. Ultimately, I’ll argue that, despite their respective claims to contemporaneity, neither sound art nor contemporary music is contemporary in the fullest philosophically and historically significant sense of the term. As an alternative to these categories, and in conclusion, I’ll make the case for what I term musical contemporary art.
The Philosophy of Rhythm: Relation and Temporality in Music
Convenors: Iain Campbell and Peter Nelson (University of Edinburgh)
I develop the dynamic account of rhythm as “order-in-movement”, presented in “Rhythm and Stasis” (PAS 2010-11), that rejects static accounts of rhythm as abstract time, as essentially a pattern of possibly unstressed sounds and silences. The dynamic account is humanistic: it focuses on music as a humanly-produced, sonorous phenomenon, privileging the human as opposed to either the abstract, the organic or the mechanical. It defends the claim that movement is the most fundamental conceptualization of music, and argues against Scruton’s view that music moves only merely metaphorically.
The truth in the claim of literal movement lies in the movement criterion: understanding music requires having the capacity to move in sympathy with it. The Analytic philosophical assumption that nothing relevant in the music literally moves rests on sonicism, the view that music is exclusively a sonic art, or on acousmaticism, the view that music is exclusively an unseen, auditory—acoustic—art, focused on sounds without reference to the means of their creation. These views neglect the conceptual holism of music and dance, which treats music as a cross-sensory practice and phenomenon. Their link is stronger than Scruton suggests—one cannot understand music without understanding dance.
The movement involves bobbing one’s head, tapping fingers or feet, gestures such as punching the air or leaping, as well as dancing. Children display unlearned movement to music – marching to martial music, for instance. There are no societies where one is brought up to understand music without understanding dance, or vice versa. It would be absurd to say that dance might have evolved independently of music. Someone who says, “I am able to move in time with the music, but I never feel like doing so” is someone who does not understand it – medical conditions and syndromes excepted. An example of the latter is jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell; blowing and valving movements aside, he is almost immobile when performing, a result of treatment for schizophrenia. Moving to the music is entrainment – but entrainment is an elucidation and not, as psychologists suppose, an explanation of the movement.
Several authors defend an intimate relation between body and rhythm (Hamilton 2011; Peters 2019). The aim of this presentation is to make sense of the relation between musical rhythm and bodily movements by appealing to Husserl’s model of temporal consciousness. Any current moment of an experience, according to Husserl (1991; 2001), includes three phases: retention (‘holding-on’ of the just-past), primal-impression (now-point), and protention (anticipation of what-is-just-about-to-come). Husserl’s purpose is two-fold: to account for the experience of temporally extended objects and also to account for the experience of one’s ongoing stream of experiences (Gallagher and Zahavi 2012).
Rhythmic experience can be embodied at various levels: in the synchronization of one’s body parts with the music, as in the case of foot-tapping (Fraisse: 1982), and in more full-fledged bodily movements. When perceiving rhythm, one is also aware of one’s bodily movements. There are various levels of bodily awareness. I introduce Joona Taipale’s (2014) distinction between ipseity, “passively active”, and active agency.
This presentation argues that one’s experience encompasses the perception of music’s rhythm and also a bodily awareness of one’s own movements, where both aspects share the same temporal structure – retention, primal-impression, and protention. There is in rhythmic experience an interrelation between several temporal continua, including the movement in the music and that of the body. The anticipation in foot tapping, for instance, parallels anticipating when the next beat will occur. Bodily movements follow the expected sonic event and, crucially, variations in the musical rhythm entail an implicit re-evaluation of the bodily movements. This highlights the particularly rich and complex phenomenology of rhythm, in which temporality interacts with the body. Thinking about rhythm cannot be thinking about time on one side and about the body on another side, as both are intertwined.
In this joint paper we will discuss what theories of the sign can tell us about rhythm. Rhythms are present in our lives from the very beginning, as sounds, practices and experiences. They ‘enskill’ us in the sense that they provide us with temporal diagrams for our social interactions, with music as a key medium for this enskilling. What are these ‘temporal diagrams’ and how do they enable social practice, including musicking? Theories of the sign, by Peirce, Deleuze and Guattari, and others may provide some strategies for exploring these questions.
