The Performance Attitude and its two Phenomena

The Law Chair Philosophy Foundation 2021 Workshop

The Performance Attitude and its two Phenomena



As a painter tries to translate his/her vision into a painting and as a writer tries to verbalize the story s/he imagines, so the musician tries to perform what s/he hears “in his/her mind”: the inner song.[1] In music practice: interpretation means playing the inner song as a specific understanding of a piece of music; improvisation means performing the inner song in the moment of hearing it; and composition means writing down the inner song as it is imagined.

Philosophically, the inner song is:[2] (1) a phenomenon—it is given in the phenomenological consciousness[3]—(2) of phantasy—it is neither a phenomenon of perception nor an intuitive positing of past or future as true—(3) teleologically oriented toward a performance—it is given as a part of the act of performing—(4) constituted through an intention—chance plays a very little role in its constitution—and (5) sonorous but not necessarily linguistic—it is composed of sounds but language might or might not be involved.

The musician accesses the inner song through a practical epoché which switches the attention away from the natural attitude into the performance attitude.[4] In the performance attitude, the musician has access to two phenomena: the inner song given in phantasy, and its counterpart given through the perception of its realization [Verwirklichung, Realisierung] in performance.[5] In phantasy, the inner song is at first given as fleeting, unsteady, and obscure. However, it becomes clearer as the musician practices, rehearses, or performs, i.e., as the musician hears how it actually sounds. Phenomenologically speaking, the inner song is therefore more precisely an obscure phantasy pointing to a possible clear appearance.[6] The clearer my inner song is, the more refined and musical my performance will be. As a consequence, it is necessary to listen to the inner song attentively in order to play it musically and beautifully.

In the present paper, I will show how the phenomenological study of a music practice session uncovers a subject in the performance attitude, grasping both the inner song and its counterpart in perception mirroring it. I will: (1) provide a naïve description of how a musician can experience the two phenomena during a practice session, (2) introduce the notion of the performance attitude, and finally (3) describe the relationship of image between the inner song given in phantasy and its counterpart given in perception.


            I am in Heidelberg, Germany, in the atelier of my friend, the painter, practicing Bach’s “Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesus Christ”[7] with a cello that another friend nicely lent me. I have performed the practical epoché which turns my attention away from the natural world into the world of the inner song. I am now in the performance attitude, listening.

I am conscious of a deep fatigue in this time of intense work; of the heat of this early summer day; of the simple chair on the edge of which I am sitting; of the cello resonating against my chest and the bow weighing in my right hand; of the room covered by the warm and colorful paintings created by my friend; of the street resonating with the voices of the people having a late lunch downstairs; and finally, of the sweet happiness of sitting in this wonderful room with a cello. I am conscious of all these perceivable things. However, they remain only the background of my attention. Indeed, I am aware of this natural world on hand without being busied with it.

My attention is instead oriented toward my consciousness, busied with the world of the inner song in which I can grasp both the imagined inner song and the actual perceived song that I am issuing with my cello. As I perform, I can hear the two melodies: I can hear the inner song growing in my phantasy,[8] and simultaneously, I can hear how it sounds when I perform it with my cello. The melody of my inner song, represented in phantasy, and the melody given voice in my cello sing the same song: Bach’s Cantata. I can hear the two melodies singing together, in unison. However, I still grasp them independently from one another, as two distinct objects of consciousness. Actually, if I pay attention, it seems that there is always one of them which attracts my attention more than the other. It is not always the same one. Sometimes the inner song is in the foreground and the perceived counterpart is only on the horizon, while at other times the situation is reversed. In a way, they seem to alternate.: at times, the inner song is the focus of my attention while the perceived counterpart is only in the horizon, at other times, it is the reversed situation.

In my phantasy, I hear the melody of the inner song unfolding with its own pitch, durations, dynamics, timbre; I hear the names of the notes; I visualize where I need to play them on the instrument; I feel how I need to grasp them on the instrument – with which part of my fingers, with sweetness or assertiveness etc.; finally, I also feel the emotion of the cantata, a cry of despair, an intense longing for God’s grace. As I hear the inner song in phantasy, I also perform it with my cello. I press my fingers on the neck of the instrument, I push and pull the bow according to the musical phrase. As I play the cello, my whole body moves in circles with the instrument, accompanying the movements of the melody, contracting, and releasing tension like the smooth moves of a jellyfish. It feels like a slow dance. Breathing in accompanies the ascendent movement while my body rises up; when the movement is descendent, my upper body crouches on my lower body sitting on the chair. My respiration is not always coordinated with my movements; however, it tends to at least mark the beginning of a new musical phrase. It is as if I breathe through the instrument. As I play, I hear the sound being issued by my cello. I hear the quality of the sound, how it grows. I get its pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre. I perceive it as one; as the continuous succession of a melody.

As I practice, I am both listening to my inner song in phantasy and to my performance in perception. When it comes to paying attention to the perceptible object given in consciousness, I am not just focusing on the perception for itself: I focus on it mostly as a potential mirror of the inner song. In other words, I am not only letting myself be moved by the beauty of the music, I am also engaged in producing music which is the image of my inner song. The inner song guides the performance, it guides my movements. I am motivated by the intention to mirror the phantasy object with my performance. In order to do so, I constantly go back and forth between the two objects given in consciousness, checking my performance with the inner song, sketching a better inner song thanks to the performance, ready to correct the wrong move and adjust it so that it better performs the inner song. Sometimes I make a mistake, so I stop, correct it, and then continue. I continue practicing for a couple of hours, trying to remain focused. Sometimes, a noise from the street, a sensation of tension, or something else calls my attention back into the natural attitude, causing me lose my focus. In order to regain it, I need to redirect my attention inward again. Thanks to this renewed switch of attention, I can hear the inner song and its counterpart again, thus, I am able to work on my performance.  


