Knowing someone personally centrally involves engaging in various patterns of affective response. Inasmuch as humans can know God personally, this basic insight about the relationship between personal knowledge and affective response also applies to God: knowing God involves responding to him, and to the world, in various affectively toned ways. In light of this insight, I explore how one particular practice might contribute to human knowledge of God: namely, engaging with sacred music – in particular, sacred music in the Western, (...) classical tradition. In investigating this topic, I tackle an issue at the interface between the philosophy of religion and aesthetics: sacred music’s capacity to arouse religious emotions. I use as a springboard Peter Kivy’s view that ‘music alone’ can only arouse emotions about itself. This view, I argue, has a counterintuitive consequence: the music in sacred works would play no part in arousing emotions with religious objects. In contrast, I develop an account of how music combines with religious factors to arouse religious emotions. I then draw out two consequences for how music can facilitate understanding between religious and non-religious outlooks. The upshot of all this, I suggest, is that by expanding the listener’s religious-emotional landscape, sacred music can enrich her knowledge of God – and that this is possible whether or not the listener subscribes propositionally to God’s reality or to any other religious doctrines. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that composer John Cage’s so-called ‘silent piece’, 4’33”, is music. I first defend it against the charge that it does not involve the organization of sound, which has been taken to be a necessary feature of music. I then argue that 4’33” satisfies the only other condition that must be met for it to be music: it bears the right socio-historical connections to its predecessors within its tradition (Western art music). I argue further that one (...) cannot understand the organized sound condition and the socio-historical condition separately and that understanding their interaction has theoretical benefits—not least of which is providing a groundwork for a more culturally inclusive philosophy of music. Finally, I consider a number of outstanding questions concerning the content of the organized sound condition for Western art music in the wake of 4’33”. (shrink)
As to what distinguishes music from other sound, some investigators in both philosophy and cognitive scientists have answered “tonality.” It seems subservient even to rhythm. Tonality is considered to be the central factor around which the piece is oriented; it gives a sense of home, expectation, and completeness. Most important, much of this inquiry builds on naturalistic, evolutionary explanation to account for human nature and behavior. The conclusion of such line of thought is that sounds missing tonality or tonal focus (...) cannot be music. This article challenges such sort of naturalistic criteria distinguishing music from nonmusic. Permitting certain sets of sounds to be considered music does not necessitate denial or approval of naturalistic explanations but does allow nontonal music to serve a part of human and musical evolution. (shrink)
The philosophical model of constellation has been applied to contemporary musical form, but it reveals too many limitations when confronted with late Adorno’s model of informal music. Once the component of heteronomy, in hierarchical and centered structures of traditional music, has been overcome, it reemerges in the opposite type, the decentered, non-hierarchical or free structures, between the opposites of serialism and aleatoric music. Therefore, the model of informal music, as an "image of freedom", pursues the realization of a musical-aesthetic nominalism (...) that is subtracted from all forms of heteronomy, ancient or modern. To do this, it has to achieve the 'actually constructed totality' of the work, integrating in it the opposite of free subjectivity. (shrink)
Winning essay of the American Society for Aesthetics' inaugural Peter Kivy Prize. Extends Kivy's notion of sonic picturing through engagement with recent work in philosophy of perception. Argues that sonic pictures are more widespread and more aesthetically and artistically important than even Kivy envisioned. Topics discussed include: the nature of sonic pictures; the nature of sounds; what we can (and more importantly, cannot) conclude from musical listening; sonic pictures in film; beatboxing as an art of sonic picturing; and cover songs (...) as sonic pictures. To be published in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. (shrink)
In their thought-provoking paper, Legg and Hutter consider a certain abstrac- tion of an intelligent agent, and define a universal intelligence measure, which assigns every such agent a numerical intelligence rating. We will briefly summarize Legg and Hutter’s paper, and then give a tongue-in-cheek argument that if one’s goal is to become more intelligent by cultivating music appreciation, then it is bet- ter to use classical music (such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven) than to use more recent pop music. The (...) same argument could be adapted to other media: books beat films, card games beat first-person shooters, parables beat dissertations, etc. We leave it to the reader to decide whether this argument tells us something about classical music, something about Legg-Hutter intelligence, or something about both. (shrink)
This paper argues that contemporary analytic philosophy of music has characterized historically informed performance practice as compliance-focused, impersonal, and work-centered. The first part of the paper gathers evidence in support of this claim from the works of Julian Dodd, Peter Kivy, James O. Young, Aron Edidin, and Stephen Davies. In the second part of the paper, I reject this received view. Evidence from actual performance practice, as well as from the practitioners’ reflection on their activity, belies the received view outlined (...) in the first part of the paper. I conclude by drawing three methodological lessons from the oversights I attempt to rectify. (shrink)
In this chapter I analyse group flow: a state in which performers report intense interpersonal absorption with the music and each other. I compare group flow to individual flow, and argue that the same essential structure can be discerned. I argue that group flow does not justify an anti-representationalist enactivist interpretation. However, I claim that the cognitive task in which the music is produced is irreducibly collective.
The production of artworks can be based on a fixed modus operandi, i.e., on a general manner and, alongside, specific patterns to be applied all over again. Alternatively, each artwork can be seen as (cor-)responding to an individual problem for which there is no recipe; in this case it needs to be looked at afresh. That approach characterizes the aesthetics of music composer Isabel Mundry (*1963); her art, ever unpredictable, is one of nuances.
I examine the role that the musical instrument plays in shaping a performer's expressive activity and emotional state. I argue that the historical development of the musical instrument has fluctuated between two key values: that of sharing with other musicians, and that of creatively exploring new possibilities. I introduce 'the mood organ'- a sensor-based computer instrument that automatically turns signals of the wearer's emotional state into expressive music.
Expression in orchestral music is a matter of conductors rather than orchestras. Why should that be so? The straightforward answer seems to be that expression is bound to the individual self. But, then, does it have to be? Collective expression of, e.g., anger, rage or protest is not at all unusual in the public domain of politics. Our intuition of conductors’ expressive primacy could be salvaged if we were to conceive of orchestras as their instruments. But that will not do. (...) For conducting is to make oneself understood by an orchestra rather than to impact on it causally. A better way of making sense of the relationship between conductor and orchestra is offered by the theory of the social contract. That idea should be supplemented by an account of the relationship between the conductor who gesturally embodies the music’s expression on the one hand and the audience on the other hand. (shrink)
In his writings, Richard Wagner imagines art as something natural. This paradox was only befitting for Wagner’s contradictory historical stance: that of an eminently modern artist loathing the modern world. For him, nature served as a yardstick apt to find the modern world deficient on all counts. But how can something ahistorical, nature, be used to judge a historical phenomenon, modernity? To arrive at the verdict Wagner was keen on, he had to fill his concept of nature with historical content (...) attributed to myth. (shrink)
Philosophers of music commonly distinguish performative from critical interpretations. I would like to suggest that the distinction between critical and performative interpretations is well captured by an analogy to legal critics and judges. This parallel draws attention to several features of performative interpretation that are typically overlooked, and deemphasizes epistemic problems with performative interpretations that I believe are typically blown out of proportion and ultimately fail to capture interesting features of performative interpretation. There is an important distinction to be made (...) between critical and performative interpretation, but its source lies in a difference between the authority of critical and performative interpretations. (shrink)
In his Eighth Symphony Gustav Mahler envisions modern artistic production to steer clear of an alternative emerging at the time: that between popular music on the one hand and esoteric avantgarde music on the other; Mahler’s music is meant to reach the masses, but without descending to audiences’ lowest common denominator. One query through which Mahler’s paradoxical aesthetic vision of an ‘individualism for the masses’ can be explored has been hinted at by the composer himself: Does his integral symphonic work (...) of art (‘Gesamtkunstwerk’) include or rather exclude chamber music? (shrink)
It is widely assumed that there is a blanket norm requiring the performer to present the work “in the best light possible,” and that the performer “make the ends of the work his own” or “live the work” in performance. Through careful consideration of a particular performance, I suggest that this is an inadequate conception of a performer’s obligations. I argue that the form of identification between performer and work commonly propounded by philosophers, musicologists, music teachers, and performers alike is (...) illuminated by what I take to be an exemplary metaphor deployed by Roger Scruton: the life in music. The problems with requiring a performer to identify with and affirm a work are made vivid by careful consideration of the requirements of “living the work,” or understanding the “life in tones.” I argue that this call for identification and affirmation ultimately denies the performer the capacity for critical interpretation and amounts either to a denial of modernity or to a desire to step behind it. (shrink)
This article defends a persona theory of musical expressivity. After briefly summarising the major arguments for this view, it applies persona theory to the issue of whether music can express complex emotions. The expression of jealousy is then discussed by analysis of two examples from Piazzolla and Janacek.
