Communication And Time In The Philosophy Of Music A. Losev


The issue of the article is the analysis of time as the human world's universal constant. It is interpreted through the philosophy of music, particularly via Alexei Losev's philosophy, where he suggests that music be understood as expression of "the becoming" of the number, eidos and time. Philosophical, communicative and notional grounds of time within culture are considered. Philosophy of life, phenomenology, existential ontology and hermeneutics make a theoretical basis of the research. The category of time remains universally meaningful today. Any communicative strategies, from social forms of organizing labor and rest to technological strategies targeted to organize time (even including certain attempts to stop it), are implemented through time. As a resource, time thereby becomes a projective tool that allows us to recreate the existing world and to attach value to it through the feeling of the finitude of being, as well as strives to eternalize it in socially important forms, e. g. in art. Expressed through the connection of number and time, music acts as some specific symbol, in which, firstly, its structure is fixed, meeting the composer's idea, and secondly, his non-verbal feelings and thoughts, together with the value orientation of his epoch, tend to revive in music in the course of its performance. Thus, music represents a unique experience of being a message from the past, which demonstrates an informational resource in its symbolic meaning.

Keywords: Communicationmusictimeeidosbecomingnumber


Time as a resource of social life

An appeal to time as a resource aspect of a person’s social life has long history ( Blom, 2018; Bonds, 2014; Carey, 2019; McCumber, 2011). No generation of culture has been able to avoid turning to this problem, as time, being something self-evident for everyone, is extremely difficult to give a conceptually unique vision. Also, the self-evidence of time, a desire to wrap it up for someone’s own benefit, to dispose of it as a resource, have always had significant consequences for the development of culture. Art, science, technological progress and many other spheres of cultural activity are embedded in the process of mastering, measuring, studying, organizing and maintaining time. Everything in culture is pervaded by time. Time is our both fundamental concern and source of relationships, the meanings of being.

Music and time in the philosophy of A. Losev

Relations between music and time are an important topic in the works of the Russian philosopher A.F. Losev (1893–1988). Having received music education in a violin class in his youth, he remained an avid listener and connoisseur of music during all his life, addressing many pages of his philosophical heritage to it. The result of many years of research was an emergence of his philosophical theory of music [4]. In our opinion, the mission of A.F. Losev as one of the pioneers of the philosophy of music was his special desire to establish music in the aspects of a compositional and performing kind of art as a cultural-philosophical problem ( Petinova, 2016). Conceptual theory of music as an expression of "the becoming of the number" (understanding "the becoming" as a philosophical term and "the number" as the basic notion of mathematics), as well as of both eidos and time ( Rimondi & Takho-Godi, 2017), have outlined a decisive difference between Losev’s approach and the preceding descriptive theories of music. The task posed by the author of the treatise “Music as the Subject of Logic” is to clarify and substantiate the essence of music, its eidetic rather than sensual content ( Fuente, 2010). Like many preceding thinkers, A.F. Losev defined music as the art of time. Ever since the days of G. Lessing, music has been rightfully classified as a temporal kind of art, in contrast with the spatial ones, such as architecture and painting. And in its fullness, not only is time reflected and embodied as a process that lasts in time but also the fabric of music is “woven” from its temporal components: meter, rhythm, etc. Time in music is an independent material which “gets dressed” in musical form through sound. In our opinion, it is explained in detail by the fact that music becomes an illustration for philosophical speculations about time by A. Augustin, H. Bergson, F. Brentano, E. Husserl, A. Losev and many others.

Therefore, perhaps, it is not by chance that particularly A. Losev’s speculations about the nature of music were influenced by the traditions of both phenomenology and the philosophy of life, when he tries to phenomenologically separate from music everything programmed, illustrative and ideological, as, he believed, they had compounded the “quality content” of music, in order to discover its pure phenomenon, which, in the process of reduction, leaves only “time without quality” in music ( Losev, 1991, p. 322). Losev tends to characterize this kind of time as “the becoming,” using this word as a very specific philosophical term. “The ‘becoming’ is the basis of time… The last basis of the art of time, i. e. music itself.” ( Losev, 1991, p. 323) "The becoming" is a category proposed by the French philosopher H. Bergson. It is associated with the actual duration of life (la durée). For Losev, this dialectic unity of appearance and disappearance was a dynamic, transient state; any slightest stop or fixation instability would break the continuity of formation. Framing his views into a system of categories, Losev constructs the following logical triad: music is the art of time → time is “the becoming” → “the becoming” can and should contain some quality content.