Peirce’s tripartite division of the sign alerts us to the difference between iconic and indexical qualities of perception. These qualities have temporal aspects, and thus, as the anthropologist Eduardo Kohn puts it, ‘Signs, as “guesses”, re-present a future possible, and through this mediation they bring the future to bear on the present’ (How Forests Think, p. 207). Across this paper we will show how such a temporal understanding of signs enables us to depict the complex kinds of temporal relations that we describe as ‘rhythmic’, and the lived human and non-human worlds these entail. We will consider how for Deleuze, drawing on Peirce, the sign concerns not so much acts of signification within a determined system as it does encounters between diverse regimes, something like what Gregory Bateson calls the ‘manipulation of frames’ as an ongoing experimental openness to changing one’s own metacommunicative rules. Deleuze describes the sign as ‘what flashes across the intervals when a communication takes place between disparates’ (Difference and Repetition, p. 20), speaking of the ‘emission’ of signs in processes of learning understood as an engaged practice of ‘doing with’. Such an experimental practice of learning is developed further in Deleuze’s work with the psychiatrist and activist Félix Guattari, with their ‘diagrammaticism’ naming a constructivist theory of the sign (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 143). This theory culminates in their concept of the refrain, a concept that we will argue expresses the rhythmic, habitual constitution of an enclosed domain of signs, a rhythmic order that can then be put into contact with other rhythmic orders in order to then identify points of experimentation through which a leap beyond a domain’s boundaries can take place.
This paper will explore what a social theory of rhythm might mean for human interactions, through listening not just amongst ourselves but between humans and non-human actors, animal and machine, and will examine how these rhythmic practices invest meaning in sound aesthetics. It will consider how theories of the sign can help us to articulate how relations come to hold between these diverse actors, and argue that by thinking the sign rhythmically and rhythm in terms of signs we can begin to develop a theory adequate to the complexity of these practices.
Quotation – Restoration – Homage
The Society for Musical Performance and Mechanical Reproduction Rights, known as GEMA in Germany, officially maintains copyright of artists, and requires artists to cite quoted pieces. It is a violation to publish an artistic piece without a quotation statement. The German composer Johannes Kreidler responded to this law in 2008 with his action piece product placements. He created a public event by bringing 70,200 forms for quotations to the GEMA headquarter in Berlin.
In 2015, Johannes Kreidler’s Minusbolero was premiered by the RSO Stuttgart at the Eclat Festival. This work can be regarded as one of the conceptual continuations of product placements, so that the composer himself asks whether the piece is intrinsic art, and provides a stimulus to discussion about the arts in general. This is because the piece consists only of the accompaniment of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Kreidler eliminated the melody parts from the work and newly “converted” the piece. The absence of the melodies on the one hand gives a different impression; on the other hand, you hear the melodies of the original Bolero, even though the melody parts are not being played. While the composer indicates clearly his musical quotation and presents the piece as conceptual art, he consents principally to an argument that he taboos the act of composing. My presentation will begin with analyzing the music score of Minusbolero. This musical analysis will illustrate how the absence of the melody in the Minusbolero can be interpreted in a musical-historical context and if this musical phenomenon can be regarded as the aesthetics of reduction.
A quoted expression is set apart (framed) within the regular discourse in which it is embedded. At the same time, by being recognizably borrowed or replicated from elsewhere it refers back to its original context. Formally marked direct speech (Jane says: ‘x’) is its most characteristic manifestation, where the original context is Jane’s specific utterance. But the relevant source context may be as unspecific as a community’s speech habits, and a rich continuum of weaker forms of quotation ranges from scare quotes to the cliché or idiom. What defines this continuum is a variable combination of the three basic features of replication, embedding, and reference.
Musical quotation has mostly been seen as a somewhat exceptional device, even when applied on a large scale, as often in post-romantic music. Its linguistic connection counts as metaphorical rather than substantial. But a similar spectrum of forms and degrees of (intra- as well as intertextual) quotation, or patterns of replication, embedding, and reference, can be shown to be responsible for discursive and grammatical features of western music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Besides enriching our appreciation of this historical repertoire, the study of quotation provides a clue to our understanding of the flexibility of human cognitive capacities. While language and music differ fundamentally in structure and purpose, they may be adapted in similar ways to their users’ needs and intentions.
In his 1977 Theory of Restoration, the Italian art-critic and philosopher Cesare Brandi, probably the father of modern conservation theory, defined the principles guiding the restoration of artworks, understood, as he contended, both as ‘aesthetic objects’ and as ‘documents of history’ (Brandi 2005: 48). The theoretical framework envisaged by Brandi gains special relevance in the treatment of so-called lacunae. A lacuna is an interruption in the form of an artwork, like a gap or an empty space created by the absence of something in the work’s material. According to Brandi, any attempt to restore a lacuna by adding or substituting its missing parts is fundamentally misguided. Integrations (either by “induction” or by “approximation”) must be thoroughly avoided, since the restorer, he warned, should never take the place of “the original artist or creator” (Brandi 2005: 91) Our behavior towards an artwork must in this sense be “limited to respect” (Brandi 2005: 92). Of course, when writing this Brandi had the visual arts in mind, but the principles he foresaw for paintings and architectural buildings may find relevant application in music.