The phenomenological study of the experience of practicing the cello uncovers a specific attitude: the performance attitude. It is the attitude into which the artist switches when s/he performs music, and into which the phenomenologist needs to switch in order to describe the inner song.

The performance attitude is acquired through a double epoché: practical and theoretical. First, the subject performs the practical epoché; the musician enacts it in the course of the performance process, and the phenomenologist reenacts it in order to also be able to grasp the inner song.[9] This practical epoché corresponds to the praxis of the conversion of attention: through an effort, the subject practicing the epoché redirects his or her attention away from the natural world toward the intentional consciousness itself. Thus s/he disengages from the natural world in order to engage in the world of the inner song. The natural world is not negated, the subject is still conscious of it, it remains on hand. However, as the attention is redirected away from it, it is neutralized: it does not impact the grasping of the object anymore.[10]

In addition to this practical epoché, the subject desiring to grasp the inner song performs a theoretical epoché. In other words, s/he suspends the general positing of the existence of the natural world on hand in order to focus on the objects that are given in the phenomenological consciousness, regardless of their status of existence.[11] Here too, the natural world remains on hand, it is the standpoint from which the subject accesses the ego and its ego-life, however, it is neutralized: it does not impact the phenomenological grasping of the object anymore. Thanks to the double epoché, the subject switches into the performance attitude, the attitude which gives access to the inner song and its counterpart, both given in the phenomenological consciousness.

The performance attitude, related to artistic performance and studied here from the specific perspective of music performance, is a form of aesthetic attitude. This is a notion that Husserl does not investigate extensively. However, he mentions it in his Letter to Hofmannsthal from January 1907, particularly regarding case of poems,[12] as well as in some other manuscripts. In this letter, Husserl points out how the aesthetic attitude is “closely related” to the phenomenological attitude. Indeed, both depart from the natural attitude toward objectivities:[13] in the aesthetical as well as in the phenomenological grasping of objectivities, the object is grasped regardless of its status of existence. In other words, it might or might not exist, the existential aspect does not impact the grasping of the object. In both cases, the subject excludes the general thesis regarding the existence of the world on hand.[14] From that, it follows that the aesthetical as well as the phenomenological exclude the existential. This claim is later radicalized when he argues that the more the object is offloaded from its existential status, the more it is possible to grasp it phenomenologically, and similarly, the more the object is offloaded of its existential status, the more it can be appreciated aesthetically.[15]

In these newly acquired attitudes bracketing the existential, the object is given as meaning, as phenomenon and it becomes then possible to describe it phenomenologically. In other words, it becomes possible to clarify in a pure intuiting what the object means in its immanent existence, regardless of its transcendental existence. Describing the object phenomenologically consists of explaining how it is given through an act of consciousness, independently from whether it exists or not.[16] Concerning the specific aesthetic object, it appears bearing a value and is accompanied by specific feelings—the ones that are not related to the existence of the object. In other words, the object impacts consciousness primarily for its aesthetic effects,[17] and it motivates feelings which are related to what it is, and would not be modified even if the object did not actually exist—for instance joy, sadness, or amazement before the beauty of a sound, etc.[18]

The performance attitude is a form of aesthetic attitude in the sense that it is under the umbrella of the genus of aesthetic attitude. Indeed, the object which is grasped through this attitude is contemplated for its aesthetic beauty. For this reason, the attitude in performance presents the same characteristics as the aesthetic attitude that Husserl mentions in his Letter to Hofmannsthal. However, it also presents additional characteristics that are related to the specific aesthetical givenness of the object in the course of the performance process, and moreover in the case that I am studying, in the musical performance process.

During the musical performance or practice session, the performer is not just an artist appreciating the inner song and its counterpart aesthetically, but s/he also grasps these objects in the context of an act of creation, going back and forth between the two, in order to refine the inner song through the perception of the performance, and enhance the performance through the grasping of the phantasy. In other words, the artist performing music is a creative artist who grasps the object of phantasy [Vorbild] in order to realize it in performance [Realisieren] and grasp the object of performance as an image of the phantasy object [Abbild].[19]

This specific type of phenomenological grasping impacts the status of the natural attitude—and this is where the performance attitude adds something to the aesthetic attitude that Husserl describes. Indeed, the performer accessing phenomenological objects from the standpoint of the natural attitude, needs to remain engaged enough in the natural attitude so that the act of performance can take place. During a music practice session, or a performance, the performer engages with the instrument through perception in the natural attitude. It is from this specific standpoint that s/he switches then into the performance attitude to grasp the phenomena. If the musician performs and then listens to the inner song, there is a switch of attitude: the musician engages with the instrument through perception in the natural attitude, and then, busies him- or herself with the phenomena in the performance attitude. However, when the musician performs while listening to the inner song and its counterpart, something different happens: the performer remains engaged in the natural attitude, but not enough to disturb the grasping of the phenomena. In other words, the performer remains conscious of the natural world but as s/he is busy with the phenomena, s/he is, in a way, blind to this natural world. This evenly hovering attentiveness [schwebende Aufmerksamkeit][20] to the natural attitude while being busy in the performance attitude provides both the necessary connection with the natural world through the senses necessary to perform, and the freedom to grasp and work with the phenomena through intuition.

In the post-scriptum of the Letter, Husserl describes three golden rules for the artist. The second one is the following: “He [the artist] should follow, purely and solely, his daimonion which, from within, drives him to an intuiting-blind production.”[21] For me, and even if I am here interpreting freely and giving a new meaning to Husserl’s words, the expression “intuiting-blind production” describes perfectly what the musician does when engaged in the performance attitude. Indeed, the specific kind of attention related to the performance, this evenly hovering attention, leads the artist to wholeheartedly follow the inner song—the vision in phantasy, along with its counterpart—while being only partially engaged with the natural world. In other words, the artist produces the object of performance both in a state of full intuition of the phenomena, and of semi-blindness to the natural world. Moreover, the more the artist engages with the phenomena given in consciousness, paradoxically, the better s/he can perform with an instrument. Similarly, the less the performer engages with the inner song and its counterpart given in the phenomenological consciousness, the less s/he is able to perform musically. So, exactly as Husserl argues that the suspension of the existential is the condition of the aesthetical, I want to argue that, in the specific case of music performance, the engagement with the aesthetical is the condition of the existential.


In the performance attitude, the musician accesses the world of the inner song[22] in which two phenomenological objects are given: first, an object given in phantasy which is a sketched model (Vorbild)—here, the inner song—and second, a perceived object realizing this image by mirroring it (Abbild)—here, the heard object corresponding to the hearing of the performance.[23] The two objects are not given in the phenomenological consciousness in the same way: the object of perception is presented [gegenwärtig]—it posits the object as transcendentally existent[24]—whereas the object of phantasy is re-presented [vergegenwärtigt]—the object might or might not exist transcendentally to consciousness.[25] This means that the synthesis of fulfilment of the intention in intuition is not the same for the two objects: only the synthesis of fulfilment in perception gives the object in full body.[26]

The melody which is on the side of the perceived is that melody heard when the musician hears him or herself playing.[27] As an object of perception, it is given in adumbrations, namely, through impression with visible and invisible parts: I hear some aspects of the melody but not the whole of it.[28] The unperceived parts are not totally absent, they are still given but as absent, they are re-presented. In other words, they are suggested, but are not part of the percept. The perception in adumbration offers infinite possibilities for the fulfilment of the intention. However, despite these open-ended possibilities, the act of apprehension of the object in perception always grasps the object itself.[29] This means that the givenness of the object itself is distinct from the complete fulfilment of the intention i.e., the adequate percept. The object of perception (here the melody I am issuing with my cello) is given as itself, but in adumbration i.e., through a partial fulfilment of the intention. What is not actually perceived is filled through apperception, or appresentation; it is given as a possibility.

In the case of the perception of a melody, the perception of what I am currently performing, what I actually perceive, is called by Husserl “purely perceptual content” [30] and it is the content of the melody that I am hearing now.[31] In addition to it, there are the adumbrations, possibilities of perception: the parts of the melody yet to come and the parts of the melody that have already passed. The ideal, limiting case of adequate perception would imply a grasping of all the possibilities; however, this does not happen because the object is always given with unperceived aspects and only partially. In other words, I always perceive the melody partially, with the possibilities of its retentions and protentions.[32]

Despite this partial grasping, the perceived object is still given in consciousness as a unity, as a constituted unity. [33] This unity is constituted through a continuous flux of fulfilment. The perceptual synthesis contains therefore a temporal value: the object in perception is given through succession, i.e., through time. In this temporal succession the fulfilled intentions correspond to what is actually perceived—they come first—whereas the unfulfilled intentions correspond to the a-perceptions—they come second. Husserl says that all of them “are identifications binding self-manifestation of an object to self-manifestation of the same object”.[34] In other words, all of them contribute to the identification of the object as what it is, as the same object. This analysis leads to a description of the perception of the real song (or realized inner song) as a synthesis of fulfilment in which this one object is perceived in adumbration with its present of impression and its temporal possibilities of retentions and protentions. Thanks to this synthesis, the object is presented in the field of perception of the phenomenological consciousness, given as present.

In the field of imagination, the inner song is given as a phantasy object, first obscure, and then, undergoing a process of modification, clarified. As opposed to its perceivable counterpart, the inner song is not given in a present of impression, it is re-presented through phantasm. This means that it also has a temporal flow,[35] it is a representation of the object itself (selbst-vergegenwärtigung),[36] but it is a re-presentation (Reproduktion), or more precisely, a reproductive modification.[37] The phantasy is reproductive but does not re-present a now, it does not present, again, an object which was formerly given as present. In this sense, it is distinct from remembering. Instead, it is a neutral reproductive modification which has the character of a quasi-positing: it is as if [als ob] it posited the object as existent without really positing it as such.[38] In other words, the phantasy does not reproduce an actual perception, it reproduces a possibility of perception.[39] In the specific case of the inner song, the phantasy is first reproducing the possibility of the perception of the realized inner song. In other words, how the inner song would sound if it were performed. Then, as I practice, as the realization of the inner song occurs and I can hear it performed, the phantasy is modified by the perception, and becomes closer to a re-production in memory, still with a phantasy component.[40]

This specific case in which the phantasy object undergoes a progressive sketching (thanks to the perception of its realization in performance) involves a particular synthesis of fulfilment. At first, the inner song is given in phantasy as fleeting and unstable. According to Husserl, obscure phantasies are not the object of a full intuition. Instead, the intuition is a “rudiment of intuition, a shadow of intuition.[41] The intention is not empty. It is only when it comes to phantasies that are very obscure, that the re-presentation is only a residue, and that this residue is so poor that it can disappear. In this case, as the phantasm is interrupted, the intention remains empty. However, if the residue reappears, the intention remains, despite the disappearance of the residue, and thus, it continues to be fulfilled.[42] In other words, when the inner song is given as a very obscure phantasy, in its early stages, the phantasm can be interrupted and the intention remain empty—the inner song can disappear and be lost.[43] However, if this residue was sufficiently clear and reappears, if I am able to grasp that residue again, then the intention can continue to be fulfilled. This means that the possibility of the continuation of the fulfilment of the intention in phantasy is the reappearance of the primary obscure phantasy.

The phantasy is the reproduction of the possibility of the perception. In other words, its degrees of clarity depend on the degree of clarity of this possible perception. Husserl says that the obscure phantasy: “turns into actual intuition only when a sufficiently rich image is given.”[44] This sufficiently rich image is a phantasy which points to a rich perception. In the case of the inner song, a phantasy object which points to a rich possibility. When this first phantasy object is sufficiently rich,[45] another grasping of the residue interpreted as the same residue of what was primarily given is necessary in order to turn this grasping into an actual intuition. Only in this way can the primary intention continue to be fulfilled. This is one reason why an act of the will, which is also an act of interpretation, should be in play. Indeed, the reappearance needs to be interpreted as being the same as the first appearance. Then, the clearer the phantasy is, the easier it is to identify this residue as a residue coming back to continue the process of fulfilment of the intention, and not as a new residue.[46]

During the performance process, the musician realizes the inner song through performance. Thus, the primary obscure phantasy does not point to a possibility of perception anymore, but, very early, to an actual perception. As the process goes on, the object of phantasy is reinforced through the perception of its realization in performance. In other words, it goes from being an obscure phantasy pointing to a clear appearance in perception, to being a clearer phantasy involving the apprehension of the actual appearance in perception.[47] Thus, the phantasy is not the reproduction of a quasi-perception, but the reproduction of a quasi-perception involving an actual perception, a reproduction which involves both the reproduction of a possibility of expectation and a reproduction of a past memory. The phantasy object is then characterized by a specific type of present, of now, which is the moment of givenness of the object coinciding with the inner pulse;[48] I call it Ur-Phantäsie.[49]

This reinforcement of the phantasy object through the perception of its realization is first made possible by of the specific relationship between the inner song and its counterpart. As I said earlier, there is a relationship of likeness between the inner song and its realization in performance: what I perform is supposed to be the image what I phantasize. In other words, a process of realization [realisierung] makes the phantasy object real [real]: through the performance, the inner song is offered as a perceivable object. Thus, the performance presents the represented in the sense that it makes it present. Then, the object of perception participates in the constitution of the object of phantasy as its correspondent, thanks to this resemblance,[50] by breaking into the field of phantasy. The original distinction between the field of perception and the field of imagination is not so clear anymore. Indeed, if it is true that an object of imagination cannot be properly speaking presented among the objects of the field of perception, the object of perception, here the perceptual correspondent of the inner song, can break into the field of imagination to be re-presented among the objects of phantasy.[51]

This process of the perceptual breaking into the phantasy happens through a temporal synthesis. I call the intention related to this synthesis of fulfilment the performer’s intention. It is one unique intention with two apprehensions: the intention is being fulfilled by a temporal synthesis involving a succession of reproduced phantasies and perceptions. Indeed, I phantasize a primary obscure inner song, I realize it through performance, I hear that performance, it modifies my phantasies, and so on. In other words, there is a continuity, through time, of discontinuous intuitions of objects.[52] The breaking of the perceptual into the phantasized happens thanks to the retaining of the perceptual in memory which is then re-presented. In other words, it is because the perception of the performance is retained in memory, presented through impression, and memorized, that it can take part then in the constitution of a re-productive phantasy. Even in the case of an inner song that is not actually realized, it is still memory which allows the intuition of how the inner song would sound if it were perceived.[53]


The present paper went from the description of the naïve experience of a music practice session, to the introduction of the notion of performance attitude, and the description of the two objects posited in the world of the inner song: the actual song which is given through the perception of the realization of the inner song in performance, and the inner song which is the phantasy object that is both the origin of that performance, and constituted through it. This work offers the current state of my research to critiques and observations. It is in a way still a work in progress. Several notions have been introduced without being fully investigated. Several phenomenological issues have also been mentioned without being fully analyzed. In order to open the discussion, I would like to offer some questions for reflection.

The first concern the problem of the performance attitude. I introduced this notion by distinguishing it both from the natural attitude and the aesthetic attitude. I claimed that it differs from the first while being situated on it, and it belongs to the genre of the second while presenting some specificities. In the process of my argumentation, I underlined how attention plays a specific role, both to switch into the performance attitude and to maintain a certain degree of engagement with the natural attitude. However, how does the musician engage with the natural world through this hovering attention? And how does language play a role in the performance attitude in comparison to the aesthetic attitude? Finally, is there a difference between practicing and performing in the way the musician engages in one or the other attitude, and can we find further distinctions among the three types of practices (interpretation, improvisation, and composition)?