Problem Statement

The question of how the subject of a musical image is granted to us in the perception of a performing process, is an integral and important part of the philosophical speculations about music in the theory of A. Losev. Here the philosopher’s thought, relying on the phenomenological tradition, rejects the principles of figurativeness, verbal utterance, visual sensuality, stability and immobility (as in painting and architecture) but, rather, constructs his own comprehension of the process of music perception as the presentation of a process of emergence-extinction, processuality itself, that is, an image-experience of the process of “the becoming” rather than an image of a certain object. This specificity of music is associated with one’s personal, internal manifestation of perception and experience as that of the life of consciousness. The main thesis of A.F. Losev reads as follows: “…‘the becoming’ is the basis of music, and it is ‘the becoming’ that music primarily represents.” Thus, without denying the presence of “the becoming” in many manifestations of life, the philosopher emphasizes the special purpose and essence of music through its conveying of the imageless element of time as “the pure becoming” ( Losev, 1991, p. 327).

Making a certain critical development of the foundations of the essence of music, the next step by A.F. Losev will be a disclosure of the essence of the musical structure itself. In the course of his speculations in the article.

The main question of the philosophy of music," the author reconstructs the trivium. "The becoming" is integrity interpreted as the unity of the infinity of individual conventional points → it exists dynamically through a reference to das Anderssein → dialectically, much finds itself in either unity or allness ( Losev, 1991, p. 328).

In these characteristics of music, full of aspiration, care, direction, “volition to sounds” ( Eiges, 2007, p. 331) (K. Eiges's term), flowing sounds, the apophatic nature of music can be discovered. A.F. Losev notes an opposition of freedom and predestination, desperation and quest, which he reinforces with "the existential" that defines the phenomenon of musical existence, "the languor," the intensity of sounding, resulting (for example) from the inability to resolve harmonically. An eternal feeling of some infinite striving for what does not exist, the search of it, the lack of it, an eagerness to pass into das Anderssein tend to represent a meaningful cultural idiom: to go beyond the limits in order to reconceive the world, to get engaged into (and to preserve) the notional connections… Quoting A.F. Losev's expressive writing: "One chord is as though striving to abandon itself, merging with another chord, which the former tends to assume by and large" ( Losev, 1991, p. 333). Paraphrasing an intuitively familiar reception for all who came into contact with music, literally everything in it is a transition and a sliding abundance of motion.

Thus, musical structure implies an endless striving through the chords' gravities, which, in turn, mediate the development and formation of melody, which is fixed in certain musical structures (polyphonic in Bach's oeuvre, homophonic in Mozart's, etc.) through a compositional flow of motifs, orchestral episodes, the game of polyphony, individual voices, etc. All the named constructive appearances, such as melody, motif development, harmony, and Formbildung, tend to give rise to development, aspiration and endless apophatic from within.

Research Questions

Understanding of music timing

In order to illustrate his thoughts about the phenomenon of infinity in music,

Losev refers to a fragment from Ivan Turgenev’s novel The Singers: “I don’t know what a general languor would have been, if Jacob had not suddenly finished on a high, unusually subtle sound — as if his voice broke off. Nobody exclaimed a word, not even moved; it was like everyone was waiting if he would sing again…” ( Turgenev, 1979, p. 210)

This example allows to comprehend that “the becoming” in music tends to capture a person entirely, creating a feeling of transcendental experiencing here and now in one’s consciousness as an infinite segment of the present moment. And such a mastery of the performer, characterized by his capability to catch the listener within the created and produced artistic flow of time, allows that all the participants of their co-being fall out of the profane everyday time in order to be involved into the transcendence.

