8th Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music & Philosophy Study Group
Department of Music, King’s College London, 7th-8th July 2022
Thursday 7th July
8.45-9.20 Registration and coffee [Great Hall]
9.20-9.30 Introductory words [Great Hall]
9.30-11.00 Keynote I [Great Hall and online]
Andy Hamilton, “Jazz as Classical Music” (chair: Andrew Huddleston)
My question is: what is the relation between improvised and classical music? In particular, in what sense is jazz an art music? Jazz provides a case study of the dialectic between popular and art music. This dialectic gives rise to central aesthetic questions which are much-discussed in musicology and sociology of music, but whose deeper roots have not been addressed in philosophical aesthetics. My suggestion is that jazz shares some of the features of Western art music – that apparently unique, autonomous art music which contrasts with traditional art musics such as gagaku, courtly gamelan and Indian classical music. Unlike Western art music, however, jazz’s artistry consists not in composition, but in improvisation, often on popular materials. The claim that jazz is a classical music commonly means:
- Jazz is a serious art form in its own right, despite long association with the entertainment industry – in Adorno’s language, it is an autonomous art.
- It has arrived at an era of common practice, which is codified and taught in the academy.
- It has a universality, and constitutes an international language which transcends national and ethnic boundaries.
I attempt to refute the objections that to regard jazz as a classical music is elitist, has connotations of respectability, and involves a static common practice. I attempt to convince sceptics that the description “classical” is benign, and that the process of classicisation has been a largely beneficial one.
11.00-13.00 Parallel Sessions I
Free Session 1 – Popular Music and Philosophy (chair: Martin Stokes)[SWB21; hybrid]
Jin Hyun Kim, “Sonorous Forms of Vitality in Popular Music”
Music has frequently been conceived of as having no reference to the extra-musical world. On the other hand, music has proven to have a powerful impact on human mental and social processes. This paper is an attempt to solve this ostensive paradox. My initial thesis is that one cannot understand musical phenomena and behaviours by grasping any representational meaning in the sense that philosophical theories of representational semantics dominated by linguistic approaches and philosophy of mind have recently proposed that concept. I claim that musical phenomena and behaviours can be merged into a meaningful unity by virtue of being related to one another as well as to the world and others. In tying in with Daniel N. Stern’s term ‘forms of vitality’ that refers to the relational experience of vitality, my thesis holds that music is to be found in its ‘sonorous forms of vitality’ that are shaped in relation to the world and others. I thereby refute Eduard Hanslick’s view of musical formalism in aesthetics, which sees “tonally moving forms” as constituted merely through intra-musical relationships. Sonorous forms of vitality might be able to pick out relevant aspects in the world, while not having a representational relation to the world, involving basal processes such as covert and overt imitation or re-enactment rather than complex interpretation. This paper discusses the extent to which such an experiential approach to understanding music is central to a philosophy through popular music—with special focus on sonorous forms of vitality that are dependent on social identity and make existential feelings explicit.
Toby Young, “The Aesthetics of Distortion”
Popular music has an extraordinary capacity to turn one group’s aesthetic rejects —for instance lo-fi production or (seemingly) untrained vocal and instrumental technique — into another group’s aesthetic ideal. The complex re-appropriation of sonic hallmarks traditionally associated with beauty and ugliness, such as the glitch of Auto-Tune and its redistribution of musical labour (Provenzano 2019), or the reclamation of the scratch of vinyl and its rationalisation along racial and class lines (Williams 2013) open up a complex landscape of aesthetic transformation from the ‘damaged’ and ‘imperfect’ to the artistically authentic. From the first time The Kinks infamously cut open their speaker cone, distortion – sitting somewhere between noise and burnished imperfection – has become an important sonic quality for producers in their search for auditory truth. Drawing on work by Martin Heidegger (1998; 1977) – particularly his discussion of technological unconcealment as a mechanism of the revelation of the alétheic – and Andy Hamilton’s (1990) discussion of imperfection, this paper will consider the philosophical implications of distortion as a technique of beauty and consider the ‘way in’ that this aspect of production offers us to the practice of philosophising through popular music.
Veronika Muchitsch, “Remediations of Genre and Gender in ‘Genrefluid’ Spotify Playlists”
In recent marketing efforts, Spotify has advertised several ‘genreless’ or ‘genrefluid’ playlists to respond to changing listening habits of its users, which are purportedly decreasingly governed by genre. Introduced in 2019, Spotify’s editorial playlist Lorem illustrates these efforts. As head curator Lizzy Szabo explains, ‘We don’t want to have a sound that’s too narrow because always want Lorem to be fluid. Even the name isn’t specific—it doesn’t really mean anything at all, so the users can dictate’ (Moore 2019). In this paper, I critically examine the discursive function of fluidity in remediations of genre and gender issued through Lorem.
In popular music studies, genre has been theorized as a mutual mediation of musical and social identity formations (Born 2011). Initial analyses of genre in music streaming suggest that the popular notion of ‘genrelessness’ renders invisible the associations between genre and social identity but sustains their marginalizing effects (Johnson 2020; Seaver 2021; James 2021). In this paper, I develop this work toward a critical examination of the mutual mediations of genre and gender in Spotify’s ‘genrefluid’ playlist Lorem. To this end, I mobilize Brock’s (2018) model for critical technocultural discourse analysis to examine the discursive formations, metadata, and sounding music of Lorem.
Building on theorizations of fluidity (1) as a logic in neoliberal subjectivation and (2) as a commodifiable gender identity (Cannon 2021), I propose that Lorem constructs (genre-)fluidity as authenticity and seek to detail the ways this construction simultaneously mediates formations of gender in metadata and sounding music. Spotify’s genre practices provide a lens through which to consider the shifting relationships between music and identity—changes whose understanding has become a prerequisite for Spotify’s continuous exertion of ‘platform power’ (Prey 2020) in the digital media industry.
Associates Session 1 (Stevens Institute of Technology/New York University) – Nietzsche: Philosophical Thoughts and Musical Experiments (chair: Aysegul Durakoglu) [Council Room]
Yunus Tuncel, “Nietzsche on Emotion and Affekt in Music”
The emotion/music association has been around for a long time and Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s early influence, also talks about this association in his book, The World as Will and Representation. Nietzsche has similar ideas in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy. What Schopenhauer and Nietzsche share is their critique of intellectualization of music. Over-rationalization takes away from the musical experience. This is a point Branco explores in her essay, which is the problem of Entsinnlichung in music. Musical experience opens up the senses, not to mention human emotions, as music directs itself to primordial affects in its own way. This is perhaps why music is often described as “the language of emotion” (see K. Higgins). Early Nietzsche and even later Nietzsche use this type of analogy, as Higgins show. To me, this is a misrepresentation; first, all arts invoke emotions in their own ways. Second, music-language analogy is a difficult one to establish, or anything can be likened to language. It is better to say that music has its own affective ways to invoke deep human emotions, independent of other arts. In this paper, I will explore this affectivity in music in Nietzsche and the kinds of affects that are unique to music. How do music’s constituent elements in tone and sound and their arrangement/ordering in tempo, rhythm and melody create affects and emotions? What kinds of affects and emotions are they in the large scheme of values? In what ways can music play the role of transfiguration of emotions? I will address these questions by way of Nietzsche, as I examine Nietzsche’s reflections on Wagner and Bizet and the musical affects their music create in his view.
Aysegul Durakoglu, “The Piano Music of Friedrich Nietzsche: An Analysis of Selected Compositions”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the few philosophers who have an intimate connection to music. Music became Nietzsche’s language transformed not only into his musical experience but also in his philosophical writings. Earlier in life, he was trained as a pianist, then his musical education and ambition urged him to compose music. Most of his compositions are from his late teens, inspired by leading composers like J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner. Even though Nietzsche did not follow a musical path, his intimacy with music greatly influenced his way of thinking. Nietzsche composed over 70 pieces between the years of 1862 and 1868, although only 50 of them survived. In this article, Nietzsche’s selected piano pieces will be analyzed to explore the structural and stylistic elements in relation with influences by his favorite composers. Among the most influential ones are Schumann, Brahms and Wagner who had a special place in his life. An eclectic and comprehensive method of analysis will be used as a tool to reveal the musical syntax with the purpose of understanding the referential meaning and philosophy behind Nietzsche’s selected piano compositions.
