Toward an understanding of the human musical experience: A comparison of perception, theory, and analysis in works by Judith Lochhead, Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, and David Lewin (with Original composition);

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Theory and Composition

First Committee Member

Dennis Kam - Committee Chair


Some of the most intriguing recent approaches to dealing with questions of the relevance of musical perception and experience to analysis share the commonality of trying to acknowledge and tie individual musical experiences into the analytic method at some rudimentary level. In order to contend with some of the attendant problems in such an undertaking, these approaches often are married to existing schools of thought within other disciplines which have already clearly defined approaches to such problems. In this essay, three recent approaches to perception's role in analysis will be examined: one applying a philosophical approach, the second, a psychological approach, and the third, a seeming combination of the two approaches. These are, respectively, Judith Lochhead, "The Temporal Structure of Recent Music: A Phenomenological Investigation" (Ph.D. diss., State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1982); Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1983); and David Lewin, "Music Theory, Phenomenology, and Modes of Perception," Music Perception 3, no. 4 (Summer 1986): 327-392. Each approach brings to light new perspectives on old problems, while raising its own set of new problems. However, the value in these approaches is that each strives in its own way to address directly the relevance of human musical experience to analysis and to offer a greater understanding of that experience through analysis. This is an improvement, in this author's opinion, over analytical approaches which merely describe relations of notes and other parameters within a compositional framework, leaving questions of perception and meaning unaddressed. By focusing on the problems of individual human musical experience, each theory also has within it the potential for adequately describing that experience for some.


Music; Philosophy; Education, Music

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