Excavating Lewin’s Phenomenology

Published in Music Theory Spectrum 33:1 (2011): 27-36.

Abstract: David Lewin’s “Music Theory, Phenomenology, and Modes of Perception” is a touchstone for phenomenologically influenced music theory, yet something puzzling remains about the role of perception in Lewin’s phenomenology. On the one hand, Lewin emphasizes the embodied nature of perception by arguing that perception is itself a type of skill, a “mode of response,” which manifests itself in an infinite number of creative acts. On the other hand, he explicitly employs phenomenology in only a limited manner; in Parts I–III of his essay, he sets up his phenomenological “p-model” and then, in Part V, critiques it as ultimately inadequate for forging a link between perception and creation.

In this essay, I offer a solution to this puzzle by examining Lewin’s sources. I argue that he is indebted to the school of West Coast phenomenology in two respects: 1) that Lewin’s style of phenomenology is influenced by the Fregean interpretation of Husserl, which supports the ontological and categorical split between perceptual sense and reference presented in the p-model; 2) that the general argument presented in Lewin’s essay, which moves from the p-model toward a critique of disembodied perception, is modeled on Hubert Dreyfus’s two-stage argument against Artificial Intelligence.

Link to article

Category: writings | RSS 2.0 | Give a Comment | trackback | | Print

Leave a Comment