Why Musicians Need Philosophy


#1

Click: Why Musicians Need Philosophy


#2

Well, that was interesting. The author was writing from a plane well above the average, and seemed to take himself perhaps a bit too seriously. Not sure if I read it right, but I certainly don’t think all musicians need philosophy, but I have no issue with some incorporating it. Music is after all, for enjoyment. Some will take enjoyment from a philosophical addition, but probably most won’t, at least not to the extent the author seems to think. Elk, what’s your take on this (you being a musician)? For reference I’m not a musician and not a philosopher, so perhaps I’m not in the best position to assess?


#3

Could it be philospophers need music?

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdon and philosophy, Ludwig van Beethoven


#4

I find his message valid. We need a shared musical language and history for music to make sense, and forcing intellectual constructs onto the making of music (such as every pitch of a 12-tone scale must be used at least once every ten measures, etc.) deprives music of its communicative powers.

I recently attended the premier of a contemporary violin concerto, highly recommended composer, enthusiastically performed. Yet but for the program notes I would not have known what it meant (happy? sad? distressed? optimistic?). Without a language, it was merely squeaks and groans - less expressive than the babblings of a pre-verbal child.


#5

And there is no chance that by repeated listening it could become more meaningful?


#6

It may become more comfortable, less strange. But it will not gain meaning.

An analogy is a non-speaker listening to a recording of Mandarin with no context, no idea of the topic.

I can listen to it as many times as I would like but will never know if the speaker is telling me about his favorite sister, reading the phone book, or revealing state secrets.


#7

On the flip side, just being able to “understand” music does not make it great. I can easily understand/analyze many composers who were contemporaries of Mozart and Beethoven, however, the music is 3rd rate at best. I’ve done a Shenkerian analysis as a music student of a Beethoven string quartet, that doesn’t mean I “understand” the composition. Especially in the same way that Beethoven intended. I don’t think I’ll ever truly comprehend how Elliott Carter uses metric modulation but, without reservation, I’ll include Mr. Carter’s name in the same sentence as Stravinsky when asked who the great 20th century composers were. Cage and Stockhausen represent a small amount of time in Western Classical Music history. It’s hard to believe that scholars are still writing about those guys. “…no normal ear can hold together as music?” Too funny. Shoenberg’s 12-tone works might not be to everyone’s taste, however, I’ve never heard people get upset about Copland’s 12-tone pieces. Right or wrong, some folks think 12-tone composition started with Mahler’s 9th or even Bach’s keyboard works.

What’s my point? In the world of music aesthetics, to “understand” doesn’t guarantee quality. We must first define the meaning of “understand.” Schoenberg’s Op. 25 Piano Suite might be difficult in its pitch structure, but is relatively easy to understand when analyzing other parameters such as rhythm, dynamics, etc.

To answer Audiophile above, yes, I believe it takes multiple listens (poor grammar?) to get comfortable with music. I would argue that it’s the hardest art form to comprehend on first encounter. Perhaps the Violin Concerto that Elk referred to above is simply just a bad piece of music. Mozart wrote 5 Violin Concertos…how many bad violin concertos were written between 1756 and 1791? There’s a reason we all still listen to Mozart. How many of Mozart’s contemporaries do we still listen to? My guess is that in 200 years we will still be listening to Stravinsky…how many of his contemporaries will be played/listened to? :wink:


#8
xianharris said In the world of music aesthetics, to “understand” doesn’t guarantee quality.
Absolutely.
We must first define the meaning of “understand.” Schoenberg’s Op. 25 Piano Suite might be difficult in its pitch structure, but is relatively easy to understand when analyzing other parameters such as rhythm, dynamics, etc.
Well put. I was amused when you posted the piece in the Listening thread. Not an easy listen.
To answer Audiophile above, yes, I believe it takes multiple listens (poor grammar?) to get comfortable with music. I would argue that it’s the hardest art form to comprehend on first encounter.
I agree, we need to learn the language, the flow, the structure, become familiar with the harmonies and progressions, etc. it is what makes listening to Chinese or Indian a challenge for most westerners. Or opera for most people. We can learn to appreciate and enjoy. It is a bit akin to a small child learning to enjoy a broad range of foods.

Yet, while this is true, what makes American pop so incredibly appealing to other cultures to dominate their own popular music listening? The only country which does not appear to embrace western pop is India. Why is this?

Perhaps the Violin Concerto that Elk referred to above is simply just a bad piece of music. Mozart wrote 5 Violin Concertos…how many bad violin concertos were written between 1756 and 1791? There’s a reason we all still listen to Mozart. How many of Mozart's contemporaries do we still listen to? My guess is that in 200 years we will still be listening to Stravinsky…how many of his contemporaries will be played/listened to? ;-)
I have oft stated this is one of the benefits of listening to classical music: the bad and mediocre have long ago been filtered out by time. But we also leave brilliant composers behind. Bach was essentially forgotten, except as an excellent organist, until Mendelssohn and Spohr championed his music during the romantic period.

While I was not favorably impressed with the new contemporary violin concerto which I heard premiered, the performer, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, is believes it is a brilliant piece and will survive the test of time. I had a good discussion with her after the concert, as well as a brief conversation before, and she is absolutely and firmly convinced. In one hundred years we will know.


#9

Interesting study, somewhat related to the above posts:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/taste-in-music-isnt-unique-study-says_us_5787c523e4b03fc3ee4fcbd2?section=


#10

Very interesting indeed and wonderfully supports our thinking that we need to learn the language, the flow, the structure, become familiar with the harmonies and progressions to enjoy any particular form of music.