Music: Listening and Philosophy

Academic year2018-2019                                                                         
Day(s)Tuesday and Thursday
  • 11, 20, 25 September, 2, 4, 9 October: 18.00-21.00
  • 13, 18, 27 September, 11 October: 19.00-21.30
Number of meetings        10
Dates of all meetings11, 13, 18, 20, 25, 27 September, 2, 4, 9, 11 October 2018
Preparation  You are expected to read specified literature before the first meeting (will be emailed to you)
LocationVrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam
RoomHG-16A00 Kerkzaal VU, 16th floor main building, acces via stairs from 15th floor
Concerts atOrgelpark  
  • Prof. dr. J. Fidom, Organ Studies
Guest lecturers:
  • Dr. Marcel Cobussen (Leiden University, expert on Derrida and editor of the Journal of Sonic Studies)
  • Drs. Jacob Lekkerkerker (Academy St.-Joost Breda, improviser, art historian and philosopher).
  • Marielle Woltring, Pop musician (Lavalu), connecting classical music, jazz etc. in her music

Course description

In 1985, composer Luciano Berio stated that music is ‘everything one listens to with the intention of listening to music.’ What, then, is listening to music about, how does it work and why? Many composers, musicians and philosophers have considered these and related questions throughout the 20th century; among them great names like John Cage, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Jacques Derrida.

For whom?
Music: Listening & Philosophy is accessible to any student that takes part in the Honours Programme; no special musical or artistic talents are required, apart from being a dedicated music listener and having an open mind, prepared to push one’s musical limits. 

Music: Listening & Philosophy trains students in listening and thinking about listening to music, and gets them in touch with:

  • composers, musicians and philosophers, their ideas, their music;
  • with the problems musicians and listeners face while musicking (to borrow Christopher Small’s useful term here) and the role scores, recordings, instruments, acoustics play in musicking activities;
  • with the way Youtube and Spotify interfere in listening experiences;
  • with ideas about authenticity, quality and meaning; with city sounds as representing just another musical realm – to name just a few topics. The basic idea is that thinking about music and listening problematizes and enhances the way one approaches and handles any complex encounter, since music, volatile as it is, is the most complex of all arts by far.

Music: Listening & Philosophy is developed and presented by the special chair Organ Studies at VU University. Prof. Dr. Hans Fidom provides the backbone of the course, by presenting listening exercises, introducing and discussing many types of music as well as various thinkers and their work, and by examining the papers the students have to present on a weekly basis.

Study materials
Students will have to read quite a few lines and will be given listening assignments. To enable them to meet these requirements properly each session will include reading and listening time.
All study materials will be provided via the course website (URL will be announced in class).

Listening & Philosophy takes the form of seven pairs of two three-hour sessions (afternoon and evening). The second session of each pair will be dedicated to concert visits, workshops and student presentations.

The students will have to produce a few papers each. The final assessment will be an oral exam.