hey guys, it's been a while since anyone has posted. i would like to discuss the philosophy of music.
over winter break i was able to become closer friends with my best friend's roommate ken. ken is a brilliant guitarist who has been intensely studying music theory for the last 5 years. we got into a lot of philosophical discussions about the place of music in the cosmos, and why it has such a profound place in the human soul/condition. so i want to hear your thoughts on the philosophical implications of why music is so important to us as a species, how music influences you, and why it is important to you.
here are a couple things to get this conversation started:
"There are two things that don’t have to mean anything; one is music, the other is laughter." - Immanuel Kant
"Pythagoras was very interested in music, and so were his followers. The Pythagoreans were musicians as well as mathematicians. Pythagoras wanted to improve the music of his day, which he believed was not harmonious enough and was too hectic.
According to legend, the way Pythagoras discovered that musical notes could be translated into mathematical equations was when one day he passed blacksmiths at work, and thought that the sounds emanating from their anvils being hit were beautiful and harmonious and decided that whatever scientific law caused this to happen must be mathematical and could be applied to music. He went to the blacksmiths to learn how this had happened by looking at their tools, he discovered that it was because the anvils were "simple ratios of each other, one was half the size of the first, another was 2/3 the size, and so on." (See Pythagorean tuning.)
The Pythagoreans elaborated on a theory of numbers, the exact meaning of which is still debated among scholars. Pythagoras believed in something called the "harmony of the spheres." He believed that the planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, which corresponded to musical notes and thus produced a symphony."
I honestly don't think I can answer this right now, but I will say that I have always loved music. It's a huge part of my life and I would go insane or totally depressed if I had to go an entire week without hearing a single song.
I think some of what makes music so great is that it makes me feel less alone.
i'm sure there is some other activity in which they connect with something greater than themselves. music is just so ubiquitous and common in our society that it's hard to imagine. perhaps i'm wrong, though
I'm also really interested to know what makes certain people like certain music that other people don't. And why do certain people tend to only like a certain genre while others seem to like just about anything?
yeah this is really interesting. how does this tie into the emotional development of each person? I believe people listen to music sometimes for emotional outlet, and it's funny because in my post below i talked about how vibration creates form... they did this one experiment somewhere where they had two separate freezer rooms and they put glasses of lukewarm water in each room. One room was silent, one room blasted classical music, and one blasted heavy metal or something loud like that. They compared the patterns of crystallization in each glass of ice and the differences were extraordinary-- the heavy metal music was all disarrayed and the classical music had beautiful symmetry in the crystals.
Why hasn't the other Andrew commented in this post yet?
Anyway, I find music essential because it provides a soundtrack to my life. And just like Mr. Bernstein said, it can represent the unnameable and unknowable. If you look at a movie, try to imagine it without its soundtrack and it certainly will not have the same impact.
I think one of the reasons why I've been able to listen and enjoy all kinds of music is because I try to imagine what the artist/musician was feeling or going through when they composed the song. Or I try to imagine the scenario that a piece has stemmed from and most of the time I can see myself relating to it.
"Indeed, I would venture to say that there exists no set of rules which delineate what it is that makes a piece beautiful, nor could there ever exist such a set of rules. The Sense of Beauty is the exclusive domain of Conscious Minds, minds which through the experience of living have gained a depth that transcends explanation by any mere set of rules." - Crab in D. R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach
Here's a little background on how I compose; I hope to somehow connect it to the human condition, as lofty and absurd as that is, especially on lj.
So much of the music I try to write is in many ways an exercise in reconciling beauty and ugliness, by means of imposing a theoretical structure on a series of roughly independent ideas floating about in my mind. I seek to write music that accurately reflects the many sounds I hear in my mind, many of which emerge as a response to my experiences. I have some mild synaesthesia, and often I begin a piece after a color or a sensation on my skin triggers a sound. Likewise, after composing a piece, I may connect phrases of it to an image or a color. In fact, this was one of the root ideas for the film I made for my avant-garde film class final last term.
AS a listener of music, I tend to quite literally associate "taste" with taste. Here, I mean that I connect aural pleasure with aesthetic pleasure, with flavors, with sensations on my skin. I listen to minor scales more than major scales, and prefer polyphony with dissonances to homophony with highly consonant cadences. I tend to listen to each piece multiple times to grasp the interplay of it's parts, harmonically, linearly in time, etc... I try to feel and experience music as though it were a barrage of the senses. When I'm home I will sit, stand, or lay and simply let music "course over me" at high volumes.
I find that I have an especially strong preference for music that is self-reflexive. I love when artists write music about music, and dedicate their music to the plethora of artists and inspirations that have built the sound.
And so I have many approaches to music. It is one of my most empirical and emotional indulgences, but I also can approach it as an analytic science, with a body of theory that may be obeyed and broken to reflect the twisted and pleasurable sensations of life, and the bizarre abstracts that seem to define much of human experience. It is a unity of mathematics and spirituality. In what other subject can the objects of study be thought of as state vectors on an infinite dimensional Hilbert space, but also as a grandiose artistic vision built over millennia by both experimentation and further abstraction? Music can conjure the deepest chills and give the peace of sