© Sasha Snow


Benedict Taylor, Ph.D.


University of Edinburgh

Born in 1981 in Oxford, United Kingdom
Studied Music at the University of Cambridge and King's College London


Music and Subjectivity: Hearing the Self in 19th-Century Music

"Subjectivity" is one of the most popular and yet at the same time most obscure terms in the modern human sciences, and nowhere is this more evident than in its use in relation to music. Though for at least two centuries music has commonly been understood as an art intimately bound up with our feelings of self and subjective being, it is decidedly unclear quite how musical sounds can be heard to create a sense of quasi-human agency or presence. One side effect of such methodological imprecision is that discussion of music and subjectivity is often vague and ambiguous, with a plethora of apparently distinct but related terms regularly being called upon (subjectivity, persona, agency, presence, etc.).
My proposed research seeks to interrogate the notion of musical subjectivity through a combination of musical, historical and philosophical perspectives. Conceived as part of an ongoing wider project on subjectivity in 19th-century music, the current proposal focuses on the production of a monograph-length study concentrating particularly on the music of Robert Schumann. This will combine close analysis of his music, consideration of the historical and cultural context in which it emerged, and broader philosophical discussion of the idea of subjectivity. Ultimately my aims are twofold: to achieve a critical refinement of how the concept of subjectivity is applied to music, and to investigate the importance of music in constructing a modern sense of self.

Recommended Reading

Taylor, Benedict. The Melody of Time: Music and Temporality in the Romantic Era. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
-. Mendelssohn, Time and Memory: The Romantic Conception of Cyclic Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
-. "Absent Subjects and Empty Centres: Eichendorff's Romantic Phantasmagoria and Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 39." 19th-Century Music 40, 3 (2017): 201-222.

Publications from the Fellows' Library

Taylor, Benedict ( Berleley, Carlif., 2017)
Absent subjects and empty centers : Eichendorff's romantic phantasmagoria and Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 39

Taylor, Benedict ( Abingdon, 2014)
Schubert and the construction of memory : the string quartet in A minor, D.804 (‘Rosamunde’)