Rafael Barbosa

Theoretical grounds for creative music analysis

Referring to the analysis of his own work by his colleague Karlheinz Stockhausen, Boulez used the term analyse fausse (false analysis). As he puts it, for a composer, who is in search of his own language, the false analysis is the best way for approaching the work of his peers. Boulez was right, it is legitimate for a composer to project his own ideas and conceptual models on the music of others; letting his own creativity emancipate in spite of the subject of the analysis. This is because, at the end, what is the most important for a composer is to keep refining his individuality. In contrast, the musicologist is expected to approach musical analysis not only with objectivity and a deep sense of respect for the score, but also taking into consideration related repertoire, and even sometimes biographical facts of particular relevance. But what we do not commonly expect from him is to engage his own aesthetic judgment through a creative manipulation of the score.

The development of an experimental psychology of music and aesthetics has reached a level that urges musicological analysis to adopt a transdisciplinary approach. A great deal of scientific knowledge, as well as the protocols of experimentation, are available for musicologists to address new aspects of musical style. That implies the possibility of manipulating musical samples in various creative ways, and opens the path to use aesthetic judgment as an heuristic on the study of the creative process. This has been done so far in regard with music theory (Bharucha, 1987 ; Karno, M. & Konecni, V, 1992), low level perceptual processes (Huron, 2006 ; 2016), or even processes of implicit learning (Rohrmeier, M. & Rebuschat, P. 2012), but only a few studies have focus on music style (Lalitte et al. 2009).

Since this approaches diverge on methodological matters from the paradigms of normalized music analysis, as these are practiced among scholars and taught in music schools, we need to set further theoretical support for it. On my presentation I propose do so by discussing two points :

  • The pertinence of a renewed ontological status for perception on music analysis : From it’s beginning, analytical musicology has distinguished the subjectivity of the aesthetic experience

from the objectivity of music theories (e.g. Rameau, 1722; Schenker 1935). But our knowledge of the role of hedonic and sensory perception on the construct of meaning (Damasio, 1999; Johnson 2007) has help various disciplines to overtake the paradigm opposing body to mind. The need for a dialog between human sciences urges musicology too, to overcome the same duality. Ultimately, this updating of musicology should lead to a reevaluation of the object of analysis and its means. Giving a more central place to perceptual experience, and reframing that of the score.

  • The second point concerns the heuristic value of the aesthetic experience it self. Borrowing the methodological protocols of experimental psychology, analytical musicology gives to creativity – on the part of the analyst – a prominent place (Barbosa, 2017).



BARBOSA, Rafael : «L’écoute, une nouvelle heuristique en musicologie», Loxias, revue électronique du CTEL, Université Côte d’Azur, automne 2017, 9 pages.

BHARUCHA, Jamshed : «Music cognition and perceptual facilitation: A connectionist framework» Music Perception, n°5, 1987, pp. 1-30.

DAMASIO, Antonio : The feeling of what happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness, London, Heineman, 1999.

HURON, David : Sweet anticipation, Massachusetts, M.I.T. Press, 2006.
– Voice Leading: The Science Behind a Musical Art, M.I.T. Press, 2016.

JOHNSON, Mark: The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding, Chicago, University Press, 2007.

KARNO, M. & KONECNI, V. : «The effect of structural interventions in the first movement of Mozart’ Symphony in G Minor K. 550 on aesthetic preference» Music Perception vol. 10, 1992, pp. 63-72.

LALITTE, Ph. ; BIGAND, E. ; KANTOR-MARTYNUSKA, J. & DELBE, Ch. : «On listening to atonal variants of two piano sonatas by Beethoven.» Music Perception, 26(3), 2009, pp. 223-234.

ROHRMEIER, Martin & REBUSCHAT, Patrick : «Implicit learning and acquisition of Music» TopiCS n°4, 2012, pp. 525-553.


Université de Côte d’Azur, France

In 2012, after obtaining a Master in Musicology from the university of Strasbourg, where he specialized on the analysis on the early atonal repertoire from the Viennese School, Rafael Barbosa obtained a grand from the universityCôte d’Azur in Nice to pursue a Ph.D on the music department which he obtained in 2007. On his research he focuses on the development of tool and paradigms for the analysis of music style, that include the achievements of music cognition, and scientific aesthetics. On his firsts publications he has focused on the heuristic status of hearing and its possible impact on the development of a transdisciplinary musicology.