Dr Justin Christensen ‘Composers and their Means of Approaching Different Temporal Modes of Aesthetic Experience in their Practice’

I base my ideas for this talk on phenomenological and enactivist ideas that suggest that our aesthetic experiences are separated into three constituent temporal modes of awareness where meaning making can occur. From the phenomenological side, these are reflective consciousness (e.g. Gadamer’s understanding through language), pre-reflective consciousness (e.g. our practices and affective states), and nonconscious processing (e.g. our survival circuits). To reveal how focusing on different modes of awareness can greatly affect how we construct our aesthetic experiences, I examine interviews that I have made with composers Cassandra Miller, Steve Potter and Miguelángel Clerc on their compositional practice, linking each of them to one of the modes of awareness.  Also, even though each of these composers have mainly focused on one mode, I found that they have discussed their practice in relation to this mode as filled with rhizomatic connections and feed-back loops between it and the other modes of awareness. As a result, I would like to also look at these modes as Varela has proposed, in that they might be associated with three different timescales of experience. Varela has proposed that these are the elementary scale (between 10 and 100 milliseconds), the integrative scale (between 0.5 seconds and the length of short-term memory), and the narrative scale (durations that are longer than the length of short-term memory). This association between modes of awareness and timescales does not always work for music, but I propose that there can be interesting results seen when musical elements related to one mode of awareness are either compressed, stretched or repeated so as to fit into the timescale of another mode of awareness.

Justin Christensen is a Canadian composer, performer, and researcher that is based in London U.K. after recently completing a period of post-doctoral research at Aalborg University in Denmark. Prior to that, he earned his PhD in music composition in the UK with Michael Finnissy, completed degrees in music composition at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Netherlands, and degrees in music composition and trumpet performance at McGill University in Canada. His research focuses on the temporal, emotional and immersive listening experience, and has resulted in him writing a book titled Sound and the Aesthetics of Play: A Musical Ontology of Constructed