Michael Steinmann, “Thinking Through Music: On Non-Propositional Thought in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy”
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche famously claims that his way of thinking is similar, both in style and content, to the experience of music. Music is not only an object of his philosophical thought but rather a source or even a mode of thinking itself. For Nietzsche, music is expressive of a Dionysian, that is, pre-conceptual, ecstatic experience of the unity of nature and life. The paper traces both the similarities and differences between the ways in which music and philosophy are able to capture this unity. In order to understand the possible convergence between thought and music, it is necessary to abandon the assumption of a gap between the propositional and non-propositional aspects of musical art. Conversely, it is important to see that there are non-propositional aspects of meaning in thinking itself. The paper also indicates that Nietzsche holds on to this philosophical understanding of music in his later work.
Associates Session 2 (Performance Philosophy Network)– Opening up institutional structures in Performance Philosophy: Emergent strata of power and knowledge within music and sound (chair: Anthony Gritten) [SWB18]
Leona Jones, “New Forms to Accommodate the Mess”
The arts have their raison d’etre in questioning, refusing to be easy and predictable, refuting all the lazy binaries, and celebrating the contradictions of our chaotic and messy world. They also have to be relevant to their times. To paraphrase Samuel Beckett, now is the time to find new forms to accommodate the mess. Using the countercultural ideas and methods of Performance Writing, plus other expanded notions of performance, attempts will be made to discover heuristically elements that can contribute to these much-needed new forms.
Caroline Wilkins, “Re-thinking Forms of Mediation in Music and Sound: Interstitial Connections”
My aim during this session is to explore a ‘healthy’ interference between institutions and performance work by inviting specialist disciplines into the latter and, by reciprocation, applying performative methods to the former. Practical, aesthetic approaches will come into dialogue with theoretical approaches to reality, thus encouraging an interchange between all participants of this session. An integration of different forms of knowledge occurs when the ‘space’ of thinking each other is opened up.
Anthony Gritten, “Enough is Enough”
Toni Morrison proclaimed somewhere that “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to.” John Cage scribbled somewhere that “There is no need for a great deal of activity.” Jean-Luc Nancy noted somewhere that “we have to understand what sounds from a human throat without being language, which emerges from an animal gullet or from any kind of instrument, even from the wind in the branches: the rustling toward which we strain or lend an ear.” Without seeking forcibly to extract a REF-able signification by working through the juxtaposition of these “somewheres”, this presentation seeks to model a mode of scholarly engagement that inhabits the spaces between “somewheres” such as those above (1) with sensitivity towards the delicate boundaries between sound, silence, breath, and energy, and (2) with a nod towards the refusal of work. Sound and action in this presentation resonate collaboratively with Caroline Wilkins and Leona Jones, using live and pre-prepared sonic and visual materials.
References: Morrison, Tar Baby (1981); Cage, Child of Tree (Peters 1975); Nancy, Listening (French 2002 English 2007).
13:00-14:00 Lunch [Terrace Café]
14:00-16:40 Parallel Sessions II
Free Session 2 – Ontology, Text and Meaning in Flux (chair: Jeremy Coleman) [Council Room]
Caleb Labbe Phelan, “Adorno, Benjamin, and the Task of Musical Translation”
In this paper, I consider the significance of philosophical literature for our understanding of the performance of Western art music: how might we conceive of the musical performer as translator of music-notational texts? I first highlight how Walter Benjamin’s remarks on literary translation in “The Task of the Translator” (1923) are applied by Theodor Adorno to the task of musical interpretation in his unfinished text, Towards A Theory of Musical Reproduction (2001). Benjamin sees the translator as the agent tasked to liberate a “pure language” from the original text – a language which balances freedom with the demand for fidelity. Adorno similarly argues that the rigorous interpretations with which performers of Western art music are tasked are most effective when they are freest: the musical score lives on as recognizable sound because of its realization in the performer’s individual idiom. Gianmario Borio (2007) and Alessandro Cecchi (2017) have critiqued Adorno’s application of Benjaminian translation because it implies a change of medium from text (score) to sound (performance) not pertaining to the text-to-text medium of the literary translation.
In response, I draw on philosopher Willi Goetschel’s argument (2014), after Jacques Derrida (1998), that translation always passes between senses and media, despite the seeming impossibility of this feat; the lack of a true metalanguage between media and languages indicates that translation is possible precisely because it deals in non-equivalences and not in spite of them – evidenced by the fact that it is performed every day and everywhere. As such, I argue that musical translation can be seen as both interpretation and reproduction of textual meaning in a performative moment which at once remains faithful to the original text, and necessarily transcends it in giving the original a sonic afterlife. This Adornian-Benjaminian understanding of the nature of musical interpretation-as-translation points to a more specific theoretical conception of fidelity and freedom within the relation between text and musical sounding applicable to both philosophy and musicology.
Iain Campbell, “Experimenting at the Borders: Outline for a Historical Ontology of Experimental Music”
In this paper I contribute to ongoing critical evaluations of the ‘ontological turn’ in musical research, a ‘turn’ which is evidenced in (new) materialist, assemblage theory, and Actor-Network approaches to music. I argue that these approaches risk the conflicting tendencies of rendering ‘music’ as, on one pole, a transhistorical, idealised artform, or, on the other, a merely epiphenomenal effect of a given social configuration. These tendencies, I put forward, contribute to a difficulty in accounting for how types of abstraction and concreteness relate in constituting the term ‘music’. In their stead, I adopt the notion of ‘historical ontology’, as developed in Foucauldian genealogy, Marxist theory, philosophy of science, and philosophy of contemporary art, in order to suggest an outline of what I will call a historical ontology of music. The specific target of my analysis is the notion of ‘experimental music’, for which ‘ontological’ perspectives have often been deemed especially apt, due to the perception of experimental music as concerning, in what proves to be a tense coupling, artistic objects that are at once non-representational in character and non-unified in their instantiations. Following the call made by Benjamin Piekut in the introduction to the 2014 collection Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music, and the differentiations and tensions that Lydia Goehr has highlighted inhere within the term ‘experimental’, my aim in this paper is add to the project of taking experimental music from a ‘summary statement’ to a ‘working concept’. Where ‘ontological’ perspectives on experimental music have tended to leave the self-conception of experimental music uninterrogated, here I am to put into focus how the claim to experimentation in the field of music functions as a malleable staking out of territory. Rather than understanding experimental music as only a contingent social configuration or as an essential approach to sound, the goal in proposing a historical ontology of experimental music is to suggest a critical discourse that can show how ‘experimental music’ as a concept, field, and practice, is produced and reproduced.
Jennifer Ronyak, “Form as an Ideal Social Relation: Kate Soper’s Musical and Dramatic Reading of Aristotle’s Metaphysics in IPSA DIXIT (2017)”
The relationship between form and matter, or hylomorphism, is a central preoccupation in a number of Aristotle’s texts, including in the Metaphysics. While the basic concept at first seems easy to grasp, questions such as whether form and matter are really as distinct as they seem, as well as how form operates to hold matter together have been frequently asked of these texts. American composer Kate Soper’s IPSA DIXIT (2017), a chamber work featuring several of Aristotle’s philosophical texts set for soprano, violin, flute, and percussion, offers a new musical commentary on the problem of hylomorphism. Namely, in movement five of this Pulitzer Prize finalist work, in which the soprano speaks and sings a condensed version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Soper suggests that ideal social collaboration offers a meaningful artistic representation of the broader role of form in ordering the matter of the world we live in. This point comes through clearly on the stage, even as it is also the result of the unusually collaborative creative process that engendered the piece. On stage, Soper makes this point when the soprano addresses the difficulty of understanding the problems attending form and matter. The soprano assists the instrumentalists in breaking apart their instruments and physically trading parts of those instruments with one another, so that they can engage in an intensified form of collaboration by playing with unusual techniques on each other’s instruments. In this moment, this newly configured collaboration replaces a seeming unsettling disintegration of objects with a new unifying form—the form of ideally interdependent social relations. This musically made argument is also an outgrowth of the way that Soper developed the piece with her chamber ensemble, Wet Ink: many of the musical ideas grew out of collaborative, improvised sketches as the musicians met with each other. Ultimately, Soper’s Metaphysics movement offers intensely collaborative chamber music-making—both staged and in the background—as a new way of thinking about hylomorphism within Aristotle’s thought, as well as a reminder that the best way to tackle challenging philosophical questions is with interlocutors we can trust.
