Sounding Philosophy

Grieg Academy Composition Research Group

Dániel Péter Biró: Research Group Leader

The project Sounding Philosophy, funded by the Norwegian Artistic Research Program (2021-2024), integrates the fields of music composition, philosophy and science to understand how theories of reason and the mind can be approached from creative, metaphysical and scientific perspectives. This project builds on research-creation initiated by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017-2018, presentations at the interdisciplinary annual conference of the Swiss Philosophical Society in September 2018 and discussions undertaken in the context of the Grieg Academy Composition Research Group in 2018-2021.

The question of reason and the mind has been dealt with in the fields of art, philosophy and science and this has given way to contemporary theories of emergence, e.g. by the Nobel-Price Winner in Physics Robert Laughlin. Emergence can be described as the condition of an entity having properties distinct from the properties of the parts of the system from which it emerges, an important concept within the theoretical framework of complex systems. While philosophers have described thinking, doing and perception as different “states of mind,” scientists have not only concerned themselves with the question of how intelligence in the universe is possible but also how intelligence plays a role in the evolution and emergence of nature. Philosophers, such as Spinoza and Kant, regarded both philosophy and art not merely as rational modes of explanation but also as expressions of spirit (spiritus) and intelligence (Geist). Such questions of spirit also relate to new developments in emergence theories in physics and philosophy.

A meeting at the Swiss Philosophical Society in September 2018 dealt specifically with these questions from philosophical, scientific and musical perspectives. The current project expands on this research, seeking to investigate how creative, metaphysical and scientific studies of emergence can serve to inform a more holistic understanding of emergence as a complex, multivalent phenomenon. In this project musical creation will be informed by the fields of philosophy and science and vice–versa, thereby allowing project participants to reflect on their own creative, scholarly and scientific processes. The study of musical, philosophical and scientific texts and concepts will serve to guide the interdisciplinary research investigations. Such an international research forum will provide a unique research focus, simultaneously providing students at the Grieg Academy with an expanded educational experience.

A conference with a series of concerts and performances occurred in November 2019 at the Grieg Academy – Department for Music, at the Grieghallen and at the Norwegian Youth Chamber Music Festival in Stavanger. This conference and concerts built on research into music, philosophy and science seeking to investigate how concepts of mind and consciousness can interact among various disciplines. A secondary theme of this project was how processes of migration played a role in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and also in contemporary artistic, philosophical and scientific ventures.

International lecturers included Grit Schwarzkopf, University of Heidelberg, Gunnar Hindrichs, Professor for Philosophy, University of Basel and Elhanan Yakira, Professor for Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Vibeke Andrea Tellmann, Associate Professor for Philosophy, Christopher Senf, PhD candidate, Department of Philosophy, Arnulf Mattes, Associate Professor, Grieg Academy – Department of Music, Leader of Centre for Grieg Research, Craig Wells, PhD candidate, Grieg Academy – Department of Music and myself, Dániel Péter Biró, Associate Professor, Grieg Academy – Department of Music took part in the conference from the University of Bergen. Audience members came from various departments across the university and beyond and provided for a very lively discussion.

During the conference at the Grieg Academy, University of Bergen, Dr. Grit Schwarzkopf from the University of Heidelberg presented a lecture on the relationships between concepts of spirit (geist), telos and new research into quantum mechanics and emergence theory. Prof. Gunnar Hindrichs from the University of Basel discussed the question of intelligence in the theories of Eduard Hanslick and their relationship to contemporary art theories. Elhanan Yakira from the Department of Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem gave a lecture on Spinoza, connecting the biographical aspects of Spinoza in relation to migration with his philosophical thought. Arnulf Mattes, Associate Professor at the Grieg Academy – Department of Music, Leader of Centre for Grieg Research, gave a talk on relationships between music and psychology in the works of Arnold Schoenberg and theories of physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach. Finally, I gave a talk on my composition cycle Ethica, looking at how migration played a role in the theological and musical culture of the Jewish Portuguese synagogue of Amsterdam, how such processes continued among other immigrant communities in the 20th century and how my research of music and migration, combined with philosophical and scientific enquiries, informed the creation of my composition based on writings by Spinoza, which I initiated as a Guggenheim fellow.

Following the conference, two performances took place. On Nov. 6, 2019 a performance of the work Ethica, done in conjunction with renowned Norwegian Painter Kjell Pahr-Iversen and choreographer Hagit Yakira, Associate Professor University of Stavanger occurred at the atelier of Kjell Pahr-Iversen. The music was performed by the Neue Vocalsolisten from Stuttgart Germany, one of the premiere vocal ensembles of our time, along with Laurens Weinhold, Luke Hsu, Xiaoti Guo, Rainer Crosett, Clara Lindenbaum, students from the Norwegian Youth Chamber Music Festival. After the performance, Elhanan Yakira from the Department of Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem gave a lecture on Spinoza, discussing how migration played a role in the Jewish community of Amsterdam and how such migration influenced the text used for the composition Ethica.

On November 9, 2019 a second performance of Ethica with the Neue Vocalsolisten and the Bit20 Ensemble took place at the Grieghallen in Bergen. This performance, also with pre-concert talk and works by students of composition from the Grieg Academy, allowed audiences in Bergen to contemplate relationships between migration, philosophy and science via musical performance.

The conference Sounding Philosophy was held at the Grieg Academy – Department of Music, University of Bergen from 1-2 November 2019.

Concerts and performances, in coordination with the conference, occured on Nov. 6 and Nov. 9, 2019 at Atelier of Kjell Pahr-Iversen, Stavanger and at the Peer Gynt-salen, Grieghallen, Bergen.

Conference Events

November 1, 2019 , Grieg Academy, Prøvesalen, Lars Hilles gate 3

Christopher Senf, Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Session Moderator

15:00 Prof. Elhanan Yakira, Hebrew University Jerusalem: “Spinoza’s Ontology of the Intellect”

16:00 Prof. Dániel Péter Biró, Grieg Academy: “Parametric Composition in the Ethica Composition Cycle.”

17:00 Coffee Break

17:30 Dr. Grit Schwarzkopf, University of Heidelberg, “Was ist Teleologie?”

November 2 Grieg Academy, Gunnar Sævigs Sal, Lars Hilles gate 3

Dániel Péter Biró, Grieg Academy, Session Moderator

10:00 Prof. Gunnar Hindrichs: On Hanslick’s proposition: “Composition is spiritual work on spiritually capable material.”

11:00 Coffee Break

11:30 Prof. Arnulf Mattes, Grieg Academy: “Intoxicating Oscillations: Ernst Mach and Arnold Schoenberg”

Concerts and Performances

November 6, 2019

Norwegian Youth Chamber Music Festival

Atelier of Kjell Pahr-Iversen, Stavanger

Ethica, after Baruch Spinoza Composition by Dániel Péter Biró, Professor for Composition, Grieg Academy, University of Bergen

Choreography by Hagit Yakira, Associate Professor for Dance, University of Stavanger

Paintings of Kjell Pahr-Iversen, Stavanger

Introductory lecture by Elhanan Yakira, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

November 9, 2019 15.30

Peer Gynt-salen, Grieghallen

Dániel Péter Biró: Ethica after Baruch Spinoza (2017-2020)

Works by Grieg Academy composition students Gunhild Seim, Lisa Braathen, Anders Hannevold and Bendik Savstad, involved in the Sounding Philosophy Worksop and other works by Knut Vaage.

BIT20 Ensemble

Dániel Péter Biró, Trond Madsen, conductors

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