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Naomi Cumming

Member of Goehr family

(b London, Jan 10, 1960). British philosopher, daughter of Alexander Goehr. After her first degree in philosophy at the Universities of Exeter and Manchester (1982), she took the PhD at Cambridge with a dissertation, The Work of Music (1987). She subsequently held academic posts at the University of Nevada at Reno (1986–7), Boston University (1987–9), Harvard University (1989–90) and Wesleyan University (1989–97) before being appointed professor of philosophy at Columbia University (1995). Her book The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (1992), adapted from her dissertation, engages in a radical way with discussions by analytic philosophers about the question of the ontology of a musical work. An ontological question asks what it is for any entity to have existence, or to ‘be’; applied to music, it takes the form of asking what it is for a piece of music to be defined as a ‘work’ or to have a singular ‘identity’. (Is the work a material thing? Does it consist in the score? Is it an ideal in the mind of the composer? Is it a compendium of possible performances?) This question was opened up most notably by the philosopher Roman Ingarden, who approached it from a phenomenological point of view (...