Title: The Ontological and Aesthetic Nature of Harmony
In keeping with my project title, my thesis will be divided into two main sections. In the first half, I will focus on the ontology of harmony. This will involve an in-depth examination of the philosophical debate on the ontology of sound, from which several competing theories have emerged. In addition, I will investigate the persistence conditions of sound over time and the problem of its spatial location. The first part of my thesis will also include an assessment of the psychoacoustics and phenomenology of sound, in order to account for our perception of chords as complex sounds that can be individuated as single entities and thus possess qualities that give them a distinctive identity. In addition to an account of the mereology of tones and chords, I intend to offer a comparison of the individuation conditions of chords in both traditional and modern tonal harmony. This section will also include an examination of chord properties such as intervals, inversions, tension and resolution, as well as the roles ascribed to the root, dominant, subdominant and the seventh.
The second half of my thesis will consist of a comprehensive theory of the aesthetics of harmony. I aim to offer an account of the perceptual nature of harmony that reconciles both the psychoacoustics and the phenomenology of chords. In order to achieve this, I aim to assess the implications from recent research findings in music psychology, whilst delving into the phenomenology of music. I also intend to contrast a classical theory of natural harmony with contemporary musicological views in light of developments from qualia theory, in order to establish how far objectivity can be observed in the study of chords. In addition, I will consider the suitability of different theories of metaphysical dependence to account for the relation between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties of chords, with focus on grounding, response-dependence and aesthetic supervenience, whilst evaluating how far these may contribute to our understanding of the aesthetics of harmony. The second part of my thesis will also comprise an analysis of issues involving divergent tuning systems as well as modal harmonies; this is a particularly important section of my research in that it not only incorporates both historical traditions and cultural variances in the use of harmony, but also the largely neglected issue of temperament. My thesis will thus navigate through this long-standing conundrum in the history of music.