What and How Does Music Express? Integrating Music Philosophy and Musical Analysis

Research Project

 Andreas Dorschel and Deniz Peters (Institute for Music Aesthetics, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz)

Advisory Panel: Philip Alperson (Temple University), Georgina Born (Oxford University), Helga de La Motte (Humbold University Berlin), Alva Noë (UC Berkeley), Larry Zbikowski (University of Chicago)

Collaboration: John Rink (University of Cambridge), AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice, Cambridge

Funding: Austrian Science Fund FWF (Stand-Alone Project P25061)  

Runtime: 2013, 2015, 2017

Further information/contact: kug.academia.edu/DenizPeters

It is often said that music mediates psychological experience; but even with the aid of a score, or a recorded performance, it escapes us, despite a veritable flood of existing theories and approaches, to give a clear and rich account of the expressive depth of a work (including emotions, moods, feelings, ideas, attitudes, characters, desires, beliefs, etc.) capable of locating such expression in its sounding material.

If we had the means to better understand what and how music expresses, this would not only underline music’s role and value in society, culture, and on an individual level, but also help orient the informed creation of new music and performances and their appreciation; it would support numerous research fields concerned with knowledge of musical expression, from cognitive musicology, over music information retrieval to music psychology and therapy by sharpening concepts of experiential phenomena under research for empirical validation; plus it could give historical musicology and hermeneutic approaches additional insight into motivations for the qualities of particular expressions that took shape historically, and their musical particulars.

By building on four (hitherto separate) strands of discourse on musical expression and by integrating theories of embodied knowledge, states of mind, social reciprocity and ecological enaction into an advanced – nuanced, culturally and historically aware and ontologically holistic – concept of expression not only as understood, but as experienced, this project aims at a major philosophical and musicological contribution to the understanding of musical expression, its types, conditions and circumstances, its individual and social ontology, with the particular innovation of having the capacity to ground its assertions in concrete musical sound and its organisation.

Results will be disseminated in the form of a monograph (Peters), journal articles (Dorschel/Peters), and an international, interdisciplinary symposium (details to be posted here).