Jan Lockenbauer

Grenoble Alpes University
University of Wuppertal

Sound, Music, and Speech as Configurations of Lived Space according to Merleau-Ponty

In his late working notes Merleau-Ponty advances that music should be understood as a model for conceiving linguistic meaning. I attempt to clarify this fragment by contextualizing it within the author’s broader phenomenological research, which emphasizes both the link between the natural and cultural spheres and their mutual difference. I first focus on the level of the primary natural passivity, which is characterized by the mutual implication between the sensorimotor living body and the sensory world. I interpret the auditory perceptive field as the space inhabited by the auditory organ, which represents a “diacritical system” capable of different typical variations. Then I conceptualize an individual sound as a contextual “deviation” from this general embeddedness of the auditory organ in its soundscape. This natural sphere will be interpreted as a soil in which the diacritical systems that contribute to the shaping of the acoustic world of culture are sedimented. Based on this analysis, I further explore the sphere of secondary cultural passivity through an analysis of heard music and speech that are imbued with the general human bodily style. I point out that both must initially be understood as a diacritical variation in the field of intercorporeal relations in which one’s body is anchored.