In this paper, we argue that an intriguing example of this is Luciano Berio’s famous redrafting of musical fragments by the late-Schubert. In the 1970s, surviving piano sketches for a Tenth Symphony by Schubert were correctly identified as dating back to shortly before the composer’s premature death. Elaborating on these fragments, Berio composed a work which he aptly named ‘Rendering’, so as to refer not simply to a form of “restitution” or “interpretation” of Schubert’s material, but, as he himself declared, to a proper form of “restoration” (Gartmann 1995: 196-197). Berio’s treatment of lacunae in Schubert’s unfinished work accurately mirrors Brandi’s principles of restoration. Berio decided not to fill in the gaps with Schubert-like hypothetical additions, as for instance conductor Brian Newbould did. Instead, he composed “a kind of connective tissue constantly different and changing, always pianissimo and ‘distant’, intermingled with reminiscences of the late Schubert” (Berio 1989). Moreover, he highlighted his original interventions by inserting “a delicate musical cement” in the gaps between one sketch and the other, just like restorers did “in the case of Giotto’s [frescos] in Assisi” (Berio 1989).
Berio’s attributing a ‘dual’ authorship to the work (Schubert-Berio) clearly shows his deep respect to the work’s authenticity. His commitment to the Werktreue ideal, however, did not confine him to a neutral role as a composer, but rather triggered his creativity as composer. Relevantly, Berio’s interpretation of restoration practice seems thus to promote a ‘non-museological’ notion of music history (Goehr 1992) whilst at the same time involving a conception of compositional freedom that constantly engages in a confrontation with the past.
Temporality and Cultural Influence in Music after World War II
I explore the work of Morton Feldman in relation to Henri Bergson’s theory of perception, and how the former’s approach contributed significantly to compositional praxis. In particular, Bergson’s notion of intuition, his critique of spatialisation, and his temporal dualism – temps espace, spatial time and temps durée, experienced time – were of importance to Feldman, as evidenced in his writings and the use of a compositional technique he termed instrumental image. Both point to an understanding of images as temporal and experiential, and not simply as fixed spatial essences. By refusing to subsume his music to ‘the horizontal continuity’ of traditional chronological conceptions of musical temporality, the vertical, spatial aspect of music could be developed as a set of textures. Consequently, Feldman argues for a music between the categories of theory and perception, as presented through the instrumental images in two compositions – In Search of an Orchestration (1967) and On Time and the Instrumental Factor (1971); in these works one state of sound or image is transformed in an a-directional, multi-perspectival fashion through montage, rather than following a hierarchical design. The goal is to oppose clock-time with an abstract experience, in analogy with the work of the Abstract Expressionists. A complex exchange between abstraction and embodiment, the objective and subjective, converge in these compositions. Especially the notion of the image as an alternative to conceptual universalism makes a Bergsonian approach sympathetic to Feldman’s music.
“She hates time./ Make it stop./ When did Motley Crue become ‘Classic Rock’?” The gatekeeping and genre definition of which bands qualify as “Classic” Rock have been issues rehashed in circles so deeply that they have made it to parody in songs like the early 2000’s hit “1985” (SR-71, Bowling for Soup). However, years later, we now have a new variation of this question to fold into the mix: how do we regard the most recent albums made by original Classic Rock artists? Undeniably “classic” artists like the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd have been unveiling full albums of new material in the past few years—leaving us with the question of whether “new” and “classic” are mutually exclusive qualities. Is “Classic Rock” a subgenre with temporal requirements? And must those temporal requirements shift in tandem with the evolution of society’s understanding of time (both as a cerebral concept and a lived history)?
In this paper, I consider the temporality of “Classic Rock” in its most current framework— which necessarily takes into account the compression of history introduced by the Internet and is heavily influenced by burgeoning work identifying the characteristics of metamodern (also called “post-postmodern”) thought. Using examples from Roger Waters’ 2017 album Is This the Life We Really Want?, Neil Young’s The Visitor (2017), and the Rolling Stones’ Blue & Lonesome (2016) as my primary musical sources— as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s piece On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874) as a proto-metamodernist manual ahead of its time, I explore questions that popular music studies has been facing when dealing with new music in a subgenre predicated on older musicians performing old music—as well as philosophical questions about how both historians and non-historians alike might have to contend with temporally-based authenticity in a new way as we get further into the digital age.