Associates Session 3 (Neurobiology of Music Study Group) – Musical Thinking (chair: Piotr Zieliński/Piotr Podlipniak) [SWB21; hybrid]
Piotr Podlipniak, “The Experience of Musical Structure as a Part of Preconceptual Proto-Consciousness”
The content of human conscious experience is composed of many different forms of awareness, from simple sensations to various kinds of feelings and elaborate visual and conceptual categories. Most probably, not only humans but also other animals possess different types of consciousness. It has been hypothesized that human consciousness evolved from simpler forms of awareness. The aim of this proposal is to indicate that the emotional reactions to musical syntax represent a form of preconceptual proto-consciousness that preceded the appearance of a human conceptual mind. Specifically, the sensations of stability and instability that accompany listening to e.g. pitch center and out-of-key notes respectively can represent a pre-lingual form of communication based on a proto-consciousness. Similarly, the sensation of rhythmic entrainment can be a part of this preconceptual proto-consciousness. On the one hand, these sensations resemble the emotional experience of other forms of vocal communication such as crying and laughter. On the other hand, they depend on culture specific features such as the distribution of pitch classes in a particular musical culture. Taking into account an increasing role of culture in the evolution of hominins, it is reasonable to assume that the emotional reactions to musical syntax became a transitional state between an evolutionarily older form of consciousness based on simple emotional reactions and the younger – composed of vivid conceptual categories. These two forms of consciousness can be interpreted as Aristotelian “sensitive soul” and the “rational soul”.
Anna Chęćka, “An Incorporated Thought of the Performer”
The philosophy of music willingly abandons work-centered analysis and turns to the ‘drastic perspective’ of a huge, phenomenal explosion: a performance (C. Abbate). A growing number of publications devoted to the performing arts emphasizes the perspective of an artist immersed in the process of the musical interpretation (J. Rink, N. Cook et al.). In my presentation I analyze the possible thinking modes attributed to the performer. Are the types of musical thinking proposed by J. Levinson (2003), as well as the types of musical activity of consciousness classified by him as ‘productive’ and ‘receptive’ (generating, interpreting, determining), sufficient to describe the mental process in the case of playing an instrument or singing? Would they stand up to the test of criticism formulated today from the perspective of empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics?
Violetta Kostka, “Musical Thinking as Conceptual Integration”
In their Conceptual Blending Theory Fauconnier and Turner claim that thinking is based mainly on the process of conceptual integration in which “mental spaces” are activated. The term “mental space” may be defined as an area of concepts connected with one particular frame. The basic diagram of Conceptual Blending Network (CBN) contains four such mental spaces: two inputs, a generic space and a blended space. The relationships between these mental spaces are based on different principles, f.e. concepts from one input map into concepts from the other input. Conceptual blending happens to us regardless of the discipline and music is no exception. When it comes to specific works, new blended spaces can arise on two levels. They can pertain to the combination of diverse structural concepts for the creation of new melodies, harmonies or textures, as well as involve the integration of musical and non-musical spaces for the creation of new metaphors or analogies. As an example, the author presents A Kaleidoscope for M.C.E. for cello by contemporary Polish composer Paweł Szymański. The CBN1 shows that the work was created from two following inputs: a fugue in the style of J.S. Bach and a set of mathematical and musical ideas. The CBN2 shows an analogy between a real kaleidoscope and the music. It is an analogy because the hidden fugue produces new motives just as the pattern in a kaleidoscope brings new visual figures and the rhythmic symmetries reflect the kaleidoscopic symmetries.
Piotr Zieliński, “Neurobiology of Musical Thinking as an Interdisciplinary Tool in the Incoming Paradigm Shift of Medicine”
More than speech, music perception and creation are among the highest brain functions. Neurobiology of speech is being widely researched and its methodology is well developed. However, the methodology of musical thinking is much younger and is still developing in modern neurobiology. Our project combines the perspective of naturalistically oriented musicology with neuroaesthetics and practical medicine. The starting point is the question whether language and music brain circuits are totally separate in the brain or not. Some emphasis is placed on the comparison of musical syntax and its similarities and differences to language syntax. This is accompanied with a critical analysis of neurocognitive model of music perception proposed by S. Koelsh in 2011. So far we have been able to determine which methods, used in speech research, are useful or promising in the research of music processing in patients with aphasia (after stroke). Our study reveals the potential brain networks available to practical brain monitoring, assuming that the highest brain functions may be monitored. Better understanding of the mental processes involved in listening to and performing music give us better knowledge and backgrounds for practical, cortico-cortical neurophysiological monitoring of the highest brain functions, not only in musicians. So it turns out that it is music that sheds new light on the knowledge of the brain. Moreover, it is music that allows us to humanize medicine in the 21st century, because we are experiencing a paradigm shift in treating brain diseases thanks to cooperation of life science with humanistic and social science.
Free Session 3 – Deleuze, Poststructuralism and Materialism (chair: Naomi Waltham-Smith) [River Room]
Patrick Valiquet – “Schismogenesis as Anamnesis: The Nontranslation of Poststructuralist Music Theory”
Anglophone universities generally today teach an invented history in which French poststructuralism originated with an exclusively linguistic focus and then had to be applied to music by ‘new musicologists’ trading in ideas from American philosophy and literary criticism in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, this narrative erases the work of the francophone music and sound scholars who articulated their work with poststructuralism as it first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. The earliest poststructuralist music writing remains ignored and untranslated, even while statements by prominent musicologists about the implications of canonical poststructuralist thinking function as crucial scholarly currency.
My paper introduces the work of the path-breaking music researchers who taught in the now-defunct Centre universitaire expérimental de Vincennes in direct conversation with writers like Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Serres and Monique Wittig. The focus will be on Daniel Charles, noted semiotician and French translator of Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality, known to anglophones primarily for his interviews with John Cage published as For the Birds in 1981, and Ivanka Stoïanova, Julia Kristeva’s younger sister and Charles’ doctoral student. Trained in anthropology, linguistics, phenomenology and psychoanalysis, these musicologists addressed concerns around mediality, affect and embodiment, ecology and evolutionary biology, and gender and sexuality, few of which would be recognised in mainstream anglophone musicological discourse until decades later.
Discussion will focus on recovering forgotten reflections on affect and memory in Charles’ Le temps de la voïx (1978) and Stoïanova’s Geste-texte-musique (1978), both of which anticipate concepts and critical positions normally associated with Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux (1980). Pointing to later appropriations of these ideas by Georgina Born, Steven Feld and Gary Tomlinson, I will explain how the forgetting of the experimental music scholarship at Vincennes engenders a split in anglophone historiographies of poststructuralism, depoliticising poststructuralist concepts and making them always newly available for application. With the help of new translations of Charles’ and Stoïanova’s contributions, it becomes possible to understand this gesture as an instance of Batesonian ‘schismogenesis’, dynamically reproducing the boundary between theoretical past and present.
Chieh-Ting Hsieh, “The Ghost of Writing: On the Correlation between Music Notation and Phonography from the Perspectives of Media and Culture Studies”
What is the relation between music notation and phonography? While phonography, as writing (graph) of the voice (phono), is often considered different from music notation, which is the writing of music based on symbols and signs, I argue that, from the perspective of media and culture studies (Medien- und Kulturwissenschaft), they are not as different as one presumes, in the sense that they are both based on the “technique of writing” that reflects the same conception of time and that they are both haunted by ‘ghosts’ and Geist.
In comparison to the voice that speaks for the soul, writing, as Jacques Derrida indicated, implies the body in death. Based on Derrida’s reflection on writing, I draw on Friedrich Kittler’s idea of “writing(-down)” (aufschreiben) to argue for the inner correlation between music notation and phonography, both of which write down “time” as a “timeline in space.” The “writing” of music notation opens up a space for music in which the concept of “music work” (Musikwerk) is developed. While that space is based on the lines on which the tones are indicated with symbols and signs, aren’t the lines, which are the clearest manifestation of continuous time in writing, like what Theodor Adorno termed Hörstreifen in phonography? The writing of the phonograph also encloses the voice in a continuous line in a space, i.e. a line being inscribed on a cylinder. As the voice on the phonograph is, for Kittler, often haunted by a “ghost,” the reflection on the “technique of writing(-down)” brings up the question of whether that “ghost” is already implied in the Geist in the music work that is also developed through the “writing” of music notation? I argue that, it is the continuous “timeline” in the space of writing that makes the music notation and phonography the “body in death” in Derrida’s sense, that is, the body haunted by “ghosts” and Geist.
