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Title: Music, Geometry, and the Listener: Space in The History of Western Philosophy and Western Classical Music
Contributor(s): Buck, Mary (author); Forrest, Peter  (supervisor); Walsh, Adrian  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2008
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: This thesis is directed towards a philosophy of music by attention to conceptions and perceptions of space. I focus on melody and harmony, and do not emphasise rhythm, which, as far as I can tell, concerns time rather than space. I seek a metaphysical account of Western Classical music in the diatonic tradition. More specifically, my interest is in wordless, untitled music, often called 'absolute' music. My aim is to elucidate a spatial approach to the world combined with a curiosity about the nature of the Pythagorean intervals. Thus one question I seek to answer is: What do the Pythagorean intervals import to music? In their original formulation by Pythagoras, and further, by Plato, their import seemed mystical and analogous to a 'harmony of the spheres.' In this spatial approach, the Pythagorean intervals are indicative of infinite depth. The faculty of hearing alone does not ordinarily spatially locate sources. Hearing is ordinarily combined with sight in order to spatially locate a sound. Yet we talk about music as if it were spatially located, that is, as if it were a visible object with a surface and themes or 'objects'. I explore the faculty of vision and consider in what ways the processes of vision might be similar to and distinct from audition. My source for this approach is David Marr's book 'Vision' and his theory of the 2 1/2-dimensional sketch. In a medium in which there is no spatial location, it is important to situate the listener. Newton solved the problem of location by demonstrating the effects of gravity. P. F. Strawson claims that an analogy of distance is required in hearing to situate the listener, that is, a sense of nearer to and further from a source or object that permits a perception of distance. I claim that in music, the key signature and the scalar relations of musical themes provide this analogy of distance. The works of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton are studied for their accounts of motion, bodies, and space. From these metaphysicians can be gleaned elements of music that include form, motion, timbre, dynamics, and attraction. By incorporating motion, I aim to show that although we may not know the true nature of space, we can learn from hearing music that space is perceptible in other than three dimensions.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Field of Research (FoR): 220309 Metaphysics
190407 Music Performance
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 950105 The Performing Arts (incl. Theatre and Dance)
Rights Statement: Copyright 2008 - Mary Buck
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
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Appears in Collections:School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Thesis Doctoral

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