Secondly, I introduced the inner song and its counterpart as being related through a relationship of likeness, the second one [Abbild] being the realization [realisierung] of the first one [Vorbild]. I explained how, in the case of the constitution of the inner song, the performer’s intention is fulfilled by a temporal synthesis involving the apprehension of phantasies as well as memorized perceptual objects. However, is it always the case that the performance reflects an image? How to understand the specific temporal synthesis which lets a perception break into the field of a phantasy? How is the inner song given as one, and moreover, is it really given as one? If the inner song is not a pure phantasy object because the perceptual breaks into this field, conversely, is the perception of the actual song a pure perception or a perceptive phantasy?

In order to answer these questions, it would be necessary to deepen the analysis by a description of the spatial and temporal process of the realization of the inner song. That would lead to a more detailed investigation of the problem of embodiment, and more specifically two notions: the notion of inner pulse which I describe in my dissertation as the proto-temporality which is common both to the apprehension of the object in phantasy and the apprehension of the object in perception; and the notion of hyle which is the sensuous layer of phenomenological objects.

[1] I took this expression from the book of a French cellist and pedagogue from the Paris Conservatory: Gagnepain, Xavier, Du musicien en général…au violoncelliste en particulier, Paris, Cité de la musique, 2003. I had the chance to discuss my thesis on the inner song with him after my first master’s degree. That became my first interview, and the beginning of a series:


[2] This definition raises the problem of the creation of concepts: what are the boundaries of the concept of inner song, why are they not arbitrary?

This is a problem that Husserl raises in §66 of Ideas 1: “The words used may derive from the common language; they may be ambiguous and their changing senses may be vague. As soon as they ‘coincide’ with the intuitively given in the manner characteristic of an actual expression, they take on a definite sense as their actually present and clear sense, hic et nunc; and starting from there we can fix them scientifically.” Husserl, Edmund: Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology, translated by F. Kersten. The Hage, Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, 1982, pp. 151-2.

The present definition of the inner song corresponds to the current stage of my phenomenological investigation. It is the result of a work at three levels: (1) individual, through a self-reflection about my own experience; (2) intersubjective, through a consistent dialogue with practicing musicians (interviews are available online here: – indeed, the only defined question that I keep from one interview to the next is the following: “how would you define the inner song”, and from that the discussion goes on; and (3) theoretical, through a close reading of the Husserlian corpus, and more specifically his account of imagination and phantasy.


[3] This will be the focus of the present paper; I investigate the other aspects in my PhD dissertation.


[4] Cf.


[5] Through the performance, the musician makes the inner song real, in the sense that it becomes an object of nature. Cf. The following quote “By the real phenomenological content of an act we mean the sum total of its concrete or abstract parts, in other words, the sum total of the partial experiences that really constitute it. To point out and describe such parts is the task of a pure descriptive psychological analysis operating from an empirical, natural-scientific point of view. Such analysis is in all cases concerned to dismember what we inwardly experience as it in itself is, and as it is really (reell) given in experience, without regard either to genetic connections, or to extrinsic meaning and valid application. Purely descriptive psychological analysis of an articulated sound-pattern finds only sounds and abstract parts of unifying forms of sounds, it finds no sound-vibrations or organs of hearing etc.; it also never finds anything that resembles the ideal sense that makes the sound-pattern to be a name, nor the person to whom the name may apply. Our example suffices to make our intention clear. The real (reell) contents of acts are of course only known through descriptive analysis of this kind. That obscurities of intuition or inadequacies of descriptive conception – faults, in short, of method – may lead to much ‘manufacture’ of sensations (to use Volkelt’s phrase) cannot be denied. This, however, only concerns the legitimacy of particular cases of descriptive analysis. It is clear, if anything is clear, that intentional experiences contain distinguishable parts and aspects, and this alone is of importance here.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, V, §16, p. 112



[6] Husserl mentions this type of object in Husserl, Edmund: Phantasy, Image consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925) translated by J. B. Brough. Dordrecht/Boston/London. Springer, 2005, §38, pp. 86-7.




[8] I learned the cello duet version of this cantata by memory listening to the following interpretation by Maurice Gendron available on Youtube:


[9] I develop this argument more in detail in my PhD dissertation as well as in the Paper for the ICNAP 2021 Conference.


[10] My own analysis of the practical epoché of the performing musician is inspired by Natalie Depraz’s work on the phenomenological epoché as praxis, and more specifically Depraz, Natalie: “The Phenomenological reduction as a praxis” in Journal of Consciousness studies, 6, no. 2-3, 1999, pp. 95-110


[11]We put out of action the general positing which belongs to the essence of the natural attitude; we parenthesize everything which that positing encompasses with respect to being: thus the whole natural world which is continually “there for us”, “on hand,” and which will always remain there according to consciousness as an “actuality” even if we choose to parenthesize it” Husserl, Edmund: Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology, translated by F. Kersten. The Hage, Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, 1982, §32, p. 61.


[12] This case brings the problem of language, and therefore of the epoché in and of language. It is a different case from the one I am studying, especially since I set aside the case of the singer’s inner song because of this particular problem in which I do not want to enter before having described the non-linguistic inner song accurately.


