BSP Podcast: Ellen Moysan on phenomenology and music practice

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Ellen Moysan present a paper from our 2020 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

Season 5 episode 119: 26 June 2021

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Ellen Moysan, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

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Ellen Moysan
‘Phenomenological Description of the Notion of Inner Song: Doing Phenomenology to Understand Music Practice’

ABSTRACT: A musical performer plays or composes what is “heard in the mind.” I call this musical phenomenon: “inner song,” and I use a Husserlian framework to describe it as an object of phantasy. In the present paper, I will demonstrate how an accurate description of the inner song requires a rigorous praxis of phenomenology giving voice to actual performers coming from various backgrounds. The “inner song” is a musical phenomenon of phantasy in the sense that it is independent from the perception of a physical sound and constituted in consciousness by the imagination reshaping sensory-data (essentially sounds) in a totally new fashion. It can take two forms: a “pure phantasy object” (improvisation and composition), and a “hearing through seeing” (interpretation from a score); the difference between the two is the mode of involvement of perception. My method is to engage with phenomenology as a “praxis.” I go back to the experience of the inner song: (1) questioning my experience as a cellist, and (2) engaging in a dialogue with musicians from various traditions interviewing them about their practice. This approach provides a plurality of points of views and constitutes an “eidetic variation” that helps me to highlight the essential structures of the “inner song”. From this foundation I develop a description grounded in a Husserlian framework. Engaging with the inner song offers a unique perspective on the challenges of interdisciplinary phenomenology: first, it brings back to phenomenology as a “praxis” starting with the reduction and shaped by the object itself; second, it highlights the necessity to listen to a plurality of practitioners who have a first-hand experience of the object, here the musicians themselves; finally, it demonstrates how it is the object itself which brings together the phenomenologist and the practicing musician in a collaborative description of the lived-experience.

BIO: Ellen Moysan started her education in Philosophy at Paris-Sorbonne IV (France), before studying with the French and German Master Erasmus Mundus Europhilosophy at the Karl University (Czech Republic), Hosei University (Japan), and Wuppertal University (Germany). She is now a doctoral candidate at Duquesne University (USA). Over the last ten years, Ellen Moysan has researched the notion of “inner song,” interviewing more than fifty musicians from different horizons on that topic, and creating a digital archive where the collection of interviews is available in French, Italian, and English. Currently, she is working on her interviews and finishing her dissertation.

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?