statue of Herodotus

Mission statement

The goals of the Music and Philosophy Interest Group are:

  • to further strengthen the interdisciplinary community committed to philosophical problems in the study of music
  • to embrace Classical, Analytic, and Continental traditions of philosophy
  • to expand upon the disciplines already committed to the study of music and philosophy (e.g., aesthetics, history of music theory, Adorno and critical theory, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, philosophy of mind, etc.)
  • to reflect productively upon the core practices of musical analysis


The Music Philosophy Group plans various special sessions, symposia, discussion group sessions held at the Annual Meetings of the SMT, both as part of the formal SMT program as well as part of the meeting of the Music Philosophy Group itself that takes place as part of the Annual Meeting. The group also maintains an e-discussion list (with our sister group in the AMS) to discuss topics of interest and coordinate presentations and research activities. Information on activities in previous years can be found below.

Online presence and discussion

The SMT Music and Philosophy Interest Group has a Facebook page and a Humanities Commons page. An online discussion list maintained with the AMS’s Music and Philosophy Interest Group can be found on Google Groups.

How to join

There are no requirements for membership; simply attend our meetings at annual SMT meetings to participate.

Leadership and Contact Info
Role Name Email
Co-chair Florian Walch
Co-chair Audrey Slote 


Past Activities

The Music and Philosophy Interest Group held a virtual meeting on November 6th from 9:30–10:45am. Discussion centred on two talks about music ontology: a talk by guest speaker Andrew Kania (Trinity University) on demarcating ontologies and definitions of music; and a lighting talk by Lara Baliksi (McGill University), titled “Intervening in Music Ontology: Queer Phenomenology and Furniture Music.” 


The Music and Philosophy Interest Group held a virtual business meeting on November 8th from 2–3pm. Discussion centred on four talks about posthumanism and music theory: a talk by guest speaker Holly Watkins (University of Rochester), and three lighting talks by Amy Bauer (University of California, Irvine), Andrew Chung (University of North Texas), and Jessie Cox (Columbia University).


The Music and Philosophy Interest Group held a business meeting on November 9th from 5:45–7:30pm in Columbus OH. The meeting centred on a discussion of a book chapter by philosopher Dean Rickles, titled “Some Philosophical Problems with Music Theory (and some Music-Theoretic Problems of Philosophy).” Position papers were presented by Lee Cannon-Brown, Dylan Principi, and Layne Vanderbeek.


The SMT Music and Philosophy Group invites everyone to attend our business meeting at the upcoming conference in Charlotte on November 1 from 5-7. We will hear three papers focusing on the topic of "hearing-as." Our speakers are: Joseph Dubiel (Columbia University) - Music Analysis and Kinds of Hearing-As Marion A Guck (University of Michigan) - Perceptions, Impressions: When Is Musical Hearing Hearing-As? Bryan J. Parkhurst (University of Michigan) - Hearing-As as Knowledge-How All the papers develop the concept of "hearing-as" in relation to Wittgenstein's famous analysis of "seeing-as" and aspect perception from the Philosophical Investigations. Download Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Part II, section xi, with a short introduction to guide the reader.


The Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society and the Music and Philosophy Interest Group of the Society of Music Theory are pleased to announce a joint session addressing the question, What is the contemporary relationship between philosophy and music studies?

This event will be held at 2012 meeting of the AMS, SMT and SEM; it will take place on Thursday night, November 1st, from 8-11 pm. The following scholars will participate:

Chair: Stephen Decatur Smith (Stony Brook University)

Panelists: Brian Kane (Yale) Lawrence Kramer (Fordham) Tamara Levitz (UCLA) Fred Maus (University of Virginia) Ana Mariá Ochoa (Columbia) Gavin Steingo (University of Pittsburgh)


Joint Session: AMS Music and Philosophy Study Group and SMT Music and Philosophy Interest Group: What is the contemporary relationship between philosophy and music studies? The title of a 1953 essay by Theodor Adorno asks, “What is the contemporary relationship between philosophy and music?” Adorno’s historical moment is no longer ours and, in that time, the relationship between music and philosophy has undergone a sea change. The analytic philosophy of music is now an established sub-discipline within philosophical aesthetics, patiently raising questions about the ontology of music and its power to represent, inflect, indicate, and express. Philosophers in the continental tradition are offering new ways to theorize performance, the voice, embodiment, the event, listening, and the metaphysics of music. The rise of sound studies and auditory cultural studies has created a new mixture of anthropology and critical theory, interrogating the history of the senses, the soundscape, noise and our musical practices. Scholars of music have often been the primary and deepest readers of these texts—but not simply readers alone. Their work has fed back into the discourse, affirming and critiquing, raising challenges and setting the stage for future debate. With all this ferment at the border of music and philosophy, where are we heading? What will the future of music and philosophy look (and sound) like? In the present session, the philosophy groups of the AMS and SMT, along with interested scholars from the SEM, seek to spark a provisional accounting of this new moment. Our time is not Adorno’s, but we have posed Adorno’s question anew, asking scholars from all three organizations to respond to the question: What is the contemporary relationship between philosophy and music studies?

