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

Dan Lloyd

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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

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