Music, affect and the sensuous embodiment of ethics
Evangelos Chrysagis (University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
By exploring musical sensation and action as a bodily modus operandi this paper argues for an approach to ethical practice that shifts the focus from an exclusively cognitive-ideological understanding of music to sensually-induced and pre-reflexive visceral faculties, dispositions and potentials.
Paper long abstract:
This paper discusses the centrality of the palpable body in musical creativity and reception, by drawing upon ethnographic examples from Glasgow, UK. In attending ethnographically to the corporeal investments and the somatic entanglements pertinent to music practice, I suggest that bodily registers are fundamental to the consideration of music-making as an ethical practice. The sensory constellations comprising music practices call for a sensuous examination of music. But rather than treating the senses as materially embedded inward capacities and passive receptors of external stimuli, I perceive bodies as dynamic and sensually rich interfaces that have the capacity to articulate a sensorialized social space. Similarly, I seek to examine the specificity of the practices and techniques that music-making entails and how these sensed activities elicit particular embodied sensibilities and aptitudes. Yet, from an affective standpoint, the body is not a blank canvas but it is caught up in ongoing movement and becoming. Affects are bodily tendencies, corporeal sensations that precede cognition and do not presuppose a thinking, intentional subject. However, instead of embracing a biological determinism, I focus upon the movement between affective incipience and its rationalization. Specifically, my ethnographic analysis inhabits the space where sensation, perception and action coalesce. Musical sensations thus form the raw substance of ethical work and refinement, while the body emerges as a tool of ethical self-fashioning insofar as music inculcates particular affective potentialities. In essence, then, my aim is to reveal how music not only reflects but also engenders ethical identities.
Collaborative intimacies in music and dance: anthropologies in/of sound and movement