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«Lived Music—Multi-dimensional Musical Experience: Implications for Music Education Cecilia Ferm Thorgersen Lulea University of Technology  ...»

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Philosophy Study, ISSN 2159-5313

December 2013, Vol. 3, No. 12, 1124-1134


Lived Music—Multi-dimensional Musical Experience:

Implications for Music Education

Cecilia Ferm Thorgersen

Lulea University of Technology

Within the field of music education, there is a need of approaching the holistic view of musical experience from different angles. Therefore, the aim of this article is to investigate the phenomenon of multi-dimensional musical experience from a life-world-phenomenological perspective and indicate its benefits to music education. The analysis is informed by Dufrenne’s philosophical writings regarding the phenomenology of aesthetic experience and also draws on Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, interpreted by Benson and Ford, together with Schutz. These philosophers provide tools for understanding musical experience from a bodily, existential, and sociological perspective, and their complementary ideas about being and learning can be applied to musical experience in the first case and secondly its influences for music educational praxis. Firstly, the concept of lived music is defined through a discussion of dimensions of musical experience; the phenomenology of aesthetic experience; the use of several senses; the heard and the hear-able; apperception; and musical dwelling. Then, the sharing of experience in musical dwelling and its relevance to the concept of imagination is highlighted. I will also emphasize the importance of the view of human beings as holistic bodily subjects. Finally, the article includes a discussion regarding the implications of a life-world-phenomenological view of musical experience to music education.

Keywords: Holistic musical experience, musical dwelling, music education

1. Prologue

From the diary of a singer:

Recently, I participated in a small vocal ensemble. A newly created constellation of six people, who had never met before, were about to practice together a few times and then perform Baroque music along with a well-established baroque orchestra in Stockholm. We were all musically educated with a great deal of experience of choir singing but with very little experience of performing baroque music. In the last days before we met, each one of us had striven to learn our parts by reading the music. At the first rehearsal, one of the orchestra members, the cellist, was present. We sat in a circle together with the cellist who was assigned to lead the rehearsal and began to play one of the pieces. After just a few bars he stopped the music and said: “Is it OK if I say something about baroque music straight away? The important aspects are rhythm, dynamics, and diction. If we concentrate on doing this together, the timbre will be much better as well. Make the ends of the phrases short and make room for others. Listen to each other, and to me. I might build on something that you do, and vice versa.” He really loved to play (in a double sense) this kind of music, and he was playing with us. “Let us take just the four bars to get the right feeling.” At times, he would jump up, cello in hand, and yell: “Did you feel it? That is, you did it

together now!” During the rehearsal, he also kept stressing that perfect intonation and correct notes were less important:

what was important was taking initiative, being daring, and making music together. It was important to be there, to be

–  –  –

present, to listen, to make and feel the music, to learn and feel the baroque genre, to use our musical knowledge and experience in a new setting, and to come close to a shared sense of “when it worked”. I could have stayed there forever.

2. Introduction When interacting in the musical world, we experience and learn to handle form, depth, timbre, pitch, linearity, harmonies, rhythm, and movement in specific genres, contexts or styles (Alerby and Ferm 2005, 177-186; Ford 2010). Aspects of music are not exclusively musical, or artistic, but connected to living in the world in general (Merleau-Ponty 1960/2000). The combination of the aspects, how they sound and how they can be experienced, constitutes music as an “aesthetic object.” We experience music through our senses on a structural, emotional, tensional, existential, bodily, and acoustic level at the same time (Nielsen 1997; Varkøy 2009, 33-48). Depending on our directedness or focus of attention, in turn influenced by a variety of forces, some dimensions are foregrounded, and others are in the background.

The musical world in which we interact is inter-subjective. In musical experience, we are always intertwined with other human beings through perception, expression, or both. As bodily beings, we try to make the world meaningful and manageable. Musical experience can be seen as every-day, non-obligatory, artistic, and personal ways of being in the world (Ferm Thorgersen 2009, 167-184; Langeveld 1987, 5-10). Hence, musical experience seems to be a complicated multi-dimensional phenomenon, existing in a changing social world, in which people create meaning though interaction. It is a big challenge for music education research to shed light on and offer an understanding of all the dimensions of musical experience. Nevertheless it is necessary to accept the challenge if we want research to contribute to “expanding the range of fruitful possibilities for future actions and future decisions” (Bowman 2005, 153-168). If educational research in music avoids the existential, bodily, emotional, or aesthetic aspects of musical experience, it will hamper future imaginations of how music education can be organised. We need to approach the holistic view of musical experience from different angles, and this article is my contribution: the aim is to investigate the phenomenon of multi-dimensional musical experience from a life-world-phenomenological perspective and indicate its benefits to music education.

In the following, I intend to examine musical experience as a multidimensional phenomenon of being through a life-world-phenomenological perspective. The analysis is informed by Dufrenne’s (1953/1973; 1954, 401-410) philosophical writings regarding the phenomenology of aesthetic experience and also draws on Merleau-Ponty (1960/2000; 1962; 1968; 2004), Heidegger (1987), interpreted by Benson (2003), and Ford (2010), together with Schutz (1964/1999). These philosophers provide tools for understanding musical experience as a multidimensional phenomenon. Maurice Merleau-Ponty contributes the view of human beings as bodily perceptive and expressive subjects, Martin Heidegger1 represents a more existential approach, and Schutz a more sociological one, and their complementary ideas about being and learning can be applied to musical experience in the first case and secondly its influences for music educational praxis. Firstly, I will define the concept of lived music from a life-world-phenomenological perspective by discussing the dimensions of musical experience, the phenomenology of aesthetic experience, the use of several senses, the heard and the hear-able, apperception and musical dwelling. Then, I will highlight the sharing of experience in musical dwelling and its relevance to the concept of imagination. I will also emphasise the importance of the view of human beings as holistic bodily subjects. Finally, I will discuss the implications of a life-world-phenomenological view of musical experience to music education. Throughout the article, I will 1126 LIVED MUSIC—MULTI-DIMENSIONAL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE relate to the introductory anecdote to exemplify different aspects of the phenomenon of musical experience.