In the spirit of Fontenelle's "Dialogues des morts", Dorschel stages an imaginary conversation between 18th century composer Joseph Haydn and 20th century composer Anton von Webern. In the section of Hades reserved for composers, they confront their different musical poetics.
In his social theory, Max Weber (1864 – 1920) attempts to identify patterns that have distinguished Western rationality. Music, he argues, is one of the domains that exhibit such structures. As a specific instance, Weber cites counterpoint as developed in 15th century Europe and – so he claims – culminating in Bach’s music. “No other epoch and culture possesses it”, Weber asserts. Counterpoint’s rationality is meant to manifest itself in rules; yet Weber’s approach lacks an analysis of such rules. Remarkably, (...) 18th century music theory brought the social meaning of counterpoint to the fore more sharply than did Weber’s sociology of music. (shrink)
In 'Arbeit am Kanon', Italian musicologist Federico Celestini and German philosopher Andreas Dorschel discuss aesthetic issues in the work of composers Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Hugo Wolf, Gustav Mahler, Anton Webern, and Franz Schreker.
In this essay, I investigate musical silence. I first discuss how to integrate the concept of silence into a general theory or definition of music. I then consider the possibility of an entirely silent musical piece. I begin with John Cage’s 4′33″, since it is the most notorious candidate for a silent piece of music, even though it is not, in fact, silent. I conclude that it is not music either, but I argue that it is a piece of non-musical (...) sound art, rather than simply a piece of theatre, as Stephen Davies has argued. I end with consideration of several other candidates for entirely silent pieces, concluding that two of these are in fact pieces of music consisting entirely of silence. (shrink)
In this article, I first consider the metaphysics of musical recordings: their variety, repeatability, and transparency. I then turn to evaluative or aesthetic issues, such as the relative virtues of recordings and live performances, in light of the metaphysical discussion.
