Clifton,Thomas.

(1983) Music as Heard: A Study in Applied
Phenomenology. New Haven, CT: Yale UniversityPress.
... the criticto whom I am most gratefulis the one who can make me look
at somethingI have never looked at before,or have looked at onlywith
eyes clouded withprejudice,set me face to face withitand thenleave me
alone withit.(T. S. Eliot)1

Few among us would today debate the value of a clearly conceived
and convincingly articulated "philosophy of music education". Cen-
tral to any such philosophy is of course one's account for the origin
and nature of musical meaning. Here, several explanations appear to
have achieved orthodoxy or axiomatic status, and are so widely em-
braced they can practically be recited as litanies. One is Langer's
symbolic theory in which music is held to achieve significance by vir-
tue of its formal congruence with the patterns of human sentience.
Another is Meyer's rather more syntactical account, in which musical
events "mean" other musical events about to happen, and affect or
feeling is a function of the degree of predictabilityof musical events.
Both are adequate (even compelling) accounts of certain aspects of
musical experience, and have led the music education profession to a
much-needed increased understanding of itself.

The inadequacies of these accounts are, however, becoming in-
creasingly apparent. In the first place, efforts to conflate the two
theories are precarious to say the least: the presentational and the
embodied symbol are perhaps more differentthan alike despite their
common claim to symbolic status. Moreover, each singly has its prob-
lems. The symbolic account and its intractable notion of isomorphism
have led us to more finelyarticulated but no less intractable notions
such as metaphorical exemplification. The syntactical account proves
rather parochial in its applicability and appears to have generated
rather simplistic (straw-man) characterizations of formalism and
referentialismnot to mention a proliferationof reductionists research.
To be sure, both have served to effectivelyestablish the essentially ex-
pressive nature of the genuinely musical experience, (no mean ac-
complishment even if recognition of that truthhas not always had the
salutary effect on instruction one might hope).

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an ex- emplaryapplicationto music has long been needed. We appear to agree that music is expressive. aesthetic response is caused by aesthetic perception).Hence.25 on Thu.the questions he raises and the phenomenologicalmethod he demonstrates offerto significantly transformour otherwisetwo- dimensionalphilosophicalmodel: to establish a thirddimensionbased upon the essential role of the perceiverin the perceived.36. 37). Those familiarwith Husserl.Clifton's primarythesis is a subject withoutan object to experience. regardless of one's ultimateassessment of the validityof Clifton's positions.one which appears to challenge "conventionalwisdom".forinstance in termsof what one knows about it. not necessarily the pregivenelements of musical cognitionin the human subject3 is certainlycongruentwiththis position. and is of considerable value on that basis alone.to redirectatten- tionto the fragilerealitythatis the experience of music as itunfoldsin time. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . such a distinctiveview. forthe most part.the position developed in the book is that the validityof descriptiveconclusions about a piece should be judged exclusivelyin termsof the way one experiences itand not.that music is symbolic.althoughpatience and perserverenceare generally rewarded.the articulationof a distinctpointof view on the natureof musical meaning.Serafine's recentspeculation that"musical elements" are the result of historical and scholarly reflectionon music.and an ob- ject withouta subject forwhom it has meaning are both unthinkable This content downloaded from 160.84 In any event. While the doctrineof phenomenal objectivityis one with which most music educators are at least casually acquainted. As with Polanyi's epistemology. g. Dufrenne) will find Clifton'sinterpretationsand musical extensions of theirthoughtin- triguing. is a significantoccur- rence. Briefly. in many respects. even thoughdiscussions of 'what' is expressed and 'how' oftenend in near-circularity (e..In such a context. Seeing itused is farmore instructivethan discussion in the abstract.As Polanyichallenged the scientificphilosophicalcommunity withhis assertion there can be no knowledgewithouta subject who "knows"2. thus reveal- ing the "geometryof experience" (p.178. In itseffort to avoid reliance upon the formalsystems whichare artifactsoftheoreticalreflectionon music.the book has significantpotentialto revitalizeour philosophical thinking. Ofcourse the book is intendedprimarily as applied phenomenology. even if our elaboration of the nature of that symbolism quicklycarries us in diverse directions.Cliftonremindsus therecan be no music withoutthe con- stitutivecontribution of a human perceiverwho creates and sustains the experience. and Merleau-Ponty(and in the arts. we appear to agree.the implicationsof such a seeminglyinnocuousobservationare at timesstartling.those without previous exposure may findthe writinginac- cessible at times. Thomas Clifton'sMusic as Heard is.

