Groove: The phenomenology of musical nuance
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Musical nuances are the fine-grained "expressive variations" that are often characterized as contributing to a performer's interpretation of a musical work. I demonstrate that there are different ways of perceiving a nuance; an inadequate way can block the emergence of a perceptual Gestalt to which a nuance contributes, and thus stand in the way of our grasping the nuance's musical significance . I criticize Diana Raffman's account of nuances by arguing that she does not acknowledge that nuances can be perceived in different ways; there is a perceptual way implicit in her work but it is one that is inadequate and prevents the relevant Gestalts from arising. My account of nuances is developed through a detailed account of a Gestalt that is grounded in nuances--the rhythmic phenomenon of groove (the feel of a rhythm). On my account, a groove is a dispositional mind-dependent property of music, one that can only be "unlocked" by means of certain perceptual ways. These ways involve allowing certain timing nuances to be perceptually preserved as ambiguous . In elucidating this perceptual role, I clarify Merleau-Ponty's "perceptual indeterminacy" by defining a perceptual role I call "reverberation." I highlight the importance of grooves and nuances in contemporary popular music by invoking two ontological views of musical works; nuance and groove types can be properties of classical works, but particular nuances and particular grooves are properties of pop works. These grooves are not merely perceptual qualities, they are pivotal relational properties through which musical elements make their connections. The body movement of listeners is not merely a reaction to rhythm; body movement may influence the way we hear rhythms. I draw both conservative and controversial conclusions regarding this relationship. In drawing the latter, I adapt Merleau-Ponty's notion of "motor intentionality" to temporal perception, and claim that a certain kind of understanding of a rhythm is activated only when we move to a rhythm's pulse; this understanding influences the resulting experience. When we move our bodies, our experience of a groove may be qualitatively different than when we do not.
akin to a key that fits the lock. For our purposes, we are interested in properties that have dispositions or powers to give rise to certain experiences; these are mind-dependent dispositional properties. Another way to put this is to say that these are response-dependent dispositional properties; it is not uncommon to take aesthetic properties in general to be response-dependent. £ 't t f I will claim that a groove is a mind-dependent dispositional property. It is useful to compare groove
individuated in terms of correctness conditions. As we have seen, even in the case of the slippery phenomenology of perceptual indeterminacy, manners of presentation give us a way to individuate phenomenal character in terms of content. How are manners of presentation captured in terms of correctness conditions? There are two ways in which the case of correctness conditions for our purposes is more complex than the above. First, an accurate description of the 141 See, for example, Alex Byrne,
implicit in the performance practice." He continues, "Not all the definitive features of the work are indicated in its score.... The instructions issued by scores are interpreted with respect to both the performance practices against which they are written and the notational conventions of the composer's day."14 Davies offers the following examples: In the Viennese waltz, the second beat should sound a little earlier than the notation suggests.... In the case of a piece composed in the early
invoking the notion of motor-intentionality, we might suggest, further, that moving to the pulse brings about a different understanding of the pulse, one which results in an experience that is shaped by that understanding, a quality of experience that would not occur in the absence of the movement. Moving our bodies may make our experience of a groove qualitatively different. I conclude the chapter by offering examples of the way in which hearing a groove opens-up possibilities for playing or
our bodies; body movement may result in a qualitatively different experience of a groove. It is no accident that the primary meanings of the terms that individuate grooves (leaning, pushing, pulling, laid-back, etc.) are all experiential terms that describe bodily postures, phenomenal character of bodily situations. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 165 BIBLIOGRAPHY Bermudez, Jose Luis. "Nonconceptual Content: From