It is agreed on all hands that both fictional narratives and the familiar genres of classical music possess an inner structure that both can be perceived and be appreciated aesthetically. It is my argument here that this inner structure plays a crucially different role in fictional narrative than it does in classical music, confining myself here to 'absolute music' (which is to say, pure instrumental music without text, programme, dramatic setting, or other 'extra-musical' content). The argument, basically, is that whereas (...) the sophisticated listener to the absolute music repertory is keenly, consciously aware of the inner structure, the sophisticated reader of fictional narrative, the principal exemplar being the novel, is not so aware. Therefore, whereas musical structure directly contributes to aesthetic satisfaction, narrative structure contributes only indirectly (which is not to deny that, at times, the reader is consciously aware of narrative structure, and that, at such times, it does contribute directly to aesthetic satisfaction). (shrink)
The concept of authenticity as a predicate of performances of musical works is discussed in the context of the Western classical tradition.I claim that the concept of a performance of a musical work raises issues of relativity and indeterminacy, since its application is not completely free from music-historical contextuality and from considerations of aesthetic value.I challenge the argument for the necessity of authenticity in performance that eschews the problem of determining the extension of the concept authentic performance of a work' (...) by reducing the concept to that of the correct instantiation of that work.I suggest that the way the present socio-musical context defines the boundaries of correction and authenticity in performance derives from a balance, and a tension, between two types of interest in performance as an artistic practice: an interest in the performed work as the artistic product of its composer, which favours fidelity to the work; and an interest in the performance as the artistic product of the performer, which favours the latter's creative freedom.I argue for the relevance of certain moral obligations to composers on the part of performers, but also for the defeasible character of these obligations, thus blocking the view according to which historical authenticity is an absolute moral imperative.I distinguish personal authenticity, as creativity and sincerity on the part the performer, from historical authenticity, as the performance's faithfulness to the work performed, to its composer, or to the sound, performance practice or musical experience that were typical of the work's original context. I argue against the view that the historically authentic performance has an advantage over other kinds of performance in terms of propensity to generate more aesthetically successful results.The promotion of historical authenticity by the historically informed performance movement is analyzed as artistic ideology and practice. I conclude that the priority of historical authenticity is not a defensible artistic ideal, since it is ultimately incompatible with aesthetic priorities. (shrink)
This critical study locates musical monumentality, a central property of the nineteenth-century German repertoire, at the intersections of aesthetics and memory. In examples including Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner and Bruckner, Rehding explores how monumentality contributes to an experiential music history and how it conveys the sublime to the listening public.
Delius’ Messe des Lebens (1907) transforms Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra (1883-5) into a Mass, religious services for worshippers of ‚Life‘. An individual reader’s train of thought is thus replaced by a collective experience at grand scale. To achieve that, Delius abandons cognitive, in particular philosophical, as well as satirical and parodistic features of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. Yet unlike the Christian Mass, Eine Messe des Lebens gathers its congregation less by reference to belief, but rather by virtue of a sequence of musically (...) evocative moods (‚Stimmungen‘). Mood is not to be confused with a mere subjective state (‚feeling‘). Bound up with Delius’ idea of Nature, it is meant to dispel the suspicion of arbitrariness attached to the particular artistic invention of a Mass of Life, compared to its rival, the anonymous Holy Mass. (shrink)
Cultivation of the musical canon and canonisation of truly original work can be identified as guiding principles of both Hugo Wolf’s artistic and his critical practice. The latter is shaped by classicist tropes; they may serve strategic functions as well, yet cannot be reduced to them. While he rejects the merely old-fashioned, Wolf also leads a striking attack on what he terms “modern music”. His endorsed aesthetics intertwine the old and the new.
The famous quip "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" sums up many people's ideas about how to judge a work of art; but there are inherent limitations if we rely on immediate impressions in judging what should be enduring products of our culture. While some might criticize this as a return to "elitism," Joshua Fineberg argues that without some way of determining intrinsic value, there can be no movement forward for creators or their audience. (...) He draws on contemporary thought about "Design space" and "Universal Grammar" to show how intrinsic values can be rediscovered. He then looks at the importance of multimedia in allowing multiple points of entry for the discovering of new works, finally showing how the composer can "Design music for human beings"--creating a kind of art that can preserve the research agenda of conceptual work without renouncing the understanding of human listeners and performers embodied by craft. Classical Music: Why Bother? will intrigue all listeners of contemporary music, students of musical thought, and composers-but it will also interest students of contemporary aesthetics. It answers the age-old question "How can we bring a new audience to contemporary art?" - and challenges both the creators and their audience to broaden their ideas about what is valuable and lasting in today's culture. (shrink)
Les Quatre Saisons de Vivaldi imitent-elles les bruits du monde? Peut-on penser l'histoire de la musique comme une libération progressive de la contrainte imitative, d'un ancrage naturel ou même naturaliste? Beethoven, Berlioz, Schumann, Wagner ou Debussy constituent-ils les étapes qui aboutissent à une musique pure? Le romantisme a fait de la musique le paradigme de l'Art en la concevant comme un langage délivré du poids du sens, un art abstrait » parce qu'autonome. Par la richesse savante des auteurs et des (...) œuvres examinés, par les repères chronologiques et théoriques mis en lumière, l'anthologie proposée ici est une véritable histoire de la pensée sonore et de la pratique musicale du XVIIIe siècle au début du XXe siècle. Le mélomane, le musicologue, comme l'historien ou le philosophe de l'art, pourront évaluer d'un œil neuf les liens de l'imitation et de l'expression, la dispute de l'abstraction et les rapports que les arts entretiennent à la signification. (shrink)
Eco, Chopin, and the limits of intertextuality -- The appeal to structure -- On codes, topics, and leaps of interpretation -- Bloom, Freud, and Riffaterre : influence and intertext as signs of the uncanny -- Narrative and intertext : the logic of suffering in Lutosawski's Symphony no. 4.