Cryptic though these ideas remain. Phenomenological analysis is analysis conducted "from the inside. the phrase 'bad music' is contradictory and 'good music' redundant (p. there is no such thing as bad music. Essences emanate from (rather than being imposed upon) the musical object. 37). It would appear Clifton holds the phenomenological method to be central to any genuinely musical theory by virtue of its endeavor to returnthe experiencing person to center stage. they are not the music itself (p. their elaboration and clarification (or refutation) appears a potentially intriguingtask for music philosophers. The concern of the phenomenologist. In short.25 on Thu. empirical techniques its means. 36) we are told. The elementary is not the elemental (p. 85 situations (p. This content downloaded from 160. "Whatever else it is. the drama of a symphonyby Mahler. 8): there exists a fundamental and profound reciprocity between the "hearer" and the "heard". 77). as they may his rejection of pitch. and seeing how composition is done is not the same as see- ing what it is. While it may be defensible to speak of a bad composition. and feeling is a necessary condition of the musical experience. but musical essences. Music is fundamentally nonempirical ("Beethoven's Fifth Symphony refers to no tangible thing in the world" (p. Is it. "being present"4). even after extensive treatment in the book. and empirical marks its signs. any more empirically verifiable to say a melody is tonal than to say it is tender (p.178. and though empirical sounds are its medium. and scales fromthe realm of phenomenal essences. [music] is not in the world the way trees and mountains are" (p. 19). What counts in musical experience are thus "the grace of a minuet by Mozart. interval. 283). only the unsuccessful attempt of (good) music to come into being (p. 79). 5). 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .36. is not factuality (in the sense of empirically- verifiable and therefore presumably "objective" truths). but never to the experience of music ("What right have I to demand another person experience music exactly the way I do?" (p. Certain aspects of aesthetic theory appear to fare littlebetter in Clif- ton's analysis. harmony. 281)? Empirical researchers and music theoreticians may find his negative response troubling. To say bad music is the result of (for instance) poorly developed technique is to " substitute "a causal 'why' foran experiential 'how' (p. they are the music. then. 5). not the outside" (p. 3). or the agony of Coltrane's jazz" (p.Cliftonasks.). to uncover the basic stratum of intuitive self- givenness (in Defrenne's phrase. and possession thwarted. as he denies the validity for musical experience of aesthetic standards: they may pertain to compositional technique. no mere psychological by-product in the listener. These are not just what the music is about or has. The challenge of phenomenology is to avoid or re- ject conceptually-mediated "sedimentation" which may cover musical essences. 284) because for whatever reasons boundaries are created rather than erased.

3)). p. Clifton says further. Particularly interesting is the following syllogism drawn from arguments in Feeling and Form: Art is a symbol of human feeling. Among his many concerns is Langer's ambivalence to the extent which the "musical symbol" is referential: the purportedly parallel structure of feeling and meaning is "perilously dichotomous" as it separates the source of meaning from its expression (p. and this grip circumscribes the area of significance to which it has reference. This. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . says Clifton. which. In art we experience symbolized expressions of feeling.he appears to say: but that does not negate the possibility of events and things becoming "musicalized" . Having been quickly dismissed in various recent theories. Adapting Merleau-Ponty. her "virtual" appears to necessitate an "actual" to which it either refers.25 on Thu. the idea to which Clifton appears most opposed is the assumption (common. 43). 288)6 This content downloaded from 160. Although Clifton's characterization of her ideas is understandably (given the scope and purpose of the book) superficial. As suggested. reference is revisited and found (again.is in conflict with the nature of music as self- referential ("Musical meanings refer to nothing beyond themselves. Langer's theory is par- ticularlysingled out for criticism. 193-194). . will findClifton's position more comfor- table (if paradoxical) than the popularized notion of all "reference" as submusical. on the experiential level) to be potentially musical. or by whose existence the virtual may be recognized (p. nor the crucifixionto the mass.36.a situation in which the extra-musical may attain musical status (cf. 44) Ultimately. (p. Those who may have suspected that perhaps the sea is not irrelevant to La Mer. Of course music means itself. there are suffi- ciently provocative insights to serve as catalysts for lively discussion. Before becoming a symbol . either stipulatively or by cursory disposition of extreme example.86 Also among the challenges to aesthetic theory is Clifton's examina- tion of the supposedly extramusical or referential. Moreover. . Art is the symbol of symbol.178. [music] is firstof all an event which grips my body. presents a number of potentially seminal issues for investigation. to all symbolic accounts of art) that art bears some necessary relation to "empirical existence". [The music] is then indistinguishable from the attitude which it induces (p. given its pervasive influence. 44)5. 43). he claims. an assumption which the phenomenological criterion of noninferability necessitates he reject on methodological grounds (p. though this is a good deal more complicated than Eduard Hanslick ever thought" (p.

