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Ineffabilities of Making Music: An Exploratory Study

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image of Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

Some facets of making music are explored by combining arguments of Raffman's cognitivist explanation of ineffability with Merleau-Ponty's view of embodied perception. Behnke's approach to a phenomenology of playing a musical instrument serves as a further source. Focusing on the skilled performer-listener, several types of ineffable knowledge of performing music are identified: gesture feeling ineffability—the performer's sensorimotor knowledge of the gestures necessary to produce instrumental sounds is not exhaustively communicable via language; gesture nuance ineffability—the performer is aware of nuances of instrumental gestures, e.g., micro-variations of intensity or duration of musical gestures, but cannot perceptually, and consequently conceptually, categorize those fine-grained variations; and ineffabilities of inter-subjectivity—the non-verbal interaction between performers that makes a performance a vibrant dialogue is similarly incommunicable. An attempt to identify some of the ineffable dimensions of this dialogue is proposed. Further ineffabilities relating the acoustical embedding of performing are identified.


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