This paper addresses the following problem: to what extent do ontological considerations about musical works affect our evaluation of performances of those works? I argue for the claim that at least some important grounds on which performances are evaluated are specific to them, in that these grounds are either independent from, or related but not fully determined by, the properties of the works they are of. In the first part of the paper, I explore the relations between good-making features of (...) works and of performances of them. The second and third parts develop two kinds of example in favour of the claim above. In the last part, I discuss the significance of those examples in relation to the ways in which performances are assessed, and explore some further ramifications of them. (shrink)
The work of Richard Strauss has been disparaged as a music designed to be relished (“Genußmusik” was Adorno’s term), lacking any dimension of ‘transcendence’. The notion of ‘relish’ or ‘pleasure’ (“Genuß”), used for characterization rather than disparagement, can disclose crucial aspects of Strauss’s art, though it does not exhaust it. To oppose ‘relish’ or ‘pleasure’ (“Genuß”) to ‘transcendence’, however, either uses hidden theological premises or disregards that ‘relish’ or ‘pleasure’ (“Genuß”), bound to be pervious to its object, does transcend towards (...) it. (shrink)
"The scholarship of Michael Spitzer's new book is impressive and thorough. The writing is impeccable and the coverage extensive. The book treats the history of the use of metaphor in the field of classical music. It also covers a substantial part of the philosophical literature. The book treats the topic of metaphor in a new and extremely convincing manner."-Lydia Goehr, Columbia University The experience of music is an abstract and elusive one, enough so that we're often forced to describe it (...) using analogies to other forms and sensations: we say that music moves or rises like a physical form that it contains the imagery of paintings or the grammar of language. In these and countless other ways, our discussions of music take the form of metaphor, attempting to describe music's abstractions by referencing more concrete and familiar experiences. Michael Spitzer's Metaphor and Musical Thought uses this process to create a unique and insightful history of our relationship with music--the first ever book-length study of musical metaphor in any language. Treating issues of language, aesthetics, semiotics, and cognition, Spitzer offers an evaluation, a comprehensive history, and an original theory of the ways our cultural values have informed the metaphors we use to address music. And as he brings these discussions to bear on specific works of music and follows them through current debates on how music's meaning might be considered, what emerges is a clear and engaging guide to both the philosophy of musical thought and the history of musical analysis, from the seventeenth century to the present day. Spitzer writes engagingly for students of philosophy and aesthetics, as well as for music theorists and historians. (shrink)
Aestheticians in the tradition of Critical Theory have claimed that the or a purpose of musical interpretation is somehow to save or salvage or rescue ("retten") the musical work. What sense, if any, can be made of this claim? The notion of salvage or rescue presupposes the concept of danger. Threats to works of art emerge from two sources: from outside and from inside. Whilst the former problem is only touched upon, the latter is discussed in some detail, using the (...) example of Brahms' Alto Rhapsody op. 53. Kathleen Ferrier's and Clemens Krauss' interpretation of 1947 deals with rather than ignores the composer's crumbly attempt at fusing art and religion. Salvage as their attitude vis-a-vis the work is distinguished from cover-up on the one hand and exposure on the other hand. (shrink)