John Cage is a well-known avant-garde American composer whose philosophy was influenced by Zen, Taoism, and the Book of Changes. As a pioneer of indeterminacy in traditional Western music structures, Cage transformed people’s values regarding musical aesthetics. His composition “Music of Changes” drew inspiration from the Book of Changes, and shaped him into the leading voice in the area of aleatory music. John Cage’s musical creation 4’33”, performed at Woodstock (1952) in New York, allowed people to experience so-called “silent music”, reflecting the principles of Zen Buddhism and Taoism and flying in the face of traditional Western musical conventions based on rationalism. At the same time, Cage emphasized the need to “release” the mind and the spirit from the shackles constructed by language and the stifling constraints of specified time and space.
Cage’s musical philosophy was erected on a foundation laid by Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and the Book of Changes, and it ultimately transformed the relationship between the composer, the performers, and the audience. His works influenced and inspired an era of modern American neo-expressionists. However, researchers rarely if ever reflected on Cage’s incorporation of Zen Buddhism, Taoism and the Book of Changes into his music. What is the exact correlation between John Cage’s musical philosophy and these traditional Chinese schools of thought? What exactly is the difference between the above remarks and the original concepts expounded in Chinese philosophy?
Through the above discussion, I will show how Cage chose certain concepts of ancient Chinese philosophy and transplanted them into his own musical philosophy. I argue that Cage has found a way to construct a dialogue between Chinese philosophy and Western musical perceptions, merging the ideas of Zen, Taoism and the Book of Changes to compose his music. However, Cage also generated new and unresolved issues in the process of composing his music.
Susanne Langer’s idea of the primary apparition of music involves a dichotomy between two kinds of temporality: “felt time” and “clock time”. This dichotomy exemplifies her general categorical distinction between the “elements” and the “materials” of music. For Langer, musical time is exclusively felt time, and in this sense, music is “time made audible”. However, Langer also postulates what we would call ‘a strong suspension thesis’: the swallowing up of clock time in the illusion of felt time. This thesis seems to have resonated well among philosophers and musicologists alike. In this paper we take issue with Langer’s problematic distinction between the materials and elements of music and the ensuing ‘strong suspension thesis’. We argue that the emergent qualities, which Langer attributes solely to elements, manifest themselves already at the level of the very tendency to opt for this or that particular arrangement of materials. As such, materials are not merely “actual”, as Langer would have it, but pregnant with possibilities and meaning. While materials may well be “sounds of a certain pitch”, one could derive both tonal and non-tonal organization from the same pitch class. The difference lies in the tonal hierarchy which is presupposed in the former case, but not in the latter. We analyze Langer’s own discussion of certain musical examples in order to show how she actually glosses over this crucial step. We also show that the strenuous setting apart of materials and elements, underlying Langer’s strong suspension thesis, becomes even more pronounced with respect to her discussion of musical time. We argue that this thesis is overstated and misdirecting as a matter of describing what we experience when we hear music with understanding. We show how Langer’s philosophical proclivity contorts her theories of musical composition and musical performance in ways which are incompatible with musical practice or musicological insights. We present a selection of examples of repetitive formations, from mediaeval music to contemporary music, which show that persistent, motion-inhibiting repetition undermines the listener’s ability to identify order and coherence due to a relative inability to anticipate the next occurrence of a differentiating musical event. In such cases, ordinary time—time involving the specification of time-references by means of publicly observable chronology—may become musically important in a way which Langer’s theory cannot accommodate: elemental apparition gives way to material manifestation as we hear the music with understanding. We underscore how new modes of music have seriously challenged Langer’s views already during her lifetime.
Voice and Embodiment
While phenomenology as a Western philosophical field of study is said to have come to form in the early twentieth century, with the work of Edmund Husserl, phenomenological ideas and practices have long been explored in different contexts including non-Western cultures. In this paper, I explore the phenomenological approach of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) who lived in western Punjab (then India, now Pakistan), and founded the Sikh faith at the turn of the sixteenth century. In particular, I investigate how Guru Nanak’s phenomenology expressed in his sung poetry becomes sounded in, and sound (valid) through, its musical experience.
Guru Nanak laid emphasis on lived experience as the basis of knowledge and meaning — of ethical virtues, the self, and the divine. This philosophy is evidenced in his canonized verses such as “ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ [Truth is above all, above still is truthful living]” (Sikh scripture: 62). As part and parcel of his approach, Guru Nanak espoused the structuring of consciousness toward an ideal meaning through the somaesthetic (Shusterman 1999) experience of ras (lit. juice, taste, essence), generated through participatory singing of sacred verses. This practice continues to be a central part of Sikh worship. Congregants gather to experience ras in the body, and through this experience, gaining knowledge of self and divine. In this paper, I investigate this generation of ras, through musical, textual, and ethnographic analysis, and in the course of this investigation, draw connections between Guru Nanak’s phenomenological approach and more recent Western phenomenological thoughts on consciousness, perception, embodiment, and being-in-the-world.
