Meeting on January 25, 2017

Time: 4:00–5:30pm

Location: Fayerweather Room 513 on Columbia’s Morningside Campus

We are pleased to welcome Nicola Hein to speak at our first meeting of 2017. Recommended readings are below. If you are interested in joining us for dinner after the meeting at a local restaurant, please email Andrew Goldman ( to RSVP by January 22nd.


Music and improvisation as sense-games

This paper explains the sense-structures of music and (musical) improvisation within the scope of the language-game theory of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). This theory has been put forward in the Philosophical Investigations (1953) and developed in On Certainty (1965). The theory has developed a widespread recognition in different fields during the 20th century. A wider interpretation of the language-game theory (sense-game theory) shall serve as a theoretical tool to develop a socio-epistemic explanation of musical sense-structures, widening the notion to embrace more than only sound. Based on this theory an interpretation of improvisation (in artistic contexts) as sense-game shall be given.

Nicola L. Hein (b. 1988 in Düsseldorf) is a Berlin-based guitarist, sound artist and philosopher.  As a guitarist he is working within the areas of improvised music, jazz and contemporary classical music. As a sound artist, he is developing different ways to project the musical ontology of improvised music into different aesthetic realms. As a philosopher he is interested in the philosophy of music, epistemology, aesthetics, skepticism and media theory.

He has worked with Evan Parker, Phil Minton, John Russell, Paul Lytton, Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius, John Butcher, Burkhard Beins, Axel Dörner, Thomas Lehn, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and others.

Recommended Readings

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953) : Philosophical Investigations

(# 5, 7, 11, 19, 23, 43, 67, 116, 654)

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1965): On Certainty

(#  63, 65, 94, 177, 248, 272 f., 281, 298, 311, 315, 330, 411, 410, 446, 467, 559, 654)

Rorty, Richard (1989): Contingency, Irony and Solidarity
(p. 73-95, p. 53 ff.)

Tomasello, Michael (2009): The Origins of Human Communication

(p.320-326, 342-346)