3. Lived Music—Musical Dwelling

3.1. Dimensions of Musical Experience In this article experience is seen as a verb, an active way of being (Ferm Thorgersen 2010, 35; Giorgi 1999, 68-96). Consequently, musical experience demands active subjects: beholders, or receivers, and performers. The introductory musical experience anecdote evokes a scene of people who are singing, listening, interacting, feeling, teaching, learning, sharing, and living. The music is at the centre, between, and at the same within and around, the subjects, who are trying to make and learn music together. The subjects are not outside the music, but inside, closely intertwined with each other and the music. They are not simply learning the structure and optimal performance of the piece they are singing, but they are also feeling that they exist, taking part in the musical setting, and they are touched by the music, the musical activity and the context. Musical experience can never be one-dimensional. As I suggested in the introduction there are several forces influencing what dimensions that fade into the background and what is foregrounded. For example, earlier experiences, openness, and awareness, as well as cultural structures and “ideas,” determine how the music presents itself and to what extent it can be experienced at several levels at the same time (Ferm Thorgersen 2009). According to Dufrenne, a specific kind of directedness, based on presence and openness, enables music to come across as an aesthetic object. Object, in this text, should not be thought of as a thing, but as a dynamic phenomenon, constituted in historical, social, spatial, and cultural contexts.

3.2. The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience Intentionality is a basic concept of phenomenology. We are always directed towards something, at the same time as something appears to us. Aesthetic experience and aesthetic objects are inseparable according to Dufrenne (1953/1973). Consequently, the aesthetic object exists thanks to the beholder, and vice versa. An aesthetic object is defined by the perception of it: It can be perceived as an aesthetic object if it presents itself as such to the beholder while the beholder perceives the object as an aesthetic one. A work of art is not automatically an aesthetic object. The work of art is a constant, which exists independently of being experienced by a perceiver. Aesthetically perceived, however, the work of art becomes an aesthetic object. The work of art requires urgently only perception, “solicits it imperiously if it is aesthetically valuable” (Dufrenne 1954, 404). It is in the other that the work gets its relief, according to Merleau-Ponty (2004). This does not mean that the object has no meaning of its own, as Dufrenne points out, but without the perceiver it only exists as a thing, a possible aesthetic object. The bodily subject and the object are closely connected in a musical setting. The aesthetic object is at the same time in-it-self and for-us. It exists in order to be perceived by us as its spectators, or beholders (Dufrenne 1954). At the same time, it exists in the expression of the expressers or performers, in this case the people who make music. In the introductory anecdote the musical work, created by Buxtehude, is perceived and expressed by the participating subjects and thus made possible to be perceived as an aesthetic object.

The beholder knows that she has to equal the object that demands mastery of perception, which in turn can demand practice. “It is necessary for us to learn to perceive well, in order to do justice to it” (Dufrenne 1954, 407). To be able to the object and to be open for and feel the meaning beyond all language, the subject has to be corporally present to the object, then totally present in the moment of contemplation offered by the object, and 1127


finally present in a virtual knowledge of the affective meaning which the aesthetic object evokes.

For, if the affective quality that informs the object at its very core is not in some sense already known by it, the spectator would be incapable of recognizing it, and would remain indifferent or blind (or death) to the object; in fact certain works are never understood by certain publics (Dufrenne 1954, 407).

Merleau-Ponty (2004) makes the same conclusions using the foreign language metaphor, and comparing it to a work of art. If a human being does not know a language very well, she cannot understand the nuances, as she has not made it her own, and does not use it as a tool to understand the world. As regards any language, it is learnt while being developed through the use of it within specific cultures, genres, and styles (Ford 2010;

Merleau-Ponty 1953/1973). In perceiving the work, human beings are not concerned with the matter as such, Dufrenne argues, but attention is instead directed towards the work’s matter insofar as it has been transformed into particular forms constituted by colours, tunes, or sculpted stone. Humans are then no longer concerned with its matter per se, but with what Dufrenne calls “the sensuous” (le sensible). The sensuous is defined as what the matter becomes when perceived aesthetically, in other words, the being of a sensuous thing is realized only in perception. The aesthetic object can be defined as “a coalescence of sensuous elements” (Dufrenne 1953/1973, 13). According to Dufrenne, meaning possible to perceive in interaction with an art work is not transcendental, nor nonexistent; it is “immanent in the sensuous, being its very organization” (Dufrenne 1953/1973, 12). Merlau-Ponty (2004) states that (aesthetic) meaning is constituted where the elements approach each other in the flow of expression; in the gaps between the elements in expression, we combine the elements in conscious ways and create meaning. We perceive our own expression and compare it with our intentions and agreed aesthetic ideas through the sensuous.

According to Dufrenne (1953/1973), the subject must be active to complete the aesthetic object through three stages of being, which together allow the perceiver to respond to the depth of the aesthetic object—to its expressed world—through feeling, as mentioned above. The three phases are presence, representation and imagination, and finally reflection and feeling. Representation and imagination are activities that demands, presence, and are in turn required to make feelings and reflection possible. All together the three phases are needed to constitute aesthetic experience. “The very height of aesthetic perception is found in the feeling which reveals the expressiveness of the work” (Dufrenne 1953/1973, 42). This feeling is always someone’s feeling, as Dufrenne maintains. It is not disembodied or impersonal, but is the expression of the depth of a human subject.

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