[13] “For me, the ‘inner states’ that are portrayed in your art as purely aesthetic, or not exactly portrayed, but elevated into a sphere of pure aesthetic beauty, these states hold, in this aesthetic objectification, a particular interest – i.e. not only for the art lover in me, but also for the philosopher and ‘phenomenologist.” For many years I have attempted to get a clear sense of the basic problems of philosophy, and then of the methods for solving them, all of which led me to the ‘phenomenological’ method as a permanent acquisition. It demands an attitude towards all forms of objectivity that fundamentally departs from its ‘natural’ counterpart and which is closely related to the attitude and stance in which your art, as something purely aesthetic, places us with respect to the presented objects, and the whole of the surrounding world”.” Husserl, Edmund, Letter to Herr von Hofmannsthal (January, 12th 1907),


[14] “The intuition of a purely aesthetic work of art is enacted under a strict suspension of all existential attitudes of the intellect and of all attitudes relating to emotions and the will which presupposes such an existential attitude. Or more precisely: the work of art places us in (almost forces us into) a state of aesthetic intuition that excludes these attitudes.” Husserl, Edmund, Letter to Herr von Hofmannsthal (January, 12th 1907),


[15] “The more of the existential world that resounds or is brought to attention, and the more the work of art demands an existential attitude of us out of itself (for instance a naturalistic sensuous appearance: the natural truth of photography), the less aesthetically pure the work is. (To this also belong all kind of ‘tendency’.) The natural stance of the mind, the stance of actual life, is ‘existential’ through and through. Things that stand before us in a sensuous way, the things of which actual scientific discourse speaks, are posited by us as realities, and acts of mind and will are based on these positings of existence: joy—that this is, sorrow, that this is not, wish, that it could be, etc. ( = existential attitude of the mind): the opposite pole of that stance of the mind that belongs to pure aesthetic intuition and the corresponding emotional state. But just as much the opposite pole of the pure phenomenological attitude of the mind, which is the only one within which philosophical problems can be solved. For the phenomenological method too demands a strict suspension of all existential attitude. Above all in the critique of knowledge.” Husserl, Edmund, Letter to Herr von Hofmannsthal (January, 12th 1907),


[16] “As soon as the sphinx of knowledge has posed its question, as soon as we have looked into the abyssal depths of the possibility of a knowledge that would be enacted in subjective experiences and yet contain an in-itself existing objectivity, our attitude to all pre-given knowledge and all pre-given being—to all science and all assumed reality—has become a radically different one. Everything questionable, everything incomprehensible, everything enigmatic! The enigma can only be solved if we place ourselves on its own ground and treat all knowledge as questionable, and accept no existence as pre-given. This means that all science and all reality (including the reality of one’s own I) have become mere ‘phenomena’. Only one thing remains: to clarify, in a pure intuiting (in a pure intuiting analysis and abstraction), the meaning which is immanent in the pure phenomena, without ever going beyond them, i.e. without presupposing any transcendent existences that are intended in them; that is, to clarify what knowledge as such and known objectivity as such mean, and mean according to their immanent essence. This applies to all types and forms of ‘knowledge’. If all knowledge is questionable, then the phenomenon ‘knowledge’ is the only thing given, and before I permit one particular kind of knowledge as valid, I perform my research in a purely intuiting (as if it were aesthetic) fashion: what validity in general means, i.e., what knowledge as such means, with and in its ‘known objectivity.’ If I am to investigate in an ‘intuiting’ way, I must of course not hold on to a merely verbal quasi-knowing (symbolic, thought), but to the proper ‘evident’ and ‘insightful’ knowing, even though the symbolic thought, in its relation to evident knowing, also requires a phenomenological analysis of essences”. Husserl, Edmund, Letter to Herr von Hofmannsthal (January, 12th 1907),


[17] Husserl defines the positing in imagination in the Logical Investigations, V as a purely aesthetical impact of the object on consciousness: “Often enough we understand narrations without decision as to their truth or falsity. Even when we read novels, this is normally the case: we know we are dealing with aesthetic fictions, but this knowledge remains inoperative in the purely aesthetic effect. In such cases all expressions express non-positing acts, ’imaginings’ in the sense of our proposed terminology, both in respect of significant intentions and of fancied fulfillments.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second german edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, V, §40, p. 165.


[18] Cf. Manuscripts A VI, 1 refered by Rozzoni, Claudio, « Art, expérience esthétique, valeur: une approche phénoménologique de l’artification », in La Nouvelle Revue d’Esthétique, 2019/2, no. 24, p. 35 à 43, «  Husserl y écrit [dans le manuscrit A VI, 1] que dans l’expérience esthétique, nous avons 1°) une ‘prise de valeur [Wertnehmen]’  c’est-à-dire une intuition d’un objet axiologique-esthétique ; 2°) des sentiments particuliers, ceux auxquels la lettre à Hofmannsthal fait également référence, c’est-à-dire ceux qui ne sont pas motivés par l’existence de l’objet. Si les valeurs et les sentiments esthétiques ne dépendent pas de l’existence de l’objet, on peut dire qu’ils sont exclusivement liés à son ‘mode d’apparition en soi et pour soi’ [Erscheinungsweise, an und für sich] ».

[19] A reflective act on the phantasy is part of that process when it comes to practice. When it comes to a final performance, or to improvisation, this reflective act should not happen. It would be interesting to study this specific question of the role of the reflective act in the performance process, I unfortunately cannot address this rich problem in the course of this paper.


[20] I am consciously using a Freudian expression here. It would be interesting to develop the specific kind of attention in the case of music practice, investigating it through the Freudian understanding of that expression.


