Volume 8 · Number 3 · Pages 324-331
The Music of Consciousness: Can Musical Form Harmonize Phenomenology and the Brain?

Dan Lloyd

Download the full text in
PDF (714 kB) · EPUB (30 kB) · MOBI (47 kB)

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


Context: Neurophenomenology lies at a rich intersection of neuroscience and lived human experience, as described by phenomenology. As a new discipline, it is open to many new questions, methods, and proposals. Problem: The best available scientific ontology for neurophenomenology is based in dynamical systems. However, dynamical systems afford myriad strategies for organizing and representing neurodynamics, just as phenomenology presents an array of aspects of experience to be captured. Here, the focus is on the pervasive experience of subjective time. There is a need for concepts that describe synchronic (parallel) features of experience as well as diachronic (dynamic) structures of temporal objects. Method: The paper includes an illustrative discussion of the role of temporality in the construction of the awareness of objects, in the tradition of Husserl, James, and most of 20th century phenomenology. Temporality illuminates desiderata for the dynamical concepts needed for experiment and explanation in neurophenomenology. Results: The structure of music – rather than language – is proposed as a source for descriptive and explanatory concepts in a neurophenomenology that encompasses the pervasive experience of duration, stability, passing time, and change. Implications: The toolbox of cognitive musicology suddenly becomes available for dynamical systems approaches to the neurophenomenology of subjective time. The paper includes an illustrative empirical study of consonance and dissonance in application to an fMRI study of schizophrenia. Dissonance, in a sense strongly analogous to its acoustic musical meaning, characterizes schizophrenia at all times, while emerging in healthy brains only during distracting and demanding tasks. Constructivist content: Our experience of the present is a continuous and elaborate construction of the retention of the immediate past and anticipation of the immediate future. Musical concepts are almost entirely temporal and constructivist in this temporal sense – almost every element of music is constructed from relations to non-present musical/temporal contexts. Musicology may offer many new constructivist concepts and a way of thinking about the dynamical system that is the human brain.

Key words: Neurophenomenology, music, ontology, temporality, fMRI, schizophrenia


Lloyd D. (2013) The music of consciousness: Can musical form harmonize phenomenology and the brain? Constructivist Foundations 8(3): 324-331. http://constructivist.info/8/3/324

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Vörös S. & Bitbol M. (2017) Enacting Enaction: A Dialectic Between Knowing and Being
Froese T., Gould C. & Barrett A. (2011) Re-Viewing from Within: A Commentary on First- and Second-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness
Quale A. (2010) Objections to Radical Constructivism
Maturana H. R., Bitbol M. & Luisi P. L. (2012) The Transcendence of the Observer. Discussions at the Conference “The Ethical Meaning of Francisco Varela’s Thought”
Neges K. (2013) Non-dualism and World: Ontological Questions in the Non-dualizing Mode of Discourse


