Musical Representation and Music Perception

Lemuel Tang will present "Musical Representation and Music Perception."


A longstanding debate in the philosophy of music concerns whether instrumental music can express or “represent” extramusical qualities such as emotions, everyday objects, or even abstract ideas. A majority of work in the philosophy of music has approached this question as a question about the nature of musical expression and whether musical expression is representational in a manner that is analogous to the representational arts such as literature and visual art. A distinct question in the philosophy of music perception and cognition concerns whether the experience of extramusical features is a distinctively perceptual phenomenon, and how it is that we come to experience extramusical qualities. In this talk, I draw on recent discussion in perceptual learning and expertise to propose an unexplored response: variation in expertise in music perception explains variation and disagreement about what is presented in musical and extramusical experience. I explore whether this proposal can explain the normative nature of music audition and whether it undermines disagreement about the representational status of musical expression.