142)10. Music does not arise from objective examination of syntactical or formal functions.36. would considerably soften the ac- cusations Cliftonhas levelled. And Clifton convincingly develops this perspective in his work.'1 or "I feel therefore I am"?). 70. between mind and body. These speculations are brought together most forcefullyin Clifton's eventual definitionof music (though appreciation of its true significance requires the benefit This content downloaded from 160. 35). but from bodily complicity with sounds (p. p. 87 In the musical experience there is "nothing else to think about. the sensuous) are meaningful only because they are known by the body. We are at pres- ent not so much at the translation of a thought as at its accomplish- ment". than to challenge the mythof objectivity inherited from dualistic Cartesian notions (Why not "I believe. in his assertion that "it is only because of my body that there can be any talk of quality at all" (p. the gestural. the pervasive influence of our scientific culture generally overrides our professed belief in mind-bodyunity. but fields of action forthe sub- ject (p. It is eloquently elaborated in a number of passages: in his determined distinction between the body which "I have" and the body "I am" (p.178. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 288)7. in his insistance that space and spatial rela- tionships are not properties of objects. a more liberal interpretation. 33). in his description of musical motion as an act of mutual possession (I am the center toward and from which all motions 'move') (p. The most central and universal characteristics of music (patterns of tension and release. since the music occupies our thoughts completely . in his description of music as the actualization of the possibility of any sound whatever to present to a human a meaning which he (she) experiences with his (her) body (p. of the body as the ultimate vehicle for perception and conception (knowledge as orientation) is central to phenomenological inquiry.It is easier to talk of music and the arts educating the "subjective self". 279).25 on Thu. The affirmationof a bodily knowledge. 68). 67).on which her symbolic "vehicle for the conception of reality" might be recognized as more radically creative even in its blatantly discursive manifestations. But this is among the challenges raised which remain to be taken up8. (p. While we as a profession have been persistent in our renunciation of a disjunction between thought and feeling. . . 1)9. in his description of tonalityas a "corporeal acquisition". The willingness of the phenomenological method to confront head-on the dynamic tension or constitutive reciprocity be- tween the supposedly objective world and the self may well be the most significant contribution of research such as Clifton's. One suspects that a less selective reading of Langer. revealing the patterns of human subjectivity. which finds its sense in "the way my body behaves in its presence" (p.

Thus viewed. the phrase "making music our own" is tautological. In perceivingmusic. Hence.88 ofa morethoroughanalysis than is offeredhere): "Music is what I am when I experience it.178. 205). we may "play" a "work" of musical art. Play shows most clearly.among them the possibilitythatthe sense of the music may "flyapart" at any moment (p.particularlyhis idea that all discovery (presumablyperceptionis a kindofdiscovery)is based incommitment and belief.. 210).music neversimplyis (p.in his unrelentingdeterminationto illuminatemusic as it is This content downloaded from 160. the requiredfusionbe- tween the experienced music and the "musicing self". He avoids the "traps" of hedonism by denyingmodes of thoughtwhich oppose play to reality (among them certain aspects of Johann Huizinga's well-known theory11). Polanyi's influenceis veryap- parent in this treatment. so mustbe any relationbetween thatrealityand play. Play is neitherhighernorlowerthan reality. 297). Music does notrepresentplaybutis play(p. 224).what we believe to be music) (p. And indeed. a positionsubstantiatedbyCliftonin a revealingexamination of the interplayof what he calls the rhetoricaland structuralelements in sonata allegroform("thatCaucasian contingency")(p. 72).36. Meyer?).such that what is "given" to us is never mere "sonic blobs".25 on Thu. There remains one set of issues which even a cursoryaccount of Clifton'sbook ought to mention:the ludic or play element in music (which for Cliftonsubsumes an importanttreatmentof heuristic behavior). The being of music consists in its always coming intobeing: unlike elements inthe "empiricalworld". 72).. we have already made a precriticai commitment.to sug- gest that music is representativeof some aspect of reality(the sym- bolic account) is to "negate the mysteryadheringto both music and reality"(p. 207). Finally. music is the ritualizationof a dialectic of freedomand control (p." (p." (p. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Mere endorsement by "cultural curators" as havingsatisfiedcertainaesthetic criteriais no guarantee at all of musical experience. B. 223)12.Its essential coming-into-awarenessas it unfoldsin time (or as time un- foldsin it)is no mere receptiveprocess: itis frought withprelogicalin- tuitionsof possibilities(perhaps like L.Since the normsof "reality"are themselves indeterminate. 71). 223) and forany numberof reasons. music is unthinkable withoutthe ludic element(p. what is given is the music itself(or more precisely.he feels. Music "synthesizes the frivolousand the serious intoa single ex- perientialact whose functionit is to grasp .butconstitutiveof reality. but is ontologi- cally constitutive(realityis a thingwhich is played) (p. the phenomenal object. 208).Itis not merelya psychologicalcomponentof the experience. Further.