Calhoun V. D., Adali T., Pearlson G. D., van Zijl P. C. & Pekar J. J. (2002) Independent component analysis of fMRI data in the complex domain. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 48(1): 180–192. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Chalmers D. (2000) What is a neural correlate of consciousness? In: Metzinger T. (ed.) Neural correlates of consciousness: Empirical and conceptual questions. MIT Press: Cambridge MA: 17–40. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Clark A. (2003) Natural-born cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Dreyfus H. L. (1972) What computers can’t do: A critique of artificial reason. Harper and Row, New York NY. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Elman J. (1990) Finding structure in time. Cognitive Science 14: 179–211. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Engel A. K. & Singer W. (2001) Temporal binding and the neural correlates of sensory awareness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5(1): 16–25. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Field H. H. (1978) Mental representation. Erkenntnis 13(1): 9–61. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Fodor J. A. (1975) Language of thought. New York, Crowell. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Fodor J. A. (2008) LOT 2: The language of thought revisited. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Froese T., Ikegami T. & Beaton M. (2012) Non-human primates cannot decontextualize and objectify the actions of their conspecifics. In: Scott-Phillips T. C., Tamariz M., Cartmill E. A. & Hurford J. R. (eds.) The evolution of language: Proceedings of the 9th international conference (EvoLang9) World Scientific Publishing, Singapore: 126–133. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Gallagher S. & Varela F. J. (2003) Redrawing the map and setting the time: Phenomenology and the cognitive sciences. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29: 93–132. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Garrity A. G., Pearlson G. D., McKiernan K., Lloyd D., Kiehl K. A. & Calhoun V. D. (2007) Aberrant “default mode” functional connectivity in schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry 164(3): 450–457. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Gibson J. J. (1979) The ecological approach to visual perception. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Hanslick E. (1854) Vom musikalisch Schönen [The Beautiful in Music]. R. Weigel, Leipzig. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Herzog M. (2009) Binding problem. In: Binder M., Hirokawa N. & Windhorst U. (eds.) Encyclopedia of neuroscience 1 (A–C) Springer, Berlin: 388–391. http://www.springerreference.com/docs/html/chapterdbid/114175.html
Higham T., Basell L., Jacobi R., Wood R., Ramsey C. B. & Conard N. J. (2012) Testing models for the beginnings of the Aurignacian and the advent of figurative art and music: The radiocarbon chronology of Geissenklosterle. Journal of Human Evolution 62(6): 664–676. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Hinton G. E. (1984) Parallel computations for controlling an arm. The Journal of Motor Behavior 16: 171–194. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Huron D. B. (2006) Sweet anticipation: Music and the psychology of expectation. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Husserl E. (1966) Zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins [Phenomenology of inner time consciousness]. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague. Originally published in 1928. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Husserl E. (1974) Ding und Raum [Thing and space]. Lectures of 1907. Martinus Hijhoff, The Hague. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Husserl E. (1991) On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time (1893–1917) Translated by J. B. Brough. Kluwer, Dordrecht. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
James W. (1890) The principles of psychology. H. Holt, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kivy P. (1990) Music alone: Philosophical reflections on the purely musical experience. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kivy P. (2002) Introduction to a philosophy of music. Clarendon Press, Oxford. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Koch C. (2004) The quest for consciousness: A neurobiological approach. Roberts & Company, Englewood CO. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Lerdahl F. & Jackendoff R. (1983) A generative theory of tonal music. MIT Press. Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Lloyd D. (2011) Mind as music. Frontiers in psychology 2: 63. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Lloyd D. (2011) Through a glass darkly: Schizophrenia and functional brain imaging. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 18(4): 18. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Matell M. S. & Meck W. H. (2004) Cortico-striatal circuits and interval timing: Coincidence detection of oscillatory processes. Cognitive Brain Research 21(2): 139–170. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Melloni L., Molina C., Pena M., Torres D., Singer W. & Rodriguez E. (2007) Synchronization of neural activity across cortical areas correlates with conscious perception. The Journal of Neuroscience 27(11): 2858–2865. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Merleau-Ponty M. (1962) Phenomenology of perception. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London. Originally published in French as: Merleau-Ponty M. (1945) Phénoménologie de la perception. Callimard, Paris. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Nagel T. (1974) What is it like to be a bat? Philosophical Review 83: 435–450. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Noë A. (2004) Action in perception. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Patel A. D. (2007) Music, language, and the brain. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Plomp R. & Levelt W. J. (1965) Tonal consonance and critical bandwidth. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 38(4): 548–560. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Rumelhart D. E., McClelland J. L. & the PDP research group (1986) Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the microstructure of cognition. Volume I. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Scruton R. (1976) Representation in music. Philosophy 51(197): 273–287. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Scruton R. (2009) Understanding music: Philosophy and interpretation. Continuum, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Sethares W. A. (2005) Tuning, timbre, spectrum, scale. Springer, Berlin. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Sethares W. A. (2007) Rhythm and transforms. Springer, Berlin. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Thompson E. (2007) Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
van Gelder T. (1999) Wooden Iron? Husserlian phenomenology meets cognitive science. In: Petitot J., Varela F. J., Pachoud B. & Roy J.-M. (eds.) Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA: 245–265. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J. (1999) Present-time consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 6(2–3): 111–140. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J. (1999) The specious present: A neurophenomenology of time consciousness. In: Petitot J., Varela F. J., Pachoud B. & Roy J.-M. (eds.) Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA: 266–317. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J., Lachaux J. P., Rodriguez E. & Martinerie J. (2001) The brainweb: Phase synchronization and large-scale integration. Nature reviews. Neuroscience 2(4): 229–239. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J., Thompson E. & Rosch E. (1991) The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Wheeler M. (2005) Reconstructing the cognitive world: The next step. The MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.