Jared Holton, “Gilles Deleuze, Modal Music, and Territorialization: The Case of Andalusian Music in Tunisia”
Gilles Deleuze posits that repetition, as formulated through the senses and processes of logic, is actually composed of a “play of singularities” or, in short, difference (1968). Ethnographic events manifest this play and show how singularities bundle together to assemble social and cultural formations. Deleuzian thinking defies conventional representational logic based in claims of identity, opposition, analogy, or resemblance, by grounding knowledge in multiplicities, emergences, and intensities. Music scholars have utilized this multifarious world of Deleuze—and that with Guattari (1980)—in recent work to highlight listening practices, materialist ethnographies, and social becoming (Gill 2017; Moisala et al. 2017). My paper seeks to contribute to this growing area of analysis by applying Deleuzian concepts to the performance practice of the Tunisian modal-musical system called the ṭubū‘. Tunisian musicians and pedagogues teach and practice both the ṭubū‘ and the Eastern Mediterranean maqāmāt modal systems; and they acknowledge them as parallel to some extent. But, my fieldwork at the Higher Institute of Music in Sfax (2018-2019) reveals that Tunisians also mark certain melodic-rhythmic clichés in the ṭubū‘ with distinction, in that they carry social and cultural difference. The reoccurrence of these clichés in performance practice, provides a media interface (pace Galloway 2012) for musicians and listeners to make relations to land, their own bodies, and their ecologies. Some Tunisian master musicians conceptualize this process as “fingerprinting sound,” which corresponds to territorialization – a signature philosophical concept of Deleuze and Guattari (1980; 2007). I demonstrate this process in a case study from the Tunisian Testour Festival of Malūf and Traditional Arab Music in 2019, and discuss how musicians use this interface to align difference with certain forms of curated meaning. The outcome of this analysis productively networks the structures of music theory to processes of affect and signification.
Lee Cannon-Brown, “Music Theory, Materialism, and Speculation”
With the rise of a material turn in the humanities, music theory has enjoyed a recent expansion of its tools and repertoire. Musical instruments have been modelled in Jonathan de Souza’s phenomenological theory, and in the Latourian work of Eric Drott, Jenniver Iverson, and Brian Kane, networks of objects and actors have led to new insights about spectral music, electronic music, and jazz. As much as they invite variety and pluralism, however, current materialist approaches also foreclose certain possibilities for music theory. Human- or actor-centered materialisms stand at odds with music theory’s speculative tradition, which seeks to theorize music outside the domain of human practice, or “musica humana.” Rather than denying the new materialist approaches outlined above, speculative music theory can benefit greatly from its own unique materialist perspective, from a materialism that dares to think beyond immediate human access. Philosophically, new speculative music theory might find its strongest ally in the aptly named “speculative materialism” of Quentin Meillassoux. Taken up recently by music historian Gary Tomlinson, Meillassoux’s position rests largely on two claims: that post-Kantian philosophy is plagued by anthropocentrism, and that a philosophical distinction should be resurrected between primary and secondary qualities. For music theory to heed Meillassoux’s ideas, I argue, pre-Kantian music theorists ought to be reconsidered, especially the 17th century theorist Marin Mersenne. Across Mersenne’s music theory, speculation stands at a fruitful crossroads between dogmatism and anthropocentrism, suggesting new strategies for the present.
16.40-17.15 Coffee [Terrace Café]
17.15-18.45 Keynote II [Great Hall and online]
Ana Maria Ochoa, “Extractivism and Sound Technologies in Ethnographic Media” (chair: Friedlind Riedel)
This paper explores the notions of extractivism and the responses to it, in the history of ethnographic media in Latin America. On the one hand, it questions historical understandings of how sound media have been analyzed as constituting the public sphere by recasting the way ethnographic media were historically framed with regards to commercial sound technologies. On the other, it raises questions regarding the paradox of decolonial projects in times of climate change by exploring the relations between the need for a situated knowledge about sound while addressing the planetary dimensions of contemporary struggles. The paper draws from archival and ethnographic work in different parts of the Americas.
19.15 Conference dinner [Masala Zone Covent Garden]
Friday 8th July
9.00-10.00 Registration and coffee [Great Hall]
10.00-12.40 Parallel sessions III
Free Session 4 – Theories of Music in History (chair: Alex Douglas) [SWB 21; hybrid]
Miglė Miliūnaitė, “Two Ways of Thinking about Music in Augustinian Writings”
St. Augustine’s ambivalent thinking about music gives rise to different interpretations and intriguing disagreements in contemporary research. There are two main views on Augustine’s relationship with the Ancient tradition: the first, known as developmentalism, sees De Musica’s ‘classical optimism’ as gradually giving way to Christian ideas on the fall and humanity’s radical dependence on grace; the second, which could be called continualism, articulates the centrality of Christian ideas of creation, the fall and salvation as a basically consistent account of grace across Augustine’s corpus (Kenyon 2019). However, certain contradications remain between his theoretical and practical reflections that are not fully resolved by either approach. Did Augustine not apply his theoretical considerations in practice, as was argued by H. I. Marrou (Marrou 1958)? What do these disagreements reveal about the relationship between rational reflection on music and authentic experience of it? This paper suggests that Augustine’s reflections on music can be interpreted on two levels. Drawing on the theories of A. Dihle and R. Puchniak, the present analysis attempts to show that while Augustine presents an ontological perspective on music and develops it in his theorical treatises, in his practical considerations he does not try to fit the religious experience into “an ontological frame of thinking”, but uses another, psychological way of speaking, which emerges from the reciprocity of the relationship between the human soul and God. This shift, most conspicuous in Confessions, liberates music from objective demands and demonstrates the limits of its rationalization.
Daniel Regnier, “Al-Fārābī on Music as Science: The Composer’s Perspective”
In his Great Treatise on Music (Kitāb al-Mūsīqī al-Kabīr) the philosopher Al-Fārābī offers an account of music as a “science” (‘ilm) and as a “theoretical art (discipline)” (ṣinā‘a naẓariyya). Al-Fārābī attempts to account for music in the terms outlined by Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics. But this, Al-Fārābī admits, is not as easy as it seems, for the principles of music are not obvious. Al-Fārābī argues – not without an element of polemic – that music is primarily an empirical science, the object of which is an already existing body of music. He thus takes issue with theories that put musica speculativa before the actual practices of music. But since the object of musical study is created by people, it turns out that the science of music is in some sense what we might call a “social science.” In fact, Al-Fārābī himself explicitly asks the question if music is a “natural” phenomenon. Although Al-Fārābī does trace music back to natural dispositions in human beings, he also suggests that it emerges in historical processes; that is, Al-Fārābī is aware that music is in some sense a product of what we would call “culture.” In general, Al-Fārābī’s view of music as science is very complex, subtle and almost completely unstudied. Al-Fārābī’s view of music as science raises many issues which are relevant to discussions in contemporary musicology, ethnomusicology and philosophy of music. In this paper, I attempt to provide an outline of Al-Fārābī’s basic understanding of music as science. I argue that his emphasis on and particular understanding of the relation between theory and practice in music can be understood as being elaborated from what I call the “composer’s perspective.”
Roberta Vidic, “Tartini’s ‘Musical Inference’ between Epistemology and History of Harmony”
Uncertain and tentative reasoning is common in everyday thinking, as well as in legal argumentation and scientific hypothesis construction. This ‘defeasible reasoning’ has nowadays become more and more important in computer science and artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, its origin can be traced back to ancient philosophy. My paper will analyze the use of this kind of reasoning in the writings of the Venetian theorist Francesco Antonio Calegari (1732) and his student Giuseppe Tartini (1767). Tartini explicitly introduces a term for ‘musical inference’ (fondamento musicale) as a third kind of reasoning in his epistemological and historical discussion of the principles of harmony, written in response to the article “Fondamental” of Jean le Rond d’Alembert. The current convention in interdisciplinary ‘informal logic’ is to postulate, besides deduction and induction, a variously named ‘third category’ of inference (Walton 2001). This generally happens in practice, where uncertainty additionally comes into play (Lumer 2016, Harris et al. 2016). ‘Musical inference’ is therefore likely to appear at those moments in the history of music theory, when theory is closely related to musical practice. A telling example is the role played by the introduction of rule of the octave in the origin and foundation of modern harmony. In current scholarship, we observe controversies over the rule of the octave as a valid criterium for a modern notion of functionality in harmony (Christensen 2017; Holtmeier 2017; Guillotel-Nothmann 2019; Martin 2019). As my discussion will show, the rule of the octave is central both in a controversy between Calegari and Vallotti, and in that on “Fondamental.”
