[Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion

Ildar Khannanov solfeggio7 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 30 11:12:55 PDT 2009

Dear Brian, 
I admire your interest in phenomenology. However, this seems to be a much more complicated field than we can presently handle. Your attempts to "reduce" my suggestions to the literary references known to you can be, indeed, understood as a case of intentionality. 
Few points to demomstrate this:
1) Your quote from Scruton indicate that you both missed one important problem:
What we understand, in understanding music, is not the material world, but the intentional object: the organization that can be heard in the experience (Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, 221) 
This is exactly the mistake which Roman Ingarden made and that caused him the relationship with Husserl. Music is not an intentional object.
2) Your presentation on intersubjectivity as an earlier topic and "reduction" as the later does not make any sense. 
As a result, it happened so that both Husserl and Merleau-Ponty do not belong in this discussion, while Dr. Lewin has become the only phenomenologist worthy of discussion. This is quite strange.
Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Conservatory
solfeggio7 at yahoo.com

--- On Mon, 3/30/09, Brian Kane <brian.kane at yale.edu> wrote:

From: Brian Kane <brian.kane at yale.edu>
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Classical Form and Recursion
To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Date: Monday, March 30, 2009, 9:55 AM

Hi Everyone, 

Four points come to mind, all related to issues of phenomenology:

1. Ildar Khannanov wrote in his last email:

One can listen to music with eyes closed, in complete darkness. This will shut down the visual metaphorization process, together with spatial determination. It will be dark there  like in the Mutterleib. It will be the real Lebenswelt of harmony, using the terms of Edmund Husserl. Tension, tone.. Audible space has been nicely described by Husserl in his Ideen. Maurice Merleau-Ponty went a step further in Le visible et l'invisible. Music can present the world without the Other.

Typically, the "acousmatic" realm opened up by listening in darkened settings or with eyes closed has been used to differentiate precisely the two kinds of spaces (real physical space and, for lack of better phrase, tonal space) that Ildar mentioned. The idea has a long pedigree in Wagner, Zuckerkandl, Hans Jonas, Schaeffer, Lippman, and most recently in Roger Scruton's work (I'll cite some evidence in a moment). Thus, I don't think Ildar's claim can be supported. The acousmatic setting may shut down (or lead us to believe that we are shutting down) the "spatial determination," which I take to mean the real spatial location of the sounds; but it is too strong to say that it shuts down the "visual metaphorization process." 

Here's an example from Scruton, for those who care (I've got other examples in case you feel a strong antipathy for Scruton). You'll see the distinction being drawn between the experienced (or phenomenal) order of tones qua intentional objects vs. the perception of real spatial situatedness, which gets slowly devalued as musically irrelevant. 

The person who listens to sounds, and hears them as music, is not seeking in them for information about their cause, of for clues as to what is happening. On the contrary, he is hearing the sounds apart from the material world. They are detached in his perception, and understood in terms of their experienced order: this is…the acousmatic character of musical experience…What we understand, in understanding music, is not the material world, but the intentional object: the organization that can be heard in the experience (Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, 221) 

A real locus classicus of this kind of thinking is in Wagner's Beethoven essay, where the unsightly mechanism of the performer is detached from the musical experience in the concert hall, and a "sound world" (disclosed by the ear alone) is placed next to the "light world"--which we assume to contain the sphere of physical-material causality, or real spatiality a la Schopenhauer.
2. It's odd to invoke Husserl in this context as well. It is especially odd to invoke the Lebenswelt next to the claim that "Music can present the world without the Other." Husserl's concept of the Lebenswelt, which is developed in the period around the Krisis, is a constituted as an intersubjective structure. (A good example of how this works is to take a look at the notion of "tradition" in Husserl's essay on The Origin of Geometry.) The path that Husserl takes in the later work always moves via intersubjectivity towards reduction, as opposed to the Cartesian approach of the Ideas I, which was often accused of being solipsistic. Iso Kern has a nice essay on this...

Now, just so you don't think I don't have a sense of humor, I assume that Ildar is being ironic when he calls the intra-uterine experience as the "real Lebenswelt," and thus getting Husserl where it counts--namely, on the inadequate way in which he assumes the question of intersubjectivity.  But this irony gets undermined when Ildar invokes Merleau-Ponty, whose entire philosophy is predicated on the notion that our perceptual world is fundamentally an intersubjective world. This is an aspect of what being-in-the-world means for Merleau-Ponty. There's lots of evidence for this and I'm happy to provide it if requested.

3. As for the question of auditory space, the only extended analysis of Husserl's that I am aware of is §37 from Ideen II--a section entitled "Differences between the visual and tactual realm." The argument is that while visual and auditory sensations localize sounds in exterior space, tactile sensations are localizable on the body itself. This is important for Husserl, because this section of Ideen is trying to pose questions about how we know our bodies, how do we know that they are in space while being different from other simply spatial objects? Touch (and the reversibility of touching and being-touched) is valorized as the sense that allows our bodies to be not simply Körper but Leid--or, to as it is often put, not simply bodies but flesh. 

The problem with Husserl's account of audition here is that it treats sounds only as the sound of things situated in a spatially extended world. There is no account, say, of the virtual spatiality of a phenomenal world of tones. Music is not being considered here. So, in fact, Husserl's account of auditory perception cannot be used as evidence to support Ildar's position about the elimination of real spatial properties and virtual spatiality in audition. 

4. Finally, on the question of recursion and phenomenology, I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Lewin's treatment of recursion as presented "Music Theory, Phenomenology, and Modes of Perception." Perhaps this is due the the fact that the thread was initiated around the question of classical form and recursion. I think that Lewin's attempt to show the recursive nature of musical perceptions at a moment-to moment level is pretty extraordinary. In fact, culminating in Part IV of the essay--i.e., the whole X-is-the-dominant-of-Y, Y-is-the-dominant-of-X business on p. 88 ff. in Studies in Music with Text--it seems that it is the recursive aspect of musical perceptions, and the possible logical problems that they introduce, is used as a wedge to force the point that these percepts exist in different phenomenological space-times. And that point is supposed to lead us to reflect on the music theoretic systems we use to account, model, repress or
 Zurückdrängen such problems. 

It also strikes me that Lewin's use of recursion focuses on a level of operation that is typically undervalued by the syntactic models that also initiated the discussion. In other words, perhaps the question about language c/w music which initiated the thread has led us to overlook Lewin's approach here. However, I'm curious how others feel about Lewin's treatment of recursion.


Brian Kane

Assistant Professor, Music Theory
Department of Music
Yale University

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