Book launch: A Phenomenology of Musical Absorption

We would like to invite you all to celebrate the launch of Postdoctoral Fellow Simon Høffding's new monograph A Phenomenology of Musical Absorption

This book presents a detailed analysis of what it means to be absorbed in playing music. Based on interviews with one of the world’s leading classical ensembles, “The Danish String Quartet” (DSQ), it debunks the myth that experts cannot reflect while performing, but also shows that intense absorption is not something that can be achieved through will, intention, prediction or planning – it remains something individuals have to be receptive to. Based in the phenomenological tradition of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty as well as of Dan Zahavi and Shaun Gallagher, it lays out the conditions and essential structures of musical absorption. Employing the lived experience of the DSQ members, it also engages and challenges core ideas in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, enactivism, expertise studies, musical psychology, flow theory, aesthetics, dream and sleep studies, psychopathology and social ontology, and proposes a method that integrates phenomenology and cognitive science.


The book will be discussed by Frederik Øland from the Danish String Quartet and Nanette Nielsen, Bruno Laeng, and Simon Høffding from UiO.

Simon Høffding: 

I am interested in the nature of musical absorption and what it does to our consciousness. Therefore I work with some of the best "classic" and Jazz musician in the world doing in depth interviews and also physiological measures. The backbone of my investigations, however, are philosophical or phenomenoloigical. This is because experiences of absorption essentially are experiences of altered senses of self and consciousness. To understand absorption, we therefore need storng theories of what it means to be a self, what it means to be in command of one's actions (the sense of agency) and what it means to let go of control and yet maintain the highest level of mastery over one's playing. I examine these questions through my interviews and quantitative data from the perspective of phenomenology, enactivism, embodied cognition, social ontology, psychology of music and expertise theories. I am also interested in the phenomenology of aesthetics, in psychopathology and in research on dreaming and sleeping which potentially can enlighten the phenomenology of musical absorption.


Frederik Øland:

Frederik Øland plays the violin in the Danish String Quartet. Among today’s many exceptional chamber music groups, the Danish String Quartet continuously asserts its preeminence. The Quartet’s playing reflects impeccable musicianship, faultless intonation, exquisite clarity of ensemble, and, above all, an expressivity inextricably bound to the music, from Haydn to Shostakovich to contemporary scores. Their performances bring a rare musical spontaneity, giving audiences the sense of hearing even treasured canon repertoire as if for the first time, and exuding a palpable joy in music-making that have made them enormously in-demand on concert stages throughout the world.


Nanette Nielsen:

I hold a BA in Music and Philosophy from the University of Copenhagen and an MMus and PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London. I joined Oslo in January 2015, after having been Associate Professor and Lecturer at the University of Nottingham (2009-15) and at the University of East Anglia (2005-9). I work on music and philosophy, especially ethics and aesthetics in twentieth- and twenty-first century music, and on opera and music criticism in the Weimar republic. Other interests include film music, pervasive drama, popular music, melodrama, and music in Scandinavia.

Bruno Laeng: 

Bruno Laeng is professor in cognitive neuropsychology. Bachelor in experimental psychology from Universitá La Sapienza (Roma, Italia) and Ph.D. in biological psychology from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA). He has previously held positions at the University of Bergen, University of Tromsø, University of Guelph (Canada), Harvard University (USA) and he has been a Clinical Research Fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (USA). He is currently faculty member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion (RITMO). In 2018 he has been inducted as member of The Norwegian Academy of Science (Humanities and Social Sciences Division).

After the event there will be a reception in the RITMO kitchen with light refreshments from 12:00 to 12:45. All welcome!

Published Feb. 27, 2019 4:11 PM - Last modified Mar. 11, 2019 3:00 PM