Rafael Echeverria [online], “On the Use and Disadvantage of History for the New Formenlehre”
The relationship of nineteenth-century sonata form with its eighteenth-century predecessors has been highly contested within the New Formenlehre. This issue is best encapsulated by Steven Vande Moortele’s distinction between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ approaches to nineteenth-century form. The negative approach, epitomised by Sonata Theory’s application of ‘dialogic form’ and ‘deformation’, interprets nineteenth-century form against its historical predecessors. This approach emphasises how nineteenth-century music relies upon the past and subsequently diverges from it. By contrast, the positive approach, whose most ardent advocate is Julian Horton, avoids interpreting nineteenth-century form in relation to the eighteenth century. Instead, it emphasises the period’s particularity and analyses the era’s formal language by considering its contemporaneous context. Beyond their disagreement over one’s choice of context, these competing perspectives point toward fundamentally different conceptions of history, presenting an opportunity for deeper philosophical insights about the relationship between history and formal analysis. This paper reframes the negative-positive dichotomy by demonstrating both approaches’ common philosophical foundations. Firstly, I complicate Sonata Theory’s associations with the negative approach by decoupling its reliance on eighteenth-century context from its dialogic concerns. By elucidating a more fundamental dialogic disposition underlying Sonata Theory, I enable more productive conversations with Horton’s positive approach. This discussion recontextualises the positive approach’s focus on discontinuity and the independence of historical periods, which draws from the genealogical perspectives of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault. By reconceptualising this issue using Fredric Jameson’s ‘dialectic of period and break’, I demonstrate how both negative and positive approaches rely upon the same dialogic disposition. This dialectical interpretation of the negative-positive dichotomy highlights the deeper dialogic relationship that underlies the analysis of musical form.
Free Session 5 – Contemporary Resonances (chair: Fiorenzo Palermo) [SWB 18]
Monika Voithofer – “Crisis sounds so cool!” Contemporary Music, Intermedia Art Practices and the End of Autonomy?
At the height of the global financial crisis in 2009, the German composer Johannes Kreidler created “Charts Music”. In this audiovisual piece Kreidler derived melodies from stock charts and arranged them with the Microsoft music software “Songsmith”. The musical material in “Charts Music” is determined on the one hand by the tonal possibilities of the software and on the other by the extramusical form of the stock charts used, such as the graphical representation of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In analyzing aesthetic aspects of production and theory concerning “Charts Music”, in my paper I will argue that different levels and notions of ‘crisis’ can be identified in the piece: Aside from the artistic appropriation of sociopolitical crises represented by stock charts, the purposefully lo-fi sound of the piece created through the use of “Songsmith”, can be seen as an institutional critique and hence “Charts Music” as a political work of art. On another level, the theoretical discourse surrounding Kreidlers work reveals another much-debated crisis: the crisis of contemporary music due to a stated exhaustion of the so-called progress of musical material. In 2012 Kreidler declared – to much controversy – a “New Conceptualism” in contemporary music, in which the digital revolution would enable new forms of constitutive interdependence of different media and materials. Following this declaration, I will trace the development of intermedia art practices in historical European and U.S. postwar avant-garde movements to demonstrate their influence on and, as I argue, continuation in fact in the “New Conceptualism” as a post-conceptual art practice.
Mark Saccomano, “Chaos and Coherence: The Effects of Timbre on the Perception of Space”
Space in music is typically understood solely as a directional attribute of sound sources, a compositional parameter governing the location and trajectory of a work’s instrumental forces. Scholars of recorded music treat the spectral cues that are indicative of a performance environment (whether naturally present or engineered in the studio) as an integral part of the musical work (Dockwray and Moore 2008; Clarke 2013). These cues present a sonic representation of a particular setting when the recording is played back by a listener. But timbral qualities of recorded music do more than simply recreate the acoustics of a virtual performance space: when played back in our own surroundings, they alter the perception of our actual space as well.
Two extremes of timbral complexity—the chaotic and the simple—illustrate how this spatial transformation is effected. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodied perception, and its elaboration by Mark Hansen (2005) and Scott Marratto (2012), I discuss a pair of recorded works that afford a spatial experience beyond that of mere simulation: George Crumb’s Black Angels by the Kronos Quartet, and an electroacoustic piece titled “-” by Ryoji Ikeda. When direct and reflected sound cannot be distinguished from one another—as with the chaotic vibrations of a tam-tam, or the simple additive properties of sine waves—the dimensions of the recorded environment are effaced and the virtual setting drops away. By obscuring the spatial traces that timbre ordinarily conveys, recorded music can draw attention to our personal listening space and the malleability of its proportions, thus providing us with new possibilities for action and meaning.
Christine Dysers – “‘Wild Inside Itself’: Recurrence, Rootlessness, and Resistance in Marina Rosenfeld’s ‘Deathstar’ Series”
Marina Rosenfeld’s Deathstar series (2017–) is an iterative project that exists in multiple versions and through various media. From its initial state – a sculptural plexiglass orb housing a seven-microphone array that records the immediate localities and temporalities of the gallery in which it is placed –, Deathstar has accumulated into an ongoing array of works, ranging from a site-specific sound installation to a work for piano solo, a piano concerto, a work for chamber ensemble, an internet-based video work, and several sets of visual artworks.
As Deathstar is endlessly repeated within different contexts, spaces, and constellations, the project calls into question the traditional dichotomies between beginnings and endings, pasts and futures, things remembered and things forgotten. Instead, the project suggests a much more chaotic, speculative, and open structure, in which time neither flows nor stops, but rather folds, echoes, and doubles back on itself.
This paper takes Rosenfeld’s repetitive aesthetics as a starting point for analytical inquiry. Reading the Deathstar project alongside Georges Bataille’s philosophical notion of ‘the formless’ (l’informe), the act of repeating is hypothesised as a strategy for radical subversion and, ultimately, resistance. I argue that it is through repetition that the artist seeks to re-think musical, and, by extension, socio-political structures of authority and control.
Associates Session 4 (UK Ecomusicology Study Group), Music, Philosophy, and the Environment (chair: Dylan Price) [River Room]
Amanda Bayley, “Developing an Epistemology of Listening from/for Environmental Empathy”
This presentation will consider how soundscape perception can help to develop an epistemology of listening. Attending ethnographically and aurally to that which lies beyond the human enables us to be in better relationship with the world around us. Examples will be included from two transdisciplinary projects: ‘Hear Water: building environmental empathy through deep listening’ and ‘Ecotones: Soundscapes of Trees’. Hear Water introduces young community members to ideas about climate change, freshwater ecology and underwater sound, accompanied by skills-based workshops where participants build hydrophones, then record underwater soundscapes. The workshops aim to increase knowledge and understanding of climate change and local environmental issues that impact upon blue spaces. Techniques of bioacoustic monitoring of aquatic life are combined with listening practices associated with acoustic ecology, sound art and ecomusicology. The ‘Ecotones’ project seeks new ways to communicate an awareness of environmental issues through the soundscapes of trees in rural and urban environments in the UK and South Korea. Both projects draw attention to the significance and diversity of sounds from both human and beyond-human worlds, and their impacts on each other. By articulating the relational perspective between the human and more-than-human these experiences provide the tools for developing an epistemology of listening.
Léo Charlier, “Ontologies of Musical Organicism: Insights from Deleuze/Guattari”
The concept of organicism has been pervasive in music criticism, coming to stand in for notions of unity and coherence, and latterly becoming a criterion of excellence in art (Solie, 1980). This development is inextricable from the rise of biology as central intellectual paradigm in the late 18th century. Indeed, comparisons of musical works or processes to plant life risk appearing either superficial, or excessively prescriptive and taxonomic. Taking as starting point Watkins’ call for a re-defined, posthuman organicism (2017), I will explore how the joint writings of Deleuze and Guattari can provide a methodological and conceptual way into an organicism of music, taking the music of Henri Dutilleux as a case study.
What is an organism, and what makes it alive, or have the appearance of being so? For May, ‘To read Deleuze is to be introduced into a world of proliferating beings and new forms of life’ which ‘inhere in the fabric of our existence.’ (2005, 15). I shall explore how, particularly in Mille plateaux, Deleuze and Guattari develop a number of concepts such as the rhizome, which do not serve merely as substitutes to existing imagery, but disrupt conventional understanding of organic qualities, and the boundaries between the organic and the ‘inorganic’. Moreover, I shall discuss how the centrality of ontology in their philosophical programme, and its emphasis on creativity, can open up rather than foreclose possibilities for analysis and interpretation, acting as a heuristic for the use of analogy in music studies.
