from the author’s perspective: groove

I’ve written a fairly lengthy piece—”From the Author’s Perspective: Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance”—which appears in the new American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter. Here is the opening paragraph:

How should we understand the relationship between music and body movement? The common view is that a listener’s body movement is a reaction to, an effect of, perceiving music. I don’t doubt that this is, in part, correct. I claim in Groove, however, that moving our bodies is often something that we do in order to grasp certain rhythmic qualities; our movement is an integral part of a perceptual skill for grasping qualities such as a groove. We know that the perception of music is not passive; I view bodily movement as a component of one’s active perception of music. To develop this, I draw upon the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s account of embodied perception, emphasizing his notion of motor intentionality. Before we get to this, though, let’s take a few steps back…

Read the rest here.

reviews/musings on groove

Follow these links for reviews and discussions of my book Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance  (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)

new course: contemporary continental philosophy

People in Montclair:  I am teaching a new course in Fall 2015: Contemporary Continental Philosophy (PHIL 339). This course satisfies a requirement in our newly tweaked Philosophy Major. The course surveys four main movements of the continental (European) philosophical tradition: (1) 19th century German philosophy, (2) Marxism/critical theory, (3) phenomenology/existentialism, and (4) post-structuralism/post-modernism. The continental philosophical tradition runs from the late 19th Century to the present day. Continental philosophy stands in contrast to the dominant, Anglo-American, “analytic” philosophical tradition. This course gives students the opportunity to examine the ways in which continental philosophers approach issues in the core subfields of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Students will also have the opportunity to explore similarities to and differences from the analytic philosophical tradition. Frankly, I can’t wait!

motor intentionality and groove

One of the ideas I leverage in my book, Groove, is the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s notion of motor intentionality.* Phenomenologists use the term “intentional” to refer to our directedness toward something. Merleau-Ponty’s idea is that, in certain movements, our bodily directedness toward objects constitutes a kind of practical, noncognitive understanding of them. (For example, I have a practical rather than intellectual understanding of the shape and flimsiness of this Coke can through the movements of my fingers and thumb.)

It’s commonly believed that a groove is, in some sense, the feel of a rhythm. But the feels of grooves seem somewhat mysteriously embodied. I try to make sense of this through a particular characteristic of motor intentionality. Notice that our motor-intentional understanding of something can be effective or ineffective. (A faulty understanding may result in my not succeeding in picking up the Coke; the can may slip from my hand, spill.) Merleau-Ponty believes we experience this wrongness and rightness of our bodily understanding as bodily feelings of tension, equilibrium, etc. I think that when we move to music we are attempting to understand it, bodily, through our movements.

I argue that this felt, affective dimension of motor intentionality is the basic nature of the feel of a groove. The embodied understanding of a groove, on the one hand, and the feel that informs this motor-intentional activity, on the other, are two sides of the same coin: to “get” a groove just is to comprehend it bodily and to feel that comprehension.

*For more on motor intentionality, see Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. Also see Sean D. Kelly’s “Merleau-Ponty on the Body: The Logic of Motor Intentional Activity,” Ratio XV, no. 4 (2002): 376– 91. For more on Merleau-Ponty in general, see Taylor Carman’s Merleau-Ponty. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

Gallery

Notes On Tiger C. Roholt’s “Groove: a phenomenology of rhythmic nuance”

Tiger Roholt:

Thanks to Thomas Brett for this thoughtful review.

Originally posted on brettworks:

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Tiger C. Roholt’s Groove: a phenomenology of rhythmic nuance is a splendid, rigorous, and brief (140 pp) book that makes a compelling case for something many musicians already know something about: groove. Groove is the feel of a rhythm–that quality of musical time that can make it seem as though the music is pushing ahead or laying back. How a single musician, let alone an entire ensemble, has groove is somewhat mysterious. In a way, the ability to produce and perceive groove is a kind of body knowledge and its feel aspect “is a musician’s datum” (105). Roholt designs his book around four propositions: first, grooves have a feel; second, grooves somehow involve the body and its movement; third, to understand a groove is to feel it; and finally, feeling and understanding a groove does not occur in thought or in listening, but through the body (2).

Roholt introduces his topic…

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