In the 136 years since Wagner first ‘consecrated the stage’ with Parsifal, opera has seen a proliferation of Eucharistic resonances, from lemonade in Britten’s Albert Herring (1947), Nekrotzar’s ‘chalice of human blood’ in Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (1977), to the force-fed heart of the beloved in Benjamin’s Written on Skin (2012). Untouchable and untastable from the stalls, the Eucharist nevertheless poses a potent and familiar symbol for God, the ultimate transcendent, in a form so material it could be swallowed. By focussing on the Eucharist in opera, I will take up its fusion of the fleshy and the transcendent as a powerful analogy with the potential to redress questions of musical ineffability. I will pay particular attention to Carolyn Abbate’s suggestion that music is ‘drastic’ and not ‘gnostic’. While valuing the drastic has been productive in theoretical discussions of embodiment and formalism often alienates the present-ness of performance, formalist readings arguably still have much to offer. My argument hinges upon the theology of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, which asserts that a properly theological response to postmodern philosophy cannot re-inscribe its rejection of truth-claims and attendant crisis of epistemology, but must continue to believe in an ultimate transcendent that, while unknowable, we should reach out towards and desire to know. In this paper, I will suggest that the desire to participate in mystery actually secures the reality of matter and the body, and expresses surprising kinships with opera studies’ preoccupations with embodiment and desire. Eucharist and opera alike, both flesh and blood, can be read as dynamics of desire: approaches to the transcendent from which neither body nor knowledge can be parsed. Meaning is both experienced in the moment and reached out for, lovingly, in the pursuit of knowing more.
The Eton Choirbook, a partbook of fifteenth century English liturgical pieces, shows a dramatic shift from the perfect intervals of Pythagorean tuning to a reliance on homophonic triadic chordal construction. Previously, Medieval Roman Catholic liturgical music in Europe was either sung in unison or with added parallel fourths, fifths, and octaves. In fifteenth century England, triadic chordal construction based on thirds and sixths signified changes in relationships between singers, choral composition, and the cathedral soundscape. Though this stylistic change has been thoroughly dissected in historical and music theory investigations, it has not been framed in discussions centered around embodied practice. How does it physically feel to sing and listen to this music in a cathedral or chapel, and how do acoustics foster a particular type of engagement with the music and space?
To focus on the practice, I combine an archival approach from historical ethnomusicology and musicology with sound studies and voice studies, which affords an glimpse of how choral music, and those who sing it, function within space, place, and time. Discussing architecture as integral in choral “vibrational practice” (Eidsheim 2015), and noting how choral singers’ bodies react and tune to soundscape, affords a practice-driven view of choral singing that provides historical and embodied context for investigations of today’s choral traditions.
Additionally, this approach provides an avenue to link theoretical work from sound studies with affect theory, in that I argue that the physicalized feeling of space and place leads to a specific type of meditative and reactive investment in choral performance and listening that is focused on affective curation and mediation. I suggest that the overtone series, amplified by church architecture, may have led to an improvised (Wegman 1996), and then compositional, use of thirds and sixths. Following a brief discussion of Pythagorean and Just Intonation tuning practices and an introduction to the Eton Choirbook, I will add modern theories of architectural acoustics (Thompson 2002), phenomenology (Idhe 2007 ), affect theory (Massumi 2016), choral (Engelhardt 2015; Engelhardt and Bohlman 2016) and voice studies (Eidsheim 2015, 2018) to hypothesize connections between tuning, choral vocal embodiment, soundscape, and affective curation.
16.20-16.50 Coffee | Great Hall
Including an opportunity to meet committee members to discuss involvement in or collaboration with the study group
16.50-18.20 Keynote III
Professor Julian Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Language, Sense, and the Muteness of Music
My lecture is not a history, however, so much as an attempt to explore music as a critical engagement with language. It does so by taking music on its own terms as a mode of sensible thought, a thinking in and through the particularity of its sonic materials. By starting from music as an alternative kind of sense making, it turns the tables on the discourses of both philosophy and musicology and takes seriously the challenge made by music’s highly articulate muteness. What might we learn from this encounter? And what might be the stakes of taking seriously the idea that music offers a kind of compensation for the losses of language?
Chair Naomi Waltham-Smith
Safra Lecture Theatre
18.20 Acknowledgements | Great Hall
18.30 Drinks reception | Great Hall