[lit-ideas] The Philosophy of Music

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2011 15:56:54 EDT

We are considering if Popper played the violin.

In a message dated  7/6/2011 2:59:17 P.M, donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:

"even if we consider music as it is played, as perforce physically  
embodied qua sounds, we can consider the content of that music in ways that are 
independent of its embodiment."
Perhaps 'embodiment' is a metaphor. "Body" and "corpus" and Greek "soma"  
are TERRIFICALLY complex words. People should avoid using them. "I saw a 
corpse  in a cemetery" is NOT redundant to a Roman.
McEvoy continues:
"The content of a musical theme may stand in a [quasi-logical?] relation to 
 some counterpoint or 'answering' theme, and aspects of this relation may 
be  independent of whether the theme is played loud or soft, or independent 
of which  instrumentation is used."
In the same vein (figuratively), Dame Joan Sutherland used to say that she  
rehearsed most of the time "mentally".
"even though these may greatly alter the physical content of the music, the 
 _abstract_ content or 'meaning' of the music may be largely unaltered."
Once we start talking 'mean' we are in Griceian territory:
"By uttering x, U meant that p" (U: utterer). It would be otiose to think  
that U just _meant_ something, *whether he uttered x or not". OF COURSE the  
'vehicle' of meaning, the physical 'realisation', is a sine qua non.
"For example, the World 3 content of "The Art of Fugue" contains many  
structural and objective features that remain more or less constant whether the 
piece is played on a solo piano or by a string quartet or a synthesizer: 
this  (more or less) invariant content is what identifies "The Art of Fugue" 
for the  work it is, and not the variations in physical sounds that can be 
used to convey  the work."
Perhaps "the art of Fugue" has been overrated. As Mrs. Hammerstein rightly  

"I beg your pardon. My husband wrote "Ol' Man River." Jerome Kern wrote  
"da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da." 
"We may even say that, from a purely physical POV, there is no such thing  
as music - only sounds or noise. When we speak of music [as opposed to the 
sound  of traffic] we are referring not merely to it being sound but it being 
sound  with a 'meaningful' and specific content."
This requires a Griceian analysis. Scruton attempted it. He failed!
"The same is true when we refer to propositions. That 'meaningful content'  
is not so much a physical or World 1 phenomenon as a "third-worldly 
phenomenon".  We do not approach understanding it as a physicist might approach 
understanding  sound, and we have good reason to oppose the view that a 
complete explanation of  the 'meaningful content' of music could in principle 
given by a physicist. As  Popper's World 3 terminology suggests, that 
'meaningful content' is content at a  whole other level than the level of mere 
physics (or World 1), even though it  may be conveyed by physical means."
Still. There are LOADS of options the cautious philosopher can opt  for: 
supervene, for example. The point with music is plain enough. 
Beethoven, for example, was deaf, and yet, held as a great composer --  
even by his self. Yet, the idea of a deaf audience to Beethoven sounds more  
parasitic. Or not, of course.
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