Dr. Harris Berger
Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology
Research involves: Understanding the nature of musical experience through ethnographic research and philosophy.
Research relevance: This research will provide new insights into the nature of musical experience and its relationship to society and culture.
Understanding musical experience
What is the nature of musical experience? How are musical experiences connected to other parts of culture and society?
For over 100 years, scholars in the field of ethnomusicology have gone into communities to understand the meaning that musical traditions have for the people that make them and listen to them. Such work has sought to interpret the musical experiences of performers and audience members, but little research has been done by ethnomusicologists on the nature of experience itself. A branch of philosophy known as phenomenology has explored just that topic. It tries to understand what it means to say that a person “has” an experience and provides new ideas about the relationship between experience and other basic philosophical concepts.
Dr. Berger’s research makes pathbreaking connections between ethnomusicology and phenomenology. It draws on concepts from phenomenology to shed new light on the nature of musical experience and uses information from ethnomusicological field studies to discover new ideas about the nature of music, the aesthetics of musical performance, and the political import of culture. In so doing, Dr. Berger’s work gives music scholars new intellectual tools for studying the people and music that they care about, clarifies basic concepts in arts research, and opens the way to more effective studies of the political and cultural impacts of music. Based on this work, music scholars will better understand the people they work with, develop more accurate and sophisticated interpretations of the role of music in society, and foster communication across cultural and social boundaries.