Jess Ward, “Christina Kubisch’s ‘Electrical Walks’: Environmental Aesthetics and Digital Soundscapes”
Modern cities are hives of digital activity. As individuals are increasingly plugged into technology, those living in the Western world generate immense amounts of data – ephemeral information framed as part of a technological “cloud”. But what do these turns of phrase bely? Colloquial media framings of the notion of “environment” in the Anthropocene have centred narratives of ecological destruction, perpetuating a longstanding constellation of environment, nature, and verdancy. Conversely, discussions of listening in urban environments have often focused on perceptual and sociological aspects, leaving the infrastructure underlying this in a state of comparative invisibility that enables its ubiquity. Kubisch’s ‘Electric Walks’ – in which participants are given electromagnetic headphones and proceed on sound walks around city centres – invite direct engagement with this infrastructure whose demands fuel present ecological crises. Through the sonification of digital activity, Kubisch brings to the fore what Alison Carruth terms the ‘micropolitics of energy’ – each signal that provides the soundscapes Kubisch explores is part of a global web of server farms, undersea cables, and “clouds” that serve corporations that profit from the monetisation of each of these digital traces. This in turn, I argue, reflects pertinent questions back to our theorisations and aestheticisations of acoustic ecologies and environment in the Anthropocene. Just as Adorno once brought the commodification of music to the fore, how does ubiquitous and portable listening form part of a new commodity in which our behavioural patterns become data streams for the mining of human life for profit for surveillance capitalism? How do we theorise the notion of “environment” within a societal structure where our emplacement and movement within said environments becomes part of corporate behavioural surplus?
Dylan Price, “Dvořák, Phenomenology, and the Politics of Affect”
This article explores the politics of phenomenological expression in the nineteenth century, considering problems of landscape, mobility, and affect using the concept of Stimmung. Roughly translated as ‘mood’ or ‘attunement’, Stimmung suggests an embodied obfuscation of subject-object distinctions. The concept has recently attracted attention from scholars of the environmental humanities, offering a means of breaking down the distinction between human and environment. But Stimmung finds a vibrant intellectual history in nineteenth- and twentieth-century phenomenological thought, and was popularised by artists, authors, and musicians well before the current resurgence of interest.
The paper begins by surveying expressions of Stimmung and its cognates, especially nálada in Czech. Its case study is Antonín Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs (1880), in which Stimmung is realised through themes of tuning. Prior Stimmung research has typically concerned itself with senses of localism, landscape, and place-based belonging, and the paper uses these examples to introduce key themes in the existing scholarly literature. But it departs from prevailing research parameters to argue that Stimmung can also be used to discuss mobility. As an ideological gathering-point—distinct from real-life Romani communities—‘The Gypsy’ was bound up with movement across national borders within the Habsburg Empire and beyond, a pejorative emblem of alterity to be kept at arm’s length. But the affective, material, and phenomenological qualities of Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs (their Stimmung) bring this sense of maintained observational distance into question, establishing a powerfully proximate connection to this imagined symbol of dangerous itinerancy. This advances a far less benign conception of Stimmung as a philosophical concept, and a more politicised affective model for ecocritical investigation.
Associates Session 5 (University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz) – The Epistemic Power of Music (chair: Ferdia Stone-Davis) [Lucas Theatre and online]
Andreas Dorschel, “’Phantasia’: Epistemology into Art”
Western musical practices have been wedded to ‘theory’, in particular philosophy, since Classical Antiquity. Studying the connection can shed light on both. The notion of phantasia (to use the Greek form of the term) offers a fascinating case study. Derived from phainesthai, ‘to appear’, phantasia was originally a technical term of classical Greek epistemology (Plato, Aristotle), refined through distinction in Late Antiquity (Augustine). Medieval music theorists then applied the latter version to imagined sounds. During the Renaissance, the notion was further developed to designate practices of musical improvisation. These then crystallized into compositions; from the 16th century on, fantasia, fantasy, Phantasie turns into the name of a musical genre. In exploring this process of transformation, the elements that are altered and those that are retained prove equally instructive.
Matthew Pritchard, “Postmodern Epistemology or Modernist Aesthetics? The Ambiguous Sources of (Supposedly) ‘Postmodern’ Theory”
Abstract to follow
Deniz Peters, “Musical Experimentation: Epistemic, or Aesthetic?”
What is musical experimentation? Musical experimentation can, for one, be thought of as poietic risk taking (de Assis, 2015). In its characteristic departure from musical conventions, it differs from controlled scientific experimentation under a hypothesis, highlighting an attitude of openness that is part of a certain experimentalist approach (Goehr, 2015). Yet what motivates such open musical experimentation? Is the quest one of compositional or, more generally, musical originality, individuality and innovation? Or is there a quest for knowledge behind the experimentation that goes beyond the utility of producing the next distinguished work? What is to be made of Richard Barrett’s (2017) claim that all his compositional work experiments towards improving the understanding of the structure of the imagination? And does that understanding remain expressible in scores and works, but not in words – is it sui generis as Mersch (2015) holds? Or could cognitio sensitiva, as conceived by Baumgarten (1750), be connected to rational cognition in musical experimentation that questions and changes concepts, and thus be part of reason? I here hope to bring further clarity and differentiation to current understandings of the concept of musical experimentation, arguing that it can shift its explorative concerns between music making – call this experimenting with music – and understanding – call this experimenting through music. To distinguish between poietic and epistemic aims of musical experimentation helps with discerning what knowledges, if any, the artistic experimentation is concerned with. For the purpose of this short paper, I shall concentrate on the pivotal question of how musical experimentation can affect concepts, thus shifting from poietic to epistemic.
Anna Rezai, “Performing Music, Shaping Knowledge: Urban Space and Iranian Traditional Music”
Performance forms and rituals have been linked to human culture since ancient times. The Iranian Shi’i form of religious “theatrical” performance known as Ta’ziyeh possessed a dual existence as a popular and a state-supported form, especially in the Qajar period. This form of tragedy represents the complicated relationship between political power and popular religious observances in Iran. We can consider this religious musical performance as collaborative behavior mirroring overall structures and ideologies of the societies that engender it. Emile Durkheim (Durkheim 1976:456) and Max Weber (Weber 2002:266) carried the same idea about religious acts as a way of embodying a world view and changing the cognitive state of society members. In this paper, with the same point of view, I will suggest that Ta’ziyeh can be used as a guide for artistic research “for” art in the sense that it can help us understand and clarify radical changes that happened in the Qajar period in Iran.
12.40-13.30 Lunch [Terrace Café]
13.30-16.10 Parallel Sessions IV
Free Session 6 – Philosophy in Performance (chair: Derek Matravers) [River Room]
Jonas Lundblad, “The Conductor’s Sound: Sergiu Celibidache’s Phenomenology of Music”
Very few high-profiled musicians claim to base their work on a self-articulated systematic philosophy of music. Among 20th century orchestral conductors, Sergiu Celibidache is an exception. Although himself highly sceptical of any attempt to define music, Celibidache formulated a phenomenological approach to his art in a well-known 1985 lecture in Munich. This paper interprets the conductor’s stance against the background of his main sources, the composer Heinz Tiessen and the phenomenologist Nicolai Hartmann. A hallmark of Celibidache’s art was a kind of phenomenological reduction of multiplicity within a piece. The location of a single point of highest tension intended to discern an ideal unity, which in its turn allowed for a heightened perception of a multiplicity of undulating tension and relaxation within the work. A concomitant conviction that the art of interpretation is to lead the audience towards the ideal truth of a work made Celibidache adopt two distinguishing traits: 1) A primacy of sound over musical structure provoked idiosyncratic tempi, in order to build musical tension within the acoustic conditions of each venue. 2) The implied impossibility to transfer acoustic properties to another room made him view recordings as inferior documentation of the concert experience. As the pandemic have brought about yet another radical step towards a primacy of recorded music, this paper argues that Celibidache’s primacy of sound can support a liberation of mediated performances from aims of reproducing a live experience. As soon as a recording is regarded as an independent sonic event, its singular means of reproducing musical time can be given full attention – not least in musical production.
