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A Phenomenology of Musical Activity: Embodiment, World, Intersubjectivity, and Expression

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Title: A Phenomenology of Musical Activity: Embodiment, World, Intersubjectivity, and Expression
Author: Minatel, Robert
Department: Department of Philosophy
Program: Philosophy
Advisor: Russon, John
Abstract: Musicians commonly report experiences of passivity during their musical performances. For example, musicians claim that their musical acts are done without thought or self-consciousness, that what happens during musical performance is unpredictable, and that the music, so to speak, “plays itself.” I argue that to conceive musical activity in a way that is consistent with these experiences requires us to think the concept of agency as highly integrated with passivity. To develop this concept of musical activity I offer Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological account of human action as fundamentally embodied. I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body is a powerful resource for understanding the distinctive form of human agency that musicians enact during the performance of music. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, I show that as embodied, musical activity is expressively oriented toward a world of existential significance that is progressively accomplished in collaboration with others. Building a concept of musical activity as embodied, worldly, intersubjective, and expressive, I contribute to literature about the nature of musical expertise, joint musical experience, and musical improvisation.
Date: 2021-11
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