[21] Husserl closes the letter to Hofmannsthal by enouncing three golden rules. I identify the activity of the performer that I am describing with the practice of the second one. Husserl says: “the three golden rules for the artist (in the widest sense), which at the same time are the public secrets of all true greatness, are surely familiar and evident to you: 1) he shall have genius—obviously, otherwise he is not an artist. 2) He should follow, purely and solely, his daimonion which, from within, drives him to an intuiting-blind production [Er folge rein und einzig seinem Daimonion, wie es ihn von innen her zu schauend-blindem Wirken treibt], 3) Everyone else knows better, thus he observes them all—in a purely aesthetic and phenomenological fashion.” Husserl, Edmund, Letter to Herr von Hofmannsthal (January, 12th 1907),


[22] I am using this expression in the same sense in which Husserl takes the arithmetic world in Husserl, Edmund: Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology, translated by F. Kersten. The Hage, Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, 1982, §28, p. 54-5. For me, the world of the inner song is a type of phenomenological world, and part of it.


[23] Here, I give a renewed meaning to the pair Vorbild/Abbild, different from what Husserl intends in the first text of Phantasy, Image-Consciousness, and Memory. Indeed, in my own understanding, the phantasy is the Vorbild and the perceptual is the Abbild, and not the reverse.


[24] “The former [positing acts] were after a fashion existence-meanings: they were either sensuous percepts, or percepts in the wider sense or pretended apprehensions of what is, or other acts which, without claiming to seize an object “itself,” in “full-bodied” or intuitive fashion, yet refer to it as existent.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, V, §38 pp.159-60


[25] “The other [non positing] acts leave the existence of their object unsettled: the object may, objectively considered, exist, but it is not referred to as existent in them, it does not count as actual, but rather as ‘merely presented’.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, V §38 pp.159-60; this understanding traces back to Husserl’s earlier account but remains over time.


[26] The problem of the distinction between the presentation in perception and the re-presentation in phantasy is the leading question of Husserl’s Text no.1 of Phantasy, Image-Consciousness, and Memory. Husserl ends up arguing that the core distinction is in the sensuous content which is in one case sensation—for perception—and in the other phantasms—for phantasy. This remains however a suspended problem in Husserl’s manuscripts. I can only provide a quick analysis here, but I deal with it more in depth in my doctoral thesis.


[27] I am going to analyze it through the Husserlian understanding of perception in the Logical Investigations.


[28] “The object is not actually given ‘from the front’, only ‘perspectivally foreshortened and projected’ etc. While many of its properties are illustrated in the nuclear content of the percept, at least in the (perspectival) manner which the last expressions indicate, many others are not present in the percept in such illustrated form: the elements of the invisible rear side, the interior etc., are no doubt subsidiarily intended in more or less definite fashion, symbolically suggested by what is primarily apparent, but are not themselves part of the intuitive, i.e. of the perceptual or imaginative content, of the percept. On this hinge the possibility of indefinitely many percepts of the same object, all differing in content. If percepts were always the actual, genuine self-presentations of objects that they pretend to be, there could be only a single percept for each object, since its peculiar essence would be exhausted in such self-presentation.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second german edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, VI, §14, pp. 220-21.


[29] “…ordinary perception is composed of countless intentions, some purely perceptual, some merely imaginative, and some even signitive, it yet, as a total act, grasps the object itself, even if only by way of an adumbration.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second german edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, VI, §14, p. 221.


[30] “The ‘purely perceptual’ content in ‘external’ perception is what remains over when we abstract from all purely imaginative and symbolic components: it is the ‘sensed’ content to which its own, immediate, purely perceptual interpretation is given, which evaluates all its parts and moments as self-projections of corresponding parts and moments of the perceptual object, and so imparts to its total content the character of a ‘perceptual picture’, a perceptual adumbration of the object.” Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, VI, §14, p. 221.


[31] This coincidence between the present of the presentation and the present of the now leads Husserl to use the example of the melody in his elaboration of the inner time consciousness.


[32] This is what Husserl investigates in Husserl, Edmund:  On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1883-1917) translated by J. B. Brough, Boston, Kluwer Academic Publisher, 1991, I cannot develop that here.


[33] “In each percept […] one and the same object is ‘there’, in each it is intended in the complete range of its familiar and of its perceptually present properties. To this corresponds phenomenologically a continuous flux of fulfilment or identification, in the steady serialization of percepts ‘pertaining to the same object’”. Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, §14, p. 221.


[34] Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, VI, §14, p. 221.


[35] “Even in mere phantasy every individual is extended in time in some way, having its now, its before, and its after; but the now, before, and after are merely imagined, as is the whole object”. Inner Time Consciousness, §17, p. 43.


[36] Cf. Appendix II of Inner Time Consciousness, pp. 107-9.


[37] “Phantasy is consciousness characterized as re-presentation (reproduction). Now there certainly is re-presented time; but it necessarily points back to a time that is given originally, a time not phantasied but presented. Representation is the opposite of the act that gives something originally; no presentation [Vorstellung] can ‘spring’ from it. That is, phantasy is not a consciousness that can set forth, as given itself, some objectivity or other, or an essential and possible trait of an objectivity. Not to give the object itself is the very essence of phantasy. Even the concept of phantasy does not arise from phantasy. For if we want to have given to us originally what phantasy is, we certainly must form phantasies: but this of itself does not yet mean that what phantasy is, is given. We must, of course, contemplate the phantasying, perceive it: perception of phantasy is the consciousness that originally gives the object for the formation of the concept of phantasy. In this perception we see what phantasy is; we grasp it in the consciousness of the givenness of the thing itself”. Inner Time Consciousness, §19 p. 47.


