In a previous study [Vassilakis, P. (2005). Art as a mode of knowing and a model for action.
Proceedings of the 3rd Annual HICAH. CD-ROM (ISSN #1541-5899), Honolulu, HI] it was argued that art may be our most potent means of reconfiguring and enlarging our conception of reality and truth, opening up possibilities for action and innovation.
The present study addresses specific questions related to music’s contribution to knowing:
a) To what kind of ‘reality,’ ‘truth,’ or ‘beauty’ does music stake a claim?
b) How does music help expand our conception of this reality?
c) How does such an understanding of music relate to our strong emotional response to it and to its potential to set, reinforce, or alter our mood?
d) What can music’s configuration of time tell us about the way we understand ourselves temporally?
Temporarily suspending belief and surrendering to the world of a work is the condition of possibility for works of art in general and music in particular to reconfigure experience. Musical works have the potential to not only call for a suspension of the syntactic, symbolic, and temporal features of experience but, more importantly, to call for a suspension of our anticipation for any syntactic or symbolic meanings, while focusing on experience’s temporal features. It is these features that constitute what we anticipate will become meaningful through the suspension and reconfiguring of previous understanding involved in following a musical work. In other words, music brings the mode of being called temporality to expression, calling for an
epochè (bracketing) not of the real in general but, specifically, of the temporal features of the real, challenging us to rethink them.
The fact that the meaning of a musical work is often expressed in terms of its plot emphasizes music’s episodic and configurational dimensions, whose tension and resolution model and reply poetically to the tension that is inherent in our experience of time and behind experienced emotion. Music’s special significance may then lie in its power to reconfigure the way we experience time, and with it, emotion and mood.