Musical qualia, context, time and emotion

Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (3-4):117-147 (2004)
Nearly all listeners consider the subjective aspects of music, such as its emotional tone, to have primary importance. But contemporary philosophers often downplay, ignore, or even deny such aspects of experience. Moreover, traditional philosophies of music try to decontextualize it. Using music as an example, this paper explores the structure of qualitative experience, demonstrating that it is multi-layer emergent, non-compositional, enacted, and situation dependent, among other non-Cartesian properties. Our explanations draw on recent work in cognitive science, including blending, image schemas, and sensory memory, as well as on phenomenology. A hierarchical structure transformation based complexity theory is applied to obtain a non-linear dynamical systems explanation of qualia and emotion that respects phenomenological insights about time, including retention and protention. The complexity measure provides both a metric structure and a potential function, on spaces of pieces that are constructed using given elements and transformations, with weights that reflect their cognitive difficulty. However, the approach is not reductionist; using improvisation and the evolution of musical notation as data, we argue that situatedness, especially enactment and social context, are key aspects of musical consciousness
Keywords Aesthetics  Emotion  Music  Qualia  Society  Space  Time
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