Lisa Giombini and Chiara Palazzolo, “Between Respect and Originality. A Phronetic Approach to Musical Performance”
What counts as a successful performance in Western classical music? And what should a performer do in order to perform a musical work successfully? In this paper, we address these questions by examining the ethical responsibility underlying the role of performers qua professional practitioners. While role-responsibility has been extensively discussed in professional ethics in such fields as medicine and law (Dare&Swanton 2020), the notion is uncharted territory as regards the music profession (exceptions: O’Dea 2000; Dodd 2020; Rohrbaugh 2020). This is surprising given the amount of attention that musical performance has attracted throughout the 20th-century, especially in response to the so-called Historically Informed Performance movement (HIP). Among the approaches offered in music/philosophical debates surrounding HIP, two influential positions can be identified. Some authors contend that a successful performance requires not only playing the right notes, but also the use of the instruments intended by the composer (Levinson 1990) and respect for the original performance practices (Davies 2001). Others, conversely, argue that the greater the creativity and style of the performer, the greater the value of her performance (Taruskin 1995). In this sense, a successful performance bears the “stamp” of the performer’s “artistic personality”, meant as the sum of her musical values and intuitions (Kivy 1995). These alternative positions are fuelled by conflicting normative ideals: in the former case, a commitment towards respect of the work and its composer; in the latter, a quest for expressive originality. Despite being at odds with each other, both these ideals seem to inform our intuitive understanding of the performer’s responsibilities, so that we cannot forsake either of them. We argue that this normative conflict may only be settled once we unearth the ethical framework and responsibilities underlying performing practices. Recent discussions in the area of virtue ethics apropos the Aristotelian notion of phronesis – i.e., practical wisdom – are relevant in this regard (Kristjánsson 2014). Phronesis, re-interpreted today as a form of “ethical expertise”, guides people to achieve right ends in the decision-making process (De Caro&Vaccarezza 2021), by allowing for an integration of competing ethical virtues. Rather than providing agents with stock-responses, phronesis works on a case-by-case basis involving high situational flexibility (Russell 2011). As has been noticed, performers are forever faced with making interpretive decisions regarding phrases and dynamics, which renders performing a deliberative as well as an artistic activity (Regelski 1998). A phronetic approach may contribute to regulating musical practice, making them more aware of their role-responsibilities. It may also help performers in the decision-making process, guiding them toward reaching reflective balance between the conflicting ideals of respect and originality.
Alfia Nakipbekova, “Dialogic Interpretation: approaching Invisibility for cello with two bows by Liza Lim from the perspective of Michael Bakhtin’s theory of the novel” [Lecture-Recital]
My lecture-recital will involve a presentation and performance of Invisibility for cello with two bows by Liza Lim (2009). In my presentation I will explore the interpretative approach to the composition from the perspective of Bakhtin’s concepts of the polyphonic novel, dialogue, unfinalisability and carnival. In his major works the Russian philosopher and literary theorist, Bakhtin (1895-1975) interrogates the static systems of interpreting the human condition, centring his attention on the permeability of events, processes and transitions. He repeatedly employs the terms that are usually associated with music such as polyphony, counterpoint, leitmotif, chorus, modulation, and the practice of multiple voices singing (enunciating), engaged in configuring variations (multiple interpretations) on the same theme. The main question of interpreting Invisibility will be considered from various angles discussing the notion of interpretation, the soundscapes and liminality in Lim’s musical thinking, and approaches to Invisibility instigated by the composer’s research of the Yolngu art and ritual. The Yolngu are an Australian Aboriginal people from North-east Arnhem Land, a coastal area of northern Australia. The central theme of Invisibility is the idea of revelation and concealment – this is explored through the artistic interpretation of the aesthetics of Yolngu art, which is distinguished by shimmer – the visual effect attained by the traditional cross-hatching painting technique. The process of concealing the main image with the meshwork of geometrical patterns simultaneously reveals its presence through the emergence of intense brilliance evoking the Ancestral spirit. To create the effect of shimmering soundscapes the composer employs two bows – the traditional and the guiro bow. The dialogic engagement between and within the material forces (the two bows and the cello) and the performative gestures is investigated as the main ‘hero’ of the composition, through the Bakhtinian lens.
Themed Session – Music and the Sublime (chair: Matthew Pritchard) [SWB 20]
Keith Chapin, “Educating Heights: The Sublime in Practice”
This paper addresses two issues. First, there is a tension between the expectation that the sublime affects immediately and exerts its influence over all, on the one hand, and the recognition that it often requires a certain degree of education or knowledge for it to have its effect. Longinus makes both points and does not seem to find any contradiction between the two. Second, sublimity plays into practices of education insofar as the reference to artistic models (or ‘genius’) is often used to overcome the limitations of rule-based pedagogy (whether in musical composition or in other arts), but simultaneously narrows the field of acceptable styles available to the student. The two types of education are somewhat different, but they both reveal the degree to which sublimity is linked to inculturation into a set of values.
Nick Zangwill, “Skepticism About the Musical Sublime”
Sublimity has often been theorized in opposition to beauty. Whether or not this is right in general terms, or in the cases of nature and visual art, I question its validity as applied to music. It is not plausible that the pleasure we take in music that we deem sublime is mixed with pain, as on the traditional analysis. Just as it is worth separating out a distinctive type of beauty in music, the musically-beautiful, so it is worth separating a distinctive conception of musical-sublimity which is a kind of musical-beauty, one we apprehend with a specific kind of pleasure. Moreover, thinking about the specific kind of beauty that is musical-sublimity will cast light on the idea of profundity in music. It is true that this conception of the sublime in music may distance us from many canonical authors; but the weight of the intellectual past should not overly burden us. We can and should fashion the concepts we need in order to
understand the kinds of music and musical experience that interest us.
Lacey Golaszewski, “The Beauty-Utility Dialectic in Music As Conceived in Terms of the Abject and the Sublime”
Although the concepts of beauty and utility have long been debated in Western thought, there has been a surprising consensus regarding the relationship between the pair in the arts, especially music. Despite evidence to the contrary, the two have almost always been viewed in opposition by scholars and artists alike. Yet, in spite of this consistency, there has been little discussion as to why this dichotomy exists. This paper provides a salutatory attempt to address this question. It commences with an overview of traditional understandings of beauty and utility and their perceived interrelations as understood by diverse individuals including Immanuel Kant, Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Jacques Rancière, and Tia DeNora. Then, to underscore the polarity, it discusses how scholarship has historically assigned value to music perceived as having no utilitarian purpose while disparaging music with practical functions. Finally, prompted by the writings of Gautier, it considers the relationship between utility and the abject, as defined by Julia Kristeva, and the connection between utility and the sublime, as conceived by Kant. In conclusion, the paper argues that the association between utility, the abject, and the sublime, coupled with the opposition between beauty and the sublime, supplies a motivation for the perceived dichotomy of utility and beauty. By highlighting this explanation of the dialectic, this paper paves the way for challenging the polarity, thus potentially undermining traditional comprehensions of utility and beauty in music and opening the door for new understanding.
Free Session 7 – Epistemologies of Musical Practice (chair: Toby Young) [Lucas Theatre and online]
Lauren Redhead, “The Practice of Practice Research: knowledge, experience, institutional critique and the case for a radical epistemology of practice”
The acceptance of the creation of knowledge by musical practice—and its expression of knowledge in its product—is one that, in the UK, is now taken for granted: the term ‘Practice Research’ functions as an umbrella for multiple epistemologies of practice. Nevertheless, this has also led to criticisms of the idea of Practice Research, many of which use this phrase to unhelpfully conflate the epistemological arguments that advance and underpin the knowledge claims of creative practice (not only in music) with institutional forms of knowledge organisation and assessment (such as the REF). In this paper I will argue that recent criticisms of practice research do not address the epistemological basis of musical practice and so therefore make claims about knowledge that are in fact criticisms of institutional structures; I will further consider how this conflation in fact avoids effective institutional critique. Then, I will consider what it means to articulate a more radical and non-institutional epistemology of musical practice. By concentrating on the experience of the researcher of the practice of research, I offer a phenomenology of Practice Research in music, reflecting on the creation of musical knowledge as a practice of being in the world. In so doing, I argue that such a radical epistemology of practice might offer a different kind of institutional critique: one that considers how practice research knowledge has been located in a fairly narrow range of practices and individuals. A better understanding of knowledge in and as musical practice ought to advance the argument for diversity within, and a much broader conception of, institutional music practices themselves.
Ruard Absaroka, “Sonic Agnotology: Epistemocracy, Disknowledge, and the Cultural Production of Musical Ignorance”
Epistemology is concerned with theories of knowledge, belief and rationality (how we know). Agnotology, defined as the ‘cultural production of ignorance’ (or why we do not know), is a recent term (Proctor and Schiebinger 2008) and an inchoate field of study. Fascinating work has been done on the history of science, corporate and governmental obfuscation, and financial bubbles. A fledgling anthropology of ignorance recognises that knowledge and ignorance are always co-constituting, and that one must account for how ignorance can be rational, strategic or a matter of necessity. But how can an agnotological approach contribute to the understanding of musical practices? There are, for instance, many theories of musical learning and much scholarly focus on the acquisition of musical skills. Far less attention is paid to barriers to such acquisition or the imperatives that militate towards musical ignorance (and hence musical illiteracy, inequalities, poverty). And the agnotological lens has a direct bearing on other questions. Who has rights of access to musical knowledge? What defines amateur versus professional participation? How are genres policed? Who gets to be a ‘cultural omnivore’? Touching on case studies from China, and the humbling admissions of ignorance that are a foundational part of ethnomusicological imperatives to pursue performance-as-research, I investigate ways in which not-knowing or un-knowing can be an inherent, necessary, or strategic option in both music and musicological scholarship. A focus only on affirmative knowledge practices in sonic contexts risks seriously misrepresenting sonic practices themselves.
