Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

AIAS Guest talk at Dept. of Musicology: Jessica Wiskus

Music and Empathy: Some Insights from Phenomenological Research

2017.10.26 | AIAS

Date Thu 09 Nov
Time 16:15 18:00
Location Langelandsgade 139, Building 1584, Room 212, 8000 Aarhus C


While “musicking” is an activity undertaken in as many different styles as there are cultures, one important characteristic of musical experience (across its multiple realizations) is its capacity to elicit feeling – even a sense of empathy. But how? Is it because, in listening to music, I am able to comprehend that its complex structure was composed by another human being? This would be a theory related to the intellect (which could be cultivated to appreciate the “genius” of the composer). Or is it because, in listening to music, I come under the influence of a set of specific physiological responses? This would be a theory based on physical imitation (which could be used to induce emotion and empathy, e.g. through a phenomenon like entrainment).

This presentation outlines a third approach, in contrast to the “way of the intellect” and the “way of the body.” It applies recent research in phenomenology to examine, with respect to music, the relation between temporal structure and the eliciting of emotion and empathy.

About the speaker

Jessica D. Wiskus is currently a fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS) and a Professor of Music at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA, USA), where her work concerns the intersection of music and philosophy. She is the author of The Rhythm of Thought: Art, Literature, and Music after Merleau-Ponty (University of Chicago, 2013) as well as articles in Musiktheorie: Zeitschrift für MusikwissenschaftThe Journal of the British Society for PhenomenologyJournal of Speculative PhilosophyPhilosophy TodayEpoché, Angelaki (among others). Her research at AIAS investigates the phenomenology of time-consciousness in music as a foundation for ethics.  

Jessica D. Wiskus' project at AIAS 


Steen Kaargaard Nielsen, Associate Professor
Email: musskn@dac.au.dk
Phone: +45 8716 3095

Dept. of Dramaturgy and Musicology
Aarhus University

Langelandsgade 139
DK-8000 Aarhus C



Lecture / talk