BSP Podcast: Sam McAuliffe on music and hermeneutic-phenomenology

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Sam McAuliffe presenting a paper from our 2020 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

Season 5 episode 129: 13 November 2021

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Sam McAuliffe, Monash University. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

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Sam McAuliffe
‘The Improvisational Encounter: What is Common to Music and Hermeneutic-Phenomenology’

ABSTRACT: Hermeneutic-phenomenology as a method of inquiry is increasingly finding its way into music studies, and the performing arts more generally. Indeed, with respect to music studies there is no shortage of projects where hermeneutic-phenomenology is employed as a means to better understand music, both from the perspective of creating music and experiencing it as a spectator. There is a clear distinction, then, between the practice of music and the application of hermeneutic-phenomenological inquiry; one is used to understand the other. Rarely acknowledged however, are those characteristics that are common to both music and hermeneutic-phenomenology. In this paper I would like to explore one of those shared characteristics: improvisation. By exploring the hermeneutic-phenomenological tradition from a Gadamerian perspective and the practice of music, broadly conceived, I argue that what is common to each is the ‘improvisational encounter’. Which is to say, the improvisation that is essential to the practice of music is equally essential to hermeneutic-phenomenological inquiry. By highlighting the hermeneutic-phenomenological nature of improvisation in music and the improvisational nature of hermeneutic-phenomenology we might better notice the relevance of each field to the other. Consequently, not only can applied hermeneutic-phenomenology better speak to the practice of music, but so too can studying music provide insight into hermeneutic-phenomenology as such. Thus, perhaps by acknowledging the commonalities between art and philosophy we can notice ways in which these disciplines might speak to and complement one another.

BIO: Sam McAuliffe is a PhD candidate at Monash University, working at the intersection of improvised music and philosophical hermeneutics. In addition to his academic work Sam has worked as a musical director for experimental theatre productions, has curated sound installations for major Australian art festivals, and he plays guitar in a variety of ensembles.

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?