Business Meeting The SMT Music and Philosophy Interest Group and the AMS Music and Philosophy Study Group will be holding a joint business meeting on Friday, November 2nd, from 12-2 at the national conference in New Orleans. Picking up the theme from our Thursday evening panel, we will hear three position papers on the topic: "What is the contemporary relationship of music studies and philosophy?" Our speakers include: Delia Casadei (UPenn) Benjamin Court (UCLA) Daniel Villegas (UPenn) We will also discuss future projects, topics, themes and proposals for the two music/philosophy groups.


Business meeting

The business meeting of the Music and Philosophy Interest Group was held on Friday, October 28, from 5-7pm. At the business meeting there was a discussion of Veit Erlmann's new book, Reason and Resonance, in particular the chapters on Descartes and Helmholtz (Chapters 1 and 6). Two position papers were presented:

  • Ben Steege (SUNY Stony Brook), "'Reasonating': reflections on Veit Erlmann's historiography of aurality"
  • Amy Cimini (NYU), ""Resonance, Friendship and Descartes' Musical Secret"

Special Evening Session

The Music and Philosophy Interest Group sponsored an evening session entitled, "Voice: medium or mediation?" The session took place on Friday, October 28 from 8-11pm and contained four papers which dealt with various aspects of "the voice" in the history of music theory, analysis and contemporary critical theory:

  • Andre Redwood (Yale), "Beyond Mechanics: Voice as Mediator in the Harmonie Universelle"
  • Jonathan De Souza (U of Chicago), "Rousseau, Stiegler, and the Technical Mediation of Voice"
  • Christopher M. Barry (UW Madison), "A Cinematics of the Lyric Song-Subject"
  • Clara Latham (NYU), "Rethinking the Intimacy of Voice and Ear: Intimacy, affect, and pleasure in the discourse of hysteria"
  • Discusssion of Adriana Cavarero's For More Than One Voice. Position papers given by Allie Kieffer (Yale) and Ryan Dohoney (Columbia).
  • Special Session entitled “Perception in the flesh: what can Merleau-Ponty contribute to music?” Featuring papers by: Amy Cimini (NYU), "Hearing the Flesh of the World: Music and Sound in Maurice Merleau-Ponty's 'Intertwining -- The Chiasm'"; Eugene Montague (George Washington University), "Gesture and Habit in Merleau-Ponty and Ligeti"; Violaine Anger (Ecole Polytechnique), "The legacy of Merleau-Ponty’s conception of rhythm and its impact on music"; Richard H. Brown (USC), "'Nature in Her Manner of Operation': Merleau-Ponty, John Cage, and the American Neo-Avant-Garde”; Jairo Moreno (Penn), chair.

Joint meeting with the Music and Mathematics Group. During this joint business meeting, Dmitri Tymoczko gave a paper on music theory and empiricism, which included a reading of Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism."

  • Discussion of Stanley Cavell's "Music Discomposed," from Cavell's book, Must We Mean What We Say? (Cambridge, 2002). This session begain with position papers by Franklin Cox (Wright State University) and John Koslovsky (Eastman School of Music).
  • Special Session on Jean-Luc Nancy: Brian Kane (Yale Univesrity) "Reading Nancy, Hearing Almost Nothing", Elisabeth Hoffmann (New York University) "Nancian Sharing: Sonic Selves, Listening", Roger Grant (University of Pennsylvania) "Jean-Luc Nancy’s 'I' for Rhythm," James Wierzbicki (University of Michigan) "Beyond the Coded: Hearing the Paratactic" Moderator: Joseph Dubiel (Columbia University).
  • Discussion of Jean-Luc Nancy's Listening: Position papers given by Stephen Smith (New York University) and Brian Kane (Columbia University).
  • Special Session: "Deterritorializing Music Theory: Deleuze, Guattari, and A Thousand Plateaus" featuring papers by John Rahn (University of Washington), Michael Gallope (New York University), Martin Scherzinger (Eastman School of Music), Amy Cimini (New York University), and Benjamin Boretz (Bard College).