BSP Podcast: Rachel Elliott on Merleau-Ponty, group temporality, and improvised music

podcast update

Continuing Season Five of the BSP Podcast, Rachel Elliott, Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada.

Season 5 episode 95: 28 November 2020

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Rachel Elliott, assistant professor of Philosophy at Brandon University. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

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Rachel Elliott
‘The Futurity of the “We”: A Merleau-Pontian Account of Group Temporality and Improvised Music’

ABSTRACT: Is sharing time what underpins the experience of belonging to a higher-order unity or group? In this paper, I consider the extent to which music produces collective belonging using Alfred Schütz’s idea of a tuning-in relationship among participants in a musical event. I claim that Schütz’s Husserlian account of that relationship relies too much on the idea of active synthesis, whereas the notion can be better articulated using Merleau-Ponty’s conception of time as transition synthesis, derived from his idea of the habit body. This Merleau-Pontian version of the tuning-in relationship, however, foregrounds questions about musical genre, particularly in the distinction between improvised and non-improvised musics, in constituting the tuning-in relationship characteristic of what Schütz calls a ‘we’ experience. By examining this transition-synthesis in more depth, we see that it is through the projecting of compatible futures, perceived gesturally in one another, that any sort of ‘tuning-in’ relationship can occur. This raises the question about the ability of musics whose futures are distinctly unspecified, such as improvised musics, to produce the shared experience of time that underlies this variety of ‘we’ experience.

BIO: Rachel Elliott is currently an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. Her research focus is the phenomenology of groups at the level of embodiment with a special interest in temporality. Her current research centers on music, particularly improvised music, as an entry point for understanding the nature of co-perception. Her future research will address questions of temporality in relation to neurodiversity, seeking to map out the limits and possibilities of group consolidation when taking neurodiversity into account.

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:

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