Stan Erraught (co-written with Claire McGinn), “All these musics are good, all these musics are nice’: Harmony, Likemindedness, and Musical Abjection”
Music can be ‘bad’ in diverse ways. Three of these include: music that tries to be good, but fails (see, for example, Carl Wilson on Celine Dion ); music that endeavours to offend against the real or imagined sensibilities of an antagonist (or ‘society’); and music as violence – directly, as in the use of music as torture, or indirectly, as in the oppressive ubiquity of music in the commercially mediated environment (as deprecated by Quignard, 2016). Beyond these categories, there are also musics which seem to demonstrate a profound lack of likemindedness to the extent that, while they may not appear to indicate a willingness to co-operate, they are not necessarily best understood as antagonistic. The term ‘likemindedness’ is drawn from Robert Adlington’s analysis (2020) of the idea that European classical chamber ensembles somehow embody democracy. Echoing Adorno’s contention (1997) that all music says ‘We’, the ‘sonic episteme’ that Robin James (2019) identifies attempts to pull all music into the same harmonious, virtue-seeking sphere, where noise is translated into signal and the notional utopian potential of music – qua Attali (1985) – embraces even ‘bad’ music on the grounds of its (presumed) good intentions. But not all music has normatively good, or straightforwardly bad, or necessarily familiar intentions: we consider examples including pictorially-conceived MIDI sequences; musically radical reworkings of popular songs (‘All Star but every note is C natural’), and Lord Of The Rings Online’s controversial ABC system, which allows players to interrupt in-game events with automated music (Cheng, 2012). From the perspective of more marginal genres, mainstream commercial styles have been criticised for lacking authenticity; the underlying axiom being that music ought to have another, higher purpose: that it should be for something. At the same time, the expansion of what counts as ‘good’ music within academic musicology, or, minimally, what is worthy of attention, can be viewed as defensive. As in some inclusivity initiatives, extending the outer limits of a privileged circle simultaneously works to preserve that circle and its centre of gravity. In this paper, we ask if it is possible for music to resist this assimilation – and what it might mean for music to be truly ‘abject’.
Associates Session 6 (Nordic Wittgenstein Society), Tractatus at One Hundred: The Relevance of Wittgenstein’s Musical Thinking (chairs: Eran Guter/Hanne Appelqvist) [SWB 18]
Hanne Appelqvist, “‘A sounding picture of the great movements in the universe’? – Wittgenstein’s Early Remarks on Music in Light of the Kantian Tradition”
The quotation that figures in my title is drawn from the first edition of Hanslick’s Vom Musikalisch-Schönen and points to the direction from which my presentation arises. While Hamilton and Main connect TLP 4.014 to aesthetic perfectionism and Platonism, and while Gustafsson discusses the Tractarian references to music in relation to Anscombe’s treatment of the Tractarian notion of a picture, I approach those remarks from the perspective of transcendental idealism. In my reading, Wittgenstein’s early references to music, which surface in relation to his discussion of logical form, betray his indebtedness to the Kantian tradition of aesthetics. I will argue that the role of the musical examples in the Tractatus is to underscore the aesthetic, non-conceptual character of logical form. This is to say that the ineffable logical form, which for Wittgenstein is the “essence of the world”, shows itself not only in propositions of logic but also in music. The claim may sound dramatic if Wittgenstein’s work is approached exclusively from the viewpoint of early analytic philosophy. However, if the Tractatus is read against the background of the Germanic tradition that originates in Kant and is exemplified by Hanslick, then the idea of music being a sounding image of the essence of the world follows naturally.
Eran Guter, “Music in (and out of) the Tractatus: A Deflationary (yet deeply caring) Account”
A central axis in Wittgenstein’s philosophical development concerns his career-long grappling with the theme of aspects. For Wittgenstein, aspects open-up space for the kinds of discoveries it is possible to make in philosophy. It is a remarkable fact about Wittgenstein’s philosophical thinking that music and musical sensitivities, have been intimately connected, and conducive to his exploration of aspects in language from the get-go. His inquiry into aspects in relation to music began during his stint as researcher at Charles Myers’s laboratory for experimental psychology in Cambridge, predating his earliest known remarks, which set the path toward the Tractatus framework. Only in the aftermath of the Tractatus, the dynamic interweaving of music and language came back into sharper focus, reaching its full-bloom in his much later writings. The rarified, meager image of music, which the Tractatus (in its published form) affords, stands out oddly in this context. In this paper I argue that Wittgenstein’s alterations and permutations of the remarks on music that eventually made the cut to the published form of the Tractatus attest to his uneasy choice to elide musicality from the very few references to music contained therein in order to befit the mounting needs of this logical framework at that time. This is shown in his belabored attempt to distance his comparison between language and music from remnants of Carl Stumpf’s account of musicality, which he assimilated at Myers’s laboratory, as well as in his reluctantly appended gramophone analogy, which glosses over the very notion of human agency pertaining to music-making. Considering the full trajectory of Wittgenstein’s philosophical development, the Tractatus stands out dialectically as a litmus test for everything that has always been for him philosophically important and deep about music as a paradigm for the mutual tuning-in relationship between human beings in their lived, embodied realities.
Andy Hamilton and Ruby Main, “Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and the Aesthetics of Perfection”
Wittgenstein’s Platonic account of music and score (TLP 4.014) implies what we call an aesthetics of perfection: “The gramophone record, the musical thought, the score, the waves of sound, all stand to one another in that pictorial internal relation, which holds between language and the world. To all of them the logical structure is common”. That is, Wittgenstein here makes no reference to music as a humane art of performance, with its inevitable imperfections. We consider the connections between the resulting abstract philosophy of music, and TLP’s comparably abstract philosophy of language. The gramophone record–sound wave–score relationship provides a mental diagram for the relation between propositions and reality, between names and objects – but it also betrays a frustration involved in this approach to language. We argue that Wittgenstein’s aesthetics of perfection is a necessary outcome of his abstract view of language. As he writes, “It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words… (Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)” (TLP 6.421) Evaluating the quality of music based on the “purity” or perfection of the mechanical relation between the written music, record and sound waves is all that remains.
15.30-16.30 Early Careers Session [SWB 21; hybrid]
Hybrid seminar with Robin James (UNC Charlotte)
16.10-16.40 Coffee [Terrace Café]
16.40-18.10 Keynote III [Lucas Theatre and online]
Cecile Malaspina, “The Contemporary Resonance of Hecuba” (chair: Naomi Waltham-Smith)
Philosophers tend to think of resonance and noise as mutually exclusive. Resonance evokes order, if not harmony, while noise suggests disorder and even chaos. Yet, an explosion for example, while producing a potentially deafening noise, is still a phenomenon of resonance. It projects what was one into pulverised chaos, but as it does so, the explosion propagates waves that are nevertheless constituted by resonant frequencies, expanding supersonically outward from an explosive core. If experienced as a shock – that is, as a traumatic event whose occurrence betrays no known frequency – an explosion is a towering instance of both acoustic and traumatic noise. The explosion that took place in the port of Beirut in 2020, however, rendered evident the force of propagation that could be seen and heard to resonate locally through space and time, and whose traumatic resonance, both locally and mediated through screens across the world, is beyond doubt. And yet, despite the evidently complex relation between resonance and noise, order and chaos, event and representation, resonance continues to serve as a master metaphor for philosophy to the exclusion of noise: signifying the power of reason and its irresistible conquest of the confused world of phenomena and affects. In this presentation we will inquire into the univocity of this philosophical metaphor by lending an ear to the lament of Hecuba. In the first preface to the Critique of Pure Reason Kant evokes the lament of Ovid’s Hecuba as a metaphor for metaphysics. He thereby chooses the most harrowing moment in Western literature to evoke an image of metaphysics as the queen of the sciences, who sees her empire crumble and must preside over its dissolution. What trace do we find of Hecuba’s lament in the philosophical resonance of this inaugural moment of modern philosophy?