25 on Thu. 238). "purely in terms of musical ex- perience. Indeed. 238) (Moreover. it is a matter of supreme indifference to me how the com- poser went about his task. musicologists. that experience is by definition not a musical one. 238). and perhaps even to psychologists of a cognitive bent. or an object of study. since the listener's experiential modes vary even given an otherwise identical performance.) And to the contention that indeter- minate music is irrational Clifton responds irrationalitycan describe only methods of composition or performance: "For the listener. the composer may never know all that is potentially in his/hercomposition.178." (p. such that "it is not altogether facetious to say that Webern influenced the texture of Brahms' Intermezzo in E minor op. [Music] is a quasi-subject. 5. 237). theorists. (There is another intriguing parallel here to Polanyi's contention that a discovery always bears implications far beyond the grasp of the discoverer .in this case. First. as by recording (p. music is a presence (p. he holds that repeatability is as impossible for highly- circumscribed compositions as for the aleatorie or improvisatory. a "thou" who addresses me. music is never irrational. 116 no. Clifton arrives at rather intriguinginsights regarding aleatorie music (a notorious stumbling block for many accounts of musical meaning). Wayne Bowman Brandon University This content downloaded from 160." (p. still others will preferto look elsewhere for more immediately apparent "researchable" problems." (p. but may never present his or her findings to others (who may well make sense of them) (p.36. But the book is both fresh and provocative. not to mention a renewed sense of wonder at the human condition. he finds no experiential basis for distinction between indeterminate music and that which is highly specified (p. Subsequent hearings of the "same" piece may even be profoundly influenced by interven- ing encounters with contrasting compositions. Music As Heard will appear to some obstructionist in its intent. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . if one does experience the absurd or chaotic. and I find myself "in" it the way our ancestors found themselves in a forest inhabited by wood-gods. philosophers. 237). 80)13. 237). Before becoming a cultural artifact. others will likely find it easy to dismiss its (necessarily) difficult language as incomprehensible nonsense. posing important challenges to music historians. Se- cond. Following Clif- ton's lead would likelybring music education research much closer to music and serve to recover a much-needed respect forthe complexity of reality. a style. A composer may explore the limits of the absurd. 89 heard.

p. v. 1980. v. "Polanyi and Instructional Method in Music". One suspects such troubles arise more as a result of incongruity with an espoused theoretical system than from actual musical experience. 6This passage is drawn from Maurice Merleau-Ponty. University of Illinois. dif- ferences are articulated where before there were none. Parenthetically. as. and Music Instruction: The Significance of Michael Polanyi's Thought for Music Education. Translated by Colin Smith (New York: Humanities Press. "Cognitive Processes in Music: Discoveries vs. 13Cliftonacknowledges his debt to Dufrenne in ths passage. p. Clifton would remind. 1983)." Ed. Eliot. that the musical experience is just such a fragile thing. whether women will find the book as relevant to their experience as men is an interesting question (equally applicable to most writing in the area). 10Those who find particularly troublesome the idea that a body can "know" may find Polanyi's concept of "tacit knowledge" helpful. Phenomenology of Perception. 3Mary Louise Serafine. 72 (and elsewhere). quoted by Harry S. others have added. 235. 73 (Winter. See Wayne Bowman. 11JohanHuizinga.178. The in- visibility of women would seem even less defensible in a phenomenology than elsewhere. Since neither projection nor accounts like Langer's or Meyer's are adequate explanations for expres- sion. Clifton must establish a reciprocity between subject and object (intersubjectivity) which is "fragile" in the extreme.36. 8I have argued elsewhere that perceptual/conceptual act(s) refashion. The Notion of the A Priori. existen- tially transform the individual. This content downloaded from 160. Translated by Edward Casey (Evanston: Northwestern University Press." Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education. Clifton discusses his objections to Huizinga's thesis on p. p. 1966). given its extensive emphasis upon the bodily. quoted by Clifton on page 194. 16. Broudy in Enlightened Cherishing (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 2My explication of this theory may be found in Chapter 2 of "Tacit Knowing. p. dissertation. Journal of Aesthetic Education. D. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (Boston: Beacon Press. 10 Dec 2015 15:44:09 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2. Musical Ex- perience. 1957). amplify. 75-80. from the perspective of the knower. 5The reader will recognize the rather precipitous nature of this position. 117. even seemingly "mundane" conceptual ac- complishments are in a sense creative. 12One is reminded of the question whether one can set foot in the same river twice (or. 1972). even once ). one suspects.25 on Thu. 105. pp. p. On this view. S. 2 (Sum- mer. 4Mikel Dufrenne. 7The compatability of this carefully-articulated line of thought with the somewhat less elaborate treatment of the "extramusical" described previously is among the many issues begging further investigation. 1982). Definitions. 235. no.90 Notes 1T. 1967). 1950). On Poetry and Poets (London: Faber and Faber.