Wednesday, October 5, 2011

mystery of music

     There are so many different ideas about the philosophy of music, and what it is, and how it appears, and how it fits in the world.  Is there anything new to say?  Is there any way to make one person agree with another's truth?  Is there a universal truth of it?  If I think there is, there is someone to disagree with me.  What I love about philosophy is the argument, making your case, and proving something to be so.  But don't we get lost in the words, and lose sight of the real truth, which may just be what we do NOT know, and cannot prove?  In trying to find the absolute truth of it, and define it, we end up defining it away, until the thing we're defining is unrecognizable.  And in so doing, we are missing all of it, all the beauty of it.
     Whatever music is, however it appears, and however it fits, we all know what it does, and how we feel about it.  It does connect, and disconnect people; it does reflect society, and fight against society; it transforms us, and gives us so much, whether making music or listening, or being a part of it all.  Sharing music gives us joy and excitement, and we would all be the lesser without it.  Music is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and we just know that.  Are we stripping away its magic when we should be rejoicing in it?   The gloriousness of music is how it affects us as it does, and how powerful it can be in bringing us together.  Are we losing that by listening so hard for a truth that perhaps eludes us all?
     My daughter tries hard to learn the words of every song she hears, so she can sing them again and again, and ends every line on a high note.  My son likes to listen, but prefers to make up his own songs, and he has perfect pitch.  What are they getting from music, and why are they so drawn to it?  What is it in music that is so universal that connects us all in our desire for it, and each of us in our own way?  It is an irresistible beauty and a thing-you-can't-put-a-finger-on, to put it technically, and does that gall us?  Is that why we continue searching and explaining?

1 comment:

  1. Adorno may be confusing the truth of music's universal appeal (as you explain it) with a more elusive, "higher" truth (which he has trouble articulating). Note this paragraph from the SEP:

    Arguably, the idea of "truth content" (Wahrheitsgehalt) is the pivotal center around which all the concentric circles of Adorno's aesthetics turn (Zuidervaart 1991; Wellmer 1991, 1-35 ; Jarvis 1998, 90-123). To gain access to this center one must temporarily suspend standard theories about the nature of truth (whether as correspondence, coherence, or pragmatic success) and allow for artistic truth to be dialectical, disclosive, and nonpropositional. According to Adorno, each artwork has its own import (Gehalt) by virtue of an internal dialectic between content (Inhalt) and form (Form). This import invites critical judgments about its truth or falsity. To do justice to the artwork and its import, such critical judgments need to grasp both the artwork's complex internal dynamics and the dynamics of the sociohistorical totality to which the artwork belongs. The artwork has an internal truth content to the extent that the artwork's import can be found internally and externally either true or false. Such truth content is not a metaphysical idea or essence hovering outside the artwork. But neither is it a merely human construct. It is historical but not arbitrary; nonpropositional, yet calling for propositional claims to be made about it; utopian in its reach, yet firmly tied to specific societal conditions. Truth content is the way in which an artwork simultaneously challenges the way things are and suggests how things could be better, but leaves things practically unchanged: "Art has truth as the semblance of the illusionless" (AT 132).