Philosophy of music

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Philosophy of music is the study of "...fundamental questions about the nature of music and our experience of it". [1] The philosophical study of music has many connections with philosophical questions in metaphysics and aesthetics. Some basic questions in the philosophy of music are:

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Music form of art using sound

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.

Contents

Definition of music

A definition of music endeavors to give an accurate and concise explanation of music's basic attributes or essential nature and it involves a process of defining what is meant by the term music. Many authorities have suggested definitions, but defining music turns out to be more difficult than might first be imagined, and there is ongoing debate. A number of explanations start with the notion of music as organized sound, but they also highlight that this is perhaps too broad a definition and cite examples of organized sound that are not defined as music, such as human speech and sounds found in both natural and industrial environments. The problem of defining music is further complicated by the influence of culture in music cognition.

Philosophical issues

Definition of music

"Explications of the concept of music usually begin with the idea that music is organized sound. They go on to note that this characterization is too broad, since there are many examples of organized sound that are not music, such as human speech, and the sounds non-human animals and machines make." [1] There are many different ways of denoting the fundamental aspects of music which are more specific than "sound": popular aspects include melody (pitches that occur consecutively), harmony (pitches regarded as groups—not necessarily sounding at the same time—to form chords), rhythm, meter and timbre (also known as a sound's "color"). However, noise music may consist mainly of noise. Musique concrète often consists only of sound samples of non-musical nature, sometimes in random juxtaposition. Ambient music may consist of recordings of wildlife or nature. The arrival of these avant-garde forms of music in the 20th century have been a major challenge to traditional views of music as being based around melodies and rhythms, leading to broader characterizations.[ citation needed ]

Melody linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

A melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Pitch (music) perceptual property in music

Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies. Pitch can be determined only in sounds that have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise. Pitch is a major auditory attribute of musical tones, along with duration, loudness, and timbre.

Harmony aspect of music

In music, harmony considers the process by which the composition of individual sounds, or superpositions of sounds, is analysed by hearing. Usually, this means simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches, or chords.

Absolute music vs program music

There was intense debate over absolute music versus program music during the late Romantic Era. Advocates of the "absolute music" perspective argued that instrumental music does not convey emotions or images to the listener. They claimed that music is not explicitly "about" anything and that it is non-representational. [2] The idea of absolute music developed at the end of the 18th century in the writings of authors of early German Romanticism, such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann. [2] [3] Adherents of the "program music" perspective believed that music could convey emotions and images. One example of program music is Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique , in which the fourth movement is the composer's depiction of a story about an artist who poisons himself with opium and then is executed. The majority of opposition to absolute instrumental-based music came from composer Richard Wagner and the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Wagner's works were chiefly programmatic and often used vocalization, and he said that "Where music can go no further, there comes the word… the word stands higher than the tone." Nietzsche wrote many commentaries applauding the music of Wagner and was in fact an amateur composer himself. [4]

Absolute music is music that is not explicitly "about" anything; in contrast to program music, it is non-representational. The idea of absolute music developed at the end of the 18th century in the writings of authors of early German Romanticism, such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann but the term was not coined until 1846 where it was first used by Richard Wagner in a programme to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Representation (arts) art technique

Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements. Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.

German Romanticism intellectual movement in the culture of German-speaking countries in the late-18th and early 19th centuries

German Romanticism was the dominant intellectual movement of German-speaking countries in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, influencing philosophy, aesthetics, literature and criticism. Compared to English Romanticism, the German variety developed relatively late, and, in the early years, coincided with Weimar Classicism (1772–1805). In contrast to the seriousness of English Romanticism, the German variety of Romanticism notably valued wit, humour, and beauty.

Other Romantic philosophers and proponents of absolute music, such as Johann von Goethe saw music not only as a subjective human "language" but as an absolute transcendent means of peering into a higher realm of order and beauty. Some expressed a spiritual connection with music. In Part IV of his chief work, The World as Will and Representation (1819), Arthur Schopenhauer said that "music is the answer to the mystery of life. The most profound of all the arts, it expresses the deepest thoughts of life." In "The Immediate Stages of the Erotic, or Musical Erotic", a chapter of Either/Or (1843), Søren Kierkegaard examines the profundity of music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the sensual nature of Don Giovanni .

<i>The World as Will and Representation</i> book by Arthur Schopenhauer

The World as Will and Representation is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in 1818/1819, the second expanded edition in 1844, and the third expanded edition in 1859. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann.

Arthur Schopenhauer German philosopher

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation, wherein he characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Proceeding from the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism, rejecting the contemporaneous post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism. Schopenhauer was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Eastern philosophy, having initially arrived at similar conclusions as the result of his own philosophical work.

