Music Colloquium focuses on musical expression

Professor Philip Alperson has been invited to deliver the next Music Colloquium. Alperson is currently a Fulbright Scholar at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.

The colloquium will take place Jan. 25, from 2:30 to 4pm, in Room 237 Accolade East Building.

Philip Alperson
Philip Alperson

The focus of Alperson’s talk is musical expression, which at once is one of the most familiar and bewildering aspects of musical practice. Works and pieces of music are frequently described in affective or expressive terms. Composers and performers are said to express themselves through their music. Listeners often take the expressive aspects of music to be among the most important features of their experience of music. Teachers tell their students to “play with expression.” Music itself is said to be an expressive, if not the most expressive, art.

In his talk, Alperson will offer an overview of several ways in which philosophers have approached the topic of expression in music, including cognitivist, non-cognitivist, symbolic, and associationalist theories, and areas of intersection among these theory types.

He will explore some of the substantive and procedural presuppositions about modes of musical understanding that ground these theoretical strategies and will examine some aspects of expressive musical expressive practice that philosophers have generally regarded as marginal. Alperson will argue that these “marginal” varieties of expression involve questions about musical performativity, modes of musical production, and the range of appreciative practices that are important to the ways people create, understand, and value music. He will argue that thinking about these “marginal” varieties of expression opens up our understanding of the kinds of musical practices with which philosophers – and others – might concern themselves.

In 2010-2011, Alperson served as the Styrian Endowed Professor at the Institute of Music Aesthetics at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. He is also a Senior Scholar at Temple’s Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture, and Society of which he was the founding director.

Alperson’s main interests are in aesthetics, the philosophy of the arts, theory of culture, value theory, aesthetic method, and theories of interpretation and criticism, with special interests in the philosophy of music and philosophical questions concerning creativity, performance, and improvisation. Alperson was the editor of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the journal of the American Society of Aesthetics, from 1993 – 2003 and is the General Editor of the Blackwell Series, Foundations of Aesthetics. He is currently at work on a book on the philosophy of music. He is also a jazz musician.