[38] “But there are fundamental differences in the manner of fulfillment. Intentions aimed at the past are necessarily fulfilled by bringing to light the contexts that belong to intuitive reproductions. The reproduction of a past even with respect to its validity (in internal consciousness) admits of completion and of the confirmation of its memorial indeterminacies only by being converted into a reproduction in which each and every component is characterized as reproductive. Here it is a matter of such questions as: have I actually seen this? Have I actually perceived it? Have I actually had this appearance with precisely this content? At the same time, all of this must be inserted into a nexus of like intuitions extending up to the now. A different question, of course, is the following: Was what appears, real? Expectation, on the other hand, finds its fulfillment in a perception. It belongs to the essence of what is expected that it is something that is going to be perceived. Moreover, it is evident that when something expected occurs, that is, has become something present, then the state of expectation itself is over with; if what was future has become something present, then, what was present has become something relatively past. This is also the case with the intentions aimed at the surroundings. They too are fulfilled through the actuality of an impressional experiencing”. Inner Time Consciousness, §26, pp. 58-9


[39] Cf. Finetti, Stéphane, «La transformation de la conception husserlienne de la représentation-de-phantasia à la lumière de la méthode réductive», Phantasia [En ligne], Volume 1 – 2015, URL :


[40] This involves a particular type of phantasy involving a split consciousness: reproductive consciousness (reproduction of the possible perception)/reproduced consciousness (possible perception of the object), complexified when the object is actually realized and therefore the object of an actual perception. I cannot address that complex issue here, however, its study should be developed thanks to the late Husserlian manuscripts in which Husserl elaborates on the split-ego [Ich-Spaltung], cf. Finetti, Stéphane, «La transformation de la conception husserlienne de la représentation-de-phantasia à la lumière de la méthode réductive», Phantasia [En ligne], Volume 1 – 2015, URL :


[41] “In most cases, however, the image object does not become constituted in the present case, in spite of the difference. But then, of course, we also do not have a genuine intuition of the object. To be sure, we do not have a merely empty intention; on the other hand, we do not have a full intuition either. Rather, instead of intuition itself, we have a rudiment of intuition, a shadow of intuition.” Phantasy, Text 1, §43, pp. 94-5


[42] “In the case of very obscure phantasies, the re-presentation is reduced to a wholly insufficient residue; and this residue is suppressed entirely, as it is when the phantasms are interrupted, then the determinate but empty intention aimed at the object remains. With the sudden reappearance of the impoverished residues, the empty intention is confirmed and is filled with respect to these moments or those.” Phantasy, Text 1, §43, pp. 94-5


[43] It is for this reason that a composer would note his ideas or that an improviser would try to perform it immediately as it comes.

[44] Phantasy, Text 1, §43, pp. 94-5


[45] Explaining what it means requires investigating the notion of content, i.e., the problem of phantasms and sensations in the respective constitution of the phantasy and the perceptual object.


[46] “The gaps, the dissolving hues that disappear in the hollow light of phantasy’s field of vision, and so on, are objectivated only when we choose to objectivate them, only when we choose to interpret them on the analogy of real objectivity. Otherwise they simply remain without objective interpretation, and therefore they do not conflict and there is no double objectivity. But such an objectivity immediately occurs as soon as a clear and stable phantasy image, partially coinciding with the phantasy intention though clearly deviating from it in certain points, rises to the surface. If occasion should arise, memory may subsequently operate modificationally on the intention and call forth the conflict. For example, a clear memory image bestows intuitiveness on an intention aimed at a friend, X. At first, however, the image quite clearly yields a black beard, and the intention, becoming modified precisely by the flow of memory, demands a brown beard. But in that case the image normally will not hold its own; it will become correspondingly modified in intuition.” Phantasy, Text 1, §43, pp. 94-5


[47] In oneway or another, it can be through humming it, singing it, playing it with an instrument etc.


[48] I cannot elaborate on that notion here, but I understand the inner pulse as a type of proto-egoic temporality made of the coincidence of the biological rhythms.


[49] I develop this notion in my doctoral dissertation.


[50] Husserl investigates the idea of a correspondence between the object of perception and the object of imagination first in the Logical Investigations (cf. Husserl, Edmund, Logical Investigations, Volume II, Translated by J. N. Findlay from the Second German edition of Logische Untersuchungen, Routledge, London, New York, 1970, V, §39), and then later in Phantasy, Image-Consciousness, and Memory (cf. Text 1). However, it is in the context of the notion of imagination as Einbildung in which the object of imagination is understood as a modification of perception. In my own investigation of the inner song, I reverse this account, and understand the perceptual object as a realization of the phantasy object. As a consequence, the phantasy object becomes the image-model (Vorbild) whereas the realized object is the represented image (Abbild).


[51] This discussion of the distinction between the two fields takes place in several texts of Husserl, Edmund: Phantasy, Image consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925) translated by J. B. Brough. Dordrecht/Boston/London. Springer, 2005. However, there is an evolution in Husserl’s account. Indeed, as time goes, he separates them less radically, even conceptualizing a specific type of phantasy involving the two: the perceptive phantasy.


[52] This is where it is necessary to reconsider the problem of the unity of the object and ask if there is one or two intentional objects.


[53] The investigation of that specific process requires a genetical analysis of the temporal constitution of the inner song in phantasy. I can only sketch it in the present paper.


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