Please join the Sound and Society workshop next Wednesday, May 8, as we welcome Marion Guck (Professor of Music Theory at University of Michigan), who will give a talk titled:

“Musical Intersubjectivity: Vitality Affect and Evocative Object”

 Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Logan 028 (* please note room change)


Professor Guck writes of this presentation, “To successfully interact with other people, human beings interpret others’ behaviors as well as our words. We respond to the other’s affect as well as their thoughts. It is through the other’s behavior—movements, demeanor, energy, etc.—that we infer affect. This is person-to-person intersubjectivity. Music can be heard as representing in sound these aspects of human behavior, imagining human-like behaviors and affects in musical sounds. We may respond to music in ways similar to our responses to other persons. I call this musical intersubjectivity, claiming that the relationships we create with musical works are an artful extension of the lifelong interpersonal world.

To understand how this transformation of human to music is possible I derive insight from two specialists in interpersonal relationships. Daniel N. Stern made important contributions to the study of infant development, concepts he extended to adult experience. His developmental work identifies patterns of infant behavior that persist throughout life, including the significance of movement qualities he calls vitality affects. I will illustrate the musical application of this idea through analysis of a short passage from a Bach Invention. Psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas has developed what I consider an aesthetic theory according to which objects, both everyday things and art objects affect persons, evoking feeling. In particular, he has developed the idea of the evocative object: any real entity, with which a person engages, that creates or changes an affective state. Musical works are evocative objects. To consider his idea in light of music, I will return to the Bach passage, contrasting it with a passage from a Beethoven Concerto.”

There will not be pre-circulated materials for this talk. Refreshments will be provided.

The Sound and Society Workshop is committed to making our events fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to contact the Sound and Society Workshop coordinators, Ailsa Lipscombe or Amy Skjerseth with any questions or concerns.

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