Department of Musicology

Philosophy of music criticism

I am working on several closely related research areas at Uppsala. The first takes the form of research into the philosophy of music criticism, where I'm working on new ways to understand the role of critical writing about music, both in historical and contemporary contexts. The underlying claim involves revising traditional conceptions of the ontology of musical works to allow for a model which takes into account the way we experience them; and, further, comes to include the meanings performers and listeners come to hear as being part of the musical experience. In this way, I argue, the mark of the success of a critical text relates not to the putative correctness of any evaluative judgement it may report, but to whether its conception of the work “sticks” to the music and comes to play a normative role in our playing and listening – which is to say, in the continuing life of the musical work.

A second project concerns the notion of aesthetic experience more generally. The basic claim is that the perception of beauty is linked to our ability to love; put simply, we find beauty in that which we love. Building on parallels between works of art and human individuals, my account focuses on the way aesthetic experience commonly registers as a disturbance of our field of awareness which, rather than being resolved through action, remain unresolved in such a way that we learn to live around them. This is why, I argue, aesthetic experience is so strongly linked to our sense of freedom and potential. The account works primarily from analyses of musical experience, but extends to artistic and aesthetic experience more generally.

I am also working on a number of smaller projects, including research into the connections between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Richard Wagner, an article on what Gluck’s aria “Che faro senza Euridice” tells us about expression in music, and a book on the aesthetic and moral implications of manufactured music.