<i>Either/Or</i> 1st published work of S. Kierkegaard (pen name Victor Eremita) in 2 volumes in 1843; outlines a theory of human existence, marked by the distinction between a hedonistic, aesthetic mode of life and the ethical life predicated upon commitment

Either/Or is the first published work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Appearing in two volumes in 1843 under the pseudonymous editorship of Victor Eremita, it outlines a theory of human existence, marked by the distinction between an essentially hedonistic, aesthetic mode of life and the ethical life, which is predicated upon commitment.

Meaning and purpose

In his 1997 book How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker dubbed music "auditory cheesecake", [5] a phrase that in the years since has served as a challenge to the musicologists and psychologists who believe otherwise. [6] Among those to note this stir was Philip Ball in his book The Music Instinct [7] where he noted that music seems to reach to the very core of what it means to be human: "There are cultures in the world where to say 'I'm not musical' would be meaningless," Ball writes, "akin to saying 'I'm not alive'." In a filmed debate, Ball suggests that music might get its emotive power through its ability to mimic people and perhaps its ability to entice us lies in music's ability to set up an expectation and then violate it. [8]

Steven Pinker Psychologist, linguist, author

Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.

Philip Ball is a British science writer. For over twenty years he has been an editor of the journal Nature for which he continues to write regularly. He now writes a regular column in Chemistry World. He has contributed to publications ranging from New Scientist to the New York Times, The Guardian, the Financial Times and New Statesman. He is the regular contributor to Prospect magazine, and also a columnist for Chemistry World, Nature Materials and BBC Future. He has broadcast on many occasions on radio and TV, and in June 2004 he presented a three-part serial on nanotechnology, Small Worlds, on BBC Radio 4.

Aesthetics of music

The symphony orchestra is not only the main large ensemble used in classical music; one work for orchestra, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been called the supreme masterpiece of the Western canon. Orchestra conservatorio.jpg
The symphony orchestra is not only the main large ensemble used in classical music; one work for orchestra, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been called the supreme masterpiece of the Western canon.

In the pre-modern tradition, the aesthetics of music or musical aesthetics explored the mathematical and cosmological dimensions of rhythmic and harmonic organization. In the eighteenth century, focus shifted to the experience of hearing music, and thus to questions about its beauty and human enjoyment ( plaisir and jouissance ) of music. The origin of this philosophic shift is sometimes attributed to Baumgarten in the 18th century, followed by Kant. Through their writing, the ancient term aesthetics, meaning sensory perception, received its present-day connotation. In recent decades philosophers have tended to emphasize issues besides beauty and enjoyment. For example, music's capacity to express emotion has been a central issue.

Aesthetics is a sub-discipline of philosophy. In the 20th century, important contributions were made by Peter Kivy, Jerrold Levinson, Roger Scruton, and Stephen Davies. However, many musicians, music critics, and other non-philosophers have contributed to the aesthetics of music. In the 19th century, a significant debate arose between Eduard Hanslick, a music critic and musicologist, and composer Richard Wagner. Harry Partch and some other musicologists, such as Kyle Gann, have studied and tried to popularize microtonal music and the usage of alternate musical scales. Also, many modern composers like La Monte Young, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca paid much attention to a system of tuning called just intonation.

There has been a strong tendency in the aesthetics of music to emphasize the paramount importance of compositional structure; however, other issues concerning the aesthetics of music include lyricism, harmony, hypnotism, emotiveness, temporal dynamics, resonance, playfulness, and color (see also musical development).

It is often thought that music has the ability to affect our emotions, intellect, and psychology; it can assuage our loneliness or incite our passions. The philosopher Plato suggests in the Republic that music has a direct effect on the soul. Therefore, he proposes that in the ideal regime music would be closely regulated by the state (Book VII).

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Andrew Kania, "The Philosophy of Music", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2014 edition, edited by Edward N. Zalta.
  2. 1 2 M. C. Horowitz (ed.), New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ISBN   0-684-31377-4, vol.1, p. 5
  3. Dahlhaus, Carl (1991). The Idea of Absolute Music. University of Chicago Press. p. 18.
  4. "Nietzsche and Music". Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  5. Pinker, Steven (1997). How The Mind Works. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 524. ISBN   0393045358 . Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  6. Bennett, Drake (2006-09-03). "Survival of the harmonious". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
  7. Ball, Philip (2012). The Music Instinct. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0199896429.
  8. How The Light Gets In, 2013. "Music's Mystery". The Institute of Art and Ideas. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  9. Nicholas Cook, Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Cambridge Music Handbooks), Cambridge University Press (24 June 1993). ISBN   9780521399241. "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is acknowledged as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Western tradition. More than any other musical work it has become an international symbol of unity and affirmation."

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Further reading