This is the thing that people enounce craft:

the skill to fear not of the procedure

of non-existence — as the form of its

non-presence, having painted it from life…

Joseph Brodsky. At Karel Villink’s Exhibition ( Brodskiy, 2001, p. 290-292)

One of the main provisions of the theory of A.F. Losev is a statement that music, being the art of time, is granted to us not so much sensually (visually, audially) as eidetically. And it is this in particular that the specificity of comprehending la durée in music is connected with: both the images of ideal objects and their experience are created through conscious processes. “The seeing of eidos is a phenomenon in the psyche of the eidetic energy of the very object rather than a mental act.” ( Losev, 1999, p. 91) Having speculated about the eidos as a notion, Losev ( 1990) wrote: "Every piece of music harbors some hidden eidos [idea]… this eidos, however, is not granted, and this is precisely what makes music unique." (p. 276) "An essence which is ineffable and undetected is the secret of all living things." ( Losev, 1990, p. 215, 218). Eidos, as something concealed, requires its discovery, disclosure and awareness thereof. Following this tradition in describing the phenomena of experiencing music as time (la durée), A.F. Losev succeeds the tradition of such previous philosophers as H. Bergson, E. Husserl, and M. Heidegger, in which they separated time experienced within consciousness from the "calculated" time of natural science. In this case, it would certainly be worth noting that, in a certain sense, both M. Heidegger and A. Losev went through one and the same philosophical school of phenomenology by E. Husserl, so that many researchers had noticed a staunch Husserlian in Losev. "Losev is a follower of Husserl; however, he replenishes him with Hegel; an entire specificity of Losev is determined by his application of dialectics to the data of phenomenological analysis,” writes Zeńkovsky ( 2001, p. 783)

Purpose of the Study

The research aims to demonstrate that a piece of music exists through its specifically organized temporal nature, which is enshrined in the score and presented in the direct sound processuality of a performing act.

An attempt is made to analyze time within the philosophical tradition that implements the humanitarian aspects of this issue rather than the physicalistic ones.

By referring to Losev’s oeuvre, the specificity of time in music is shown and the analysis of time as eidos, i.e. the category of meaning, is presented. Ontological issues of musical artworks are discussed in complex with the aspects of perceiving music as the co-being involved into the united integrity.

Research Methods

Methodological settings for this study

The methodological basis for considering time is M. Heidegger's fundamental ontology. The basis for the philosopher's theory was an idea of human existence as a self-underlying phenomenon that allows to reveal the being and to make it true. This phenomenon is fixed in the term Dasein, whose meaning, in B. Bibikhin's translation, is related to the word presence: to be with the essence, with truth, — the initial situation that gives birth to the very essence. For Heidegger, the essence is not an epistemological concept typical for the Cartesian tradition of the new trend of the European way of thinking. Essence is, rather, an experience of a meeting with the being as a discovery, removal of the being from concealment, ἀλήθεια. Such an experience is always perceived existentially, uniquely and personally; it is characterized by a different, qualitative state, which is permeated by duration, temporality and its experience rather than by correlation with the cogito value. It is time that, in its procedurality, is the source of meaning, as well as both the essence and the horizon of the being. The being acts as a determination to act, to accomplish the co-being, to implement time, to put plans into action ( Guryanova, Khafiyatullina, Petinova, Astafeva, & Guryanov, 2020). Thus, a person can create his own time, i. e. the being, as well as to create and to express it. According to this position, human beings are permeated with time as the meaning of their temporality and the very existence. Time is man's essence to be identified with the manly nature rather than any other item. All of the above allows us to comprehend the closeness of the two great philosophers' ideas with regard to the issues of meaning (eidos), the creativity of the co-being as the dialectic opposition of the being and non-being on the one hand and time on the other hand.

