Kurt Kumler

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2006


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Daniel Burston

Committee Member

Leswin Laubscher

Committee Member

Russell A. Walsh


being music, connection, music, musical embodiment, musical meaning, transformation


This dissertation investigated the lived experience of being personally transformed by listening to music. The investigation started with an exploration of the literature that relates to the phenomenon of musical transformation, including natural-scientific research as well as ideas from musicology, ethnomusicology, psychology, literature, and philosophy. This research was designed to access the nuanced and subjective aspects of the phenomenon by attending to the experience as lived by the experiencer. The method was qualitative in nature, based on a phenomenological-hermeneutical methodology. Throughout the research process, the researcher maintained a reflexive stance, attending to assumptions and preconceptions held about the phenomenon. This was done to ensure that the understandings generated would retain a kind of self-consciousness, remaining open to reconsideration.

The data set included written protocols and conversations with four musicians about moments when they felt personally transformed by listening to music. From this data, descriptive and interpretive understandings of their experiences were generated and an understanding of this kind of musical experience in general was articulated. Qualities found in this research to be integral to transformational musical experience include the following themes: Attunement to the experience, Apprehending the beautiful, Inhabiting a musical world, Being sound, Embodying music's will, Connectedness, and Emerging transformed. Transformational musical experience was disclosed as a phenomenon that involves the creation of personal meaning that is co-constituted by the music and the listener in the face of apprehending beautiful sound. The results were discussed in dialogue with ideas from the literature, with particular focus on the experience of embodiment of the transformational experience, the felt sense of connection to others and to the music, and notions of meaning and emotionality in music.