Aspect and Ascription in the Music of Mathias Spahlinger

Published in Contemporary Music Review 27(6): 595-610, ©2008 Taylor & Francis.

This article is part of a large issue dedicated to the music of Mathias Spahlinger and Nicolaus A. Huber, guest edited by Philipp Blume. It is the first substantial English-language publication on the work of these fine composers.

Abstract: This paper employs a Wittgensteinian framework to describe the experience of listening to the music of Mathias Spahlinger. First, a “skeptical puzzle” is introduced, based on a reading of Wittgentein’s Philosophical Investigations. The puzzle problematizes the security of ascriptions of meaning to material practices. Then, Spahlinger’s éphémère is used as a test case: it is described from a first-person perspective, compared with an account of the work given by Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, and given as an example of an audible presentation of the “skeptical puzzle.” Such a presentation is marked by a phenomenon that Wittgenstein described as “the dawning of an aspect.” By focusing on the role of aspect perception and the problems of ascription in Spahlinger’s music, it is possible to argue against Mahnkopf’s criticism of Spahlinger’s work, as well as understand an underlying affinity between extreme forms of repetition and perpetual transition within Spahlinger’s compositional habitus.

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