In class last term, we discussed whether it is possible to listen to/play a work without engaging with it hermeneutically. Rather than argue either side and get all "smart" about it, it's time for an experiment!
Let's pretend that we are all at a concert. At a concert, one knows certain things about a piece of music before one hears it. One might read something in the program notes, or have heard other works by the composer before, and so on.
To represent this, pick a number #1-8. Be honest and click ONLY the number you picked. Do not look at the others.
Good. Now, listen to this minute long piece of music I wrote a while ago:
Tell me about your aesthetic experience: What did that random fact do for you as you listened? Did you ignore it? Could you? Did it matter at all? Go ahead and look at some of the other numbers now and listen again. Any changes in your feelings towards the work?
My bet is that it was impossible to ignore the thing you saw (or other things you might have considered) and just enjoy the "present" work. It is impossible to live in the present. Our state of presence is constantly influenced by what came before and what we think lies ahead. Or, as St. Augustine confessed:
“I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my attention encompasses the whole, but once I have begun, as much of it as becomes past while I speak is still stretched out in my memory. The span of my action is divided between my memory, which contains what I have repeated, and my expectation, which contains what I am about to repeat. Yet my attention is continually present with me, and through it what was future is carried over so that it becomes past.”
Abstraction is unobtainable. We are hermeneutic creatures and can never listen to something without analyzing, formalizing, hemeneuting it up. These thoughts are not flights from the moment, but rather indispensable components to it.
But enough about how I felt. How did the experiment work for you?