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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Music and Consciousness - philosophical, psychological and cultural perspectives

on 02/12/2011

Price: £33.24

Published: Jul 2011

Format: hardback

No Pages: 416 pages


ISBN-13: 9780199553792

Category: Academic

In this exciting and refreshing book, edited by Eric and David Clarke, music is used as an integrative tool to study that most ancient of problems, that of conscious experience. Music is offered as a unique instrument with which to study consciousness on the basis of it being both from the collective human experience and, as discussed through referencing the work of Edmund Husserl, temporally based. It is suggested that insights into consciousness have perhaps been limited by ‘binary’ thinking – whereby either physicalist or idealist approaches have been adopted. What this book argues is that there is a need for – perhaps in the spirit of Gilbert Ryle – a fresher, more sophisticated way of looking at the problem. A multi-dimensional approach to consciousness studies is hardly new, yet using the medium of music as a core explanatory framework to do this from feels decidedly original.

The book is divided into a collection of essays by authors from mathematical, psychological and musicology backgrounds who cover topics such as phenomenology (from the perspective of both performers and listeners), meditation and trance, ethnic variations in how music is perceived and what might constitute musical consciousness.

In 1974 the scale of the problem of the study of consciousness was neatly outlined in the classic essay by Thomas Nagel (‘What is it like to be a bat?’) – how can a subjective phenomena ever be adequately described by objective methods? Is this something that is simply unachievable or is it a temporary conundrum that will be solved once our language has become suitably complex? However, perhaps avoiding language and using entirely different methods may offer what has hitherto eluded investigators. The explicit aim of this engrossing book was to spur future thought and interest in the study of music and consciousness. The authors have achieved this with great ease.


Chris Smart

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