Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Blum

Subject Categories



Flute; Listener; Music cognition; Performance anxiety; Performer; Shakuhachi


Musical meaning, or what a musical experience communicates to a listener, is predicated on a shared habitus of listening between the musical creator (i.e., composer, performer, or improviser) and the listener. The meaning a listener takes away from a musical experience is partly dependent on the vessel transmitting it (i.e., who is performing, the quality of performance, or the visual aspects of performance), and a musical creator's actions are the result of his or her training, past experiences, enculturation, attentional focus, and bodily control in the heightened mental state in which creativity occurs. Even in traditions that consider the musician to be a conduit for inspiration from an otherworldly source, the musician must still undergo training in order to allow for a free, uninhibited flow of music. Music practitioners' evaluative statements, in which they describe the ways in which a musical experience was meaningful for them, often implicitly include an expectation of this mental discipline on the part of the musical creator. A practitioner-listener uses the appearance of both the music and the musician, the expectation of a musical logic governing the musical sounds, and the emotions or feelings of transport that he or she experiences to infer a musical creator's mental state and mental discipline, relying on his or her own musical experiences as a guideline.

Most broadly, this dissertation is an ethnomusicological study of the cultural and social contexts, cognitive dimensions, and aesthetic judgments found in 18th-century German flute pedagogical treatises and published writings from shakuhachi players. More specifically, it is an axiological examination of the role habitus plays in the forming of aesthetic judgments among practitioners whose writings include an implicit expectation of mental discipline in a "good" musical experience, drawing upon the work of Jean-Jacques Nattiez and Kendall Walton, in particular. This dissertation offers a description of the kinds of mental states in which creativity occurs, includes a theory of musicking as the bringing forth of one's inner self or core consciousness, and demonstrates ways in which practitioners suggest that another musician's inner self (i.e., mental discipline and mental state) can be discerned in a musical experience.

Flute treatises by Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) and Johann Georg Tromlitz (1725-1805) raise broad issues of aesthetics in terms of the ways in which serious music of the 18th century aspired to capture ideals of nobility, the ways in which musical judgment was used a means of assessing a listener's social status, the ways in which mental control in musical execution and composition were defined, and the ways in which a musician's mental discipline can produce a transcendent musical experience. The issues raised in these treatises resonate with concerns equally touched upon by contemporary music philosophers (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Christian Gottfried Körner, Johann Mattheson, and Johann Georg Sulzer) and also perpetuate aesthetic concerns from the Renaissance.

The writings of shakuhachi players Hisamatsu Fūyō (1791-1871), Watazumi (1910-92), Andreas Fuyu Gutzwiller (b. 1940), Christopher Yohmei Blasdel (b. 1951), John Singer (b. 1956), Ralph Samuelson, and Gunnar Jinmei Linder present a range of concerns that define the modern shakuhachi habitus. Their statements which allude to discernible aspects of mental discipline in their own playing and in the playing of others are driven by four major concerns: the primacy of the performance as the meaningful act of musicking, a player's membership in social groups (ryūha), the shakuhachi's traditional role as a tool for spiritual meditation, and practitioners' multiple senses of history. In this dissertation, the issue of mental discipline is examined in shakuhachi playing with regard to a player's inner mental experience, the execution of gestures that result in musical sound, and the experience of achieving enlightenment (suizen).

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