SAAP 2016

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Performative and Critical Interpretation in Music: A Nondualistic Peircean Approach

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Analytic philosophy of music is plagued by a pervasive cognitivist bias and dualistic approach to musical meaning and performance, a bias emblematic of what Dewey calls “the intellectualist fallacy.” Jerrold Levinson’s distinction between performative and critical interpretation in music constitutes an important and influential example of this bias. Drawing upon Peirce’s semiotic theory of the interpretant, I argue that Levinson’s formulation of the performative/critical interpretation distinction results in a distortion of how musicians actually engage in interpretive practices. It is more accurate and more fruitful to consider the two modes of interpretation not as separate and dichotomous, but as interconnected aspects of an ongoing process that has as its aim a consummatory aesthetic experience on the part of both listener and performer. From an American philosophical and semiotic standpoint, then, we are liberated from the linguistic-propositional approach to performance characteristic of analytic aesthetics.


Felicia Kruse    
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
United States


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