As a doctrine of the being, in which time acts as its main attribute along with space and motion, it requires that its specificity be identified where it constitutes and manifests itself. In our case, these are music and the ontology of time in music. A consideration of the question on both the status and the very being of music allows to reveal a specific state of time, which is implemented in music only. Unlike other kinds of art, its abstractness and non-figurativeness tend to let us see the signs and attributes of time in it: particularly, its instability and heterogeneity. In addition, certain tempo and rhythmic organization, ratios of time signatures, movements, beats, and their durations, together with many other aspects, allowed Alexei Fyodorovich to comprehend music as a manifestation of numeric certainty: “…the artistic expression of time and the number is musical structure”( Losev, 1990, p. 295). In a sense, the number (as the ground of math) is the link between music and time. In Losev’s approach, the number is an ideal quantity that takes the form of a period of the present time, i. e. a certain eidetic unity of the here and the now, rather than any physical quantity. This time of the present moment is both illogical and eidetic. It is associated with a human being who implements a symbol, which stays not only beyond the structure of time he has created but also beyond the meaning, which is the essence of musical utterance ( Nolan, 2008). Therefore, the number is the very structure of music, "the number that sounds," rather than a category of quantity. So, it is natural that music, being a material (acoustic) object, is imbued with numbers in their strictly mathematical sense; yet, no counting gives any information for comprehending music as a kind of art that expresses meaning: tacto-metric, interval, and harmonic ratios can be found there as its soundless grounds; besides, its spectral and dynamic ratios enjoy the mathematic nature as well. In this sense, the number is the scheme of artwork (the notes in its score, its musical graph), which, fixing numeric ratios in music, conveys nothing in terms of its artistic meaning. However, there is some higher level of an illogical manifestation of the number: these are melody, rhythm, and harmony, incorporated into the concrete time of music within an artwork, by means of which an imprinted eidos of the number enjoys its property to express meaning through intonation in its multiple interpretations ( Goddard, 2011).


About the relation of time, music and number

Unlike other kinds of art, certain abstractness and non-figurativeness of music tend to let us see the signs and attributes of the very time in it: particularly, its instability and heterogeneity.

The most effective method for describing music is phenomenological. As it allows, due to the lack of the principles of figurativeness, verbality, visual sensuality, stability, and stillness, as in painting and architecture, to build an understanding of the process of music perception as a presentation of the very process of occurrence-disappearance. That is, not an image of an object, but an image-experience of the formation process.

In the course of studying both the status and the being of music, one can eventually conclude that its ontology permits to identify some specific time of music, which is implemented within such a being.

Many aspects, comprehend music as a manifestation of numeric certainty. The number (as the ground of math) is link between music and time. This is an ideal quantity that takes the form of a period of the present time. Therefore, the number is the very structure of music.

Time for music is a resource because with the help of sound it becomes possible to create a musical form in which thoughts, feelings, experiences will be presented as a unique project. Such an experience of a "musical meeting" has always been not just an event in the life of culture, but also with being, communication. Such interaction is semantic integrity, aesthetic and worldview value.

Based on the fundamental ontology of M. Heidegger, we in the study confirmed that music as an object of communication forms the basis for understanding time not as a thing, but as a being inextricably linked with a person and his essence. The temporality of music and its experience is the presence in a special space-time created by man. Such a “chronotope” of music is a creative embodiment by a person of eidos, the meaning of his being.

In the course of participating in the perception, certain conditions of sense-making are created and called “chronotopes,” or the spatial-temporal continuum of the meaning.


It is necessary to pay attention to the questions posed at the beginning of the work. Firstly, we have examined the main aspects of the philosophical and anthropological approaches. This perspective allows identifying the specificities of the object of study, which is an artwork of music. At this point, A.F. Losev's research has been analyzed. Secondly, we have identified his several main theses concerning "the becoming" as the basis of music, as well as a thesis that music as a kind of temporal art is granted to us not so much in its sensual (visual or audible) perception as the eidetic one. Thirdly, the category of time as the humanitarian element of culture demonstrates its openness to various communicative strategies; besides, in an epistemological context, the music itself is a non-verbal symbolic system which is open to new ways of reading and interpretation.

Analyzing an entire oeuvre of A. Losev, it is worth noting that the traditions of Ancient Greek philosophy, with its Pythagorean-Neoplatonic discursiveness, are brightly intertwined in his philosophy of music with the specific conceptual tools that the Russian philosopher had actively developed. These features may have their heuristic meaning, as the very object of music is highly original, and its signs are not reducible to those of the verbal language.


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12 March 2020

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Petinova*, M. (2020). Communication And Time In The Philosophy Of Music A. Losev. In O. D. Shipunova, V. N. Volkova, A. Nordmann, & L. Moccozet (Eds.), Communicative Strategies of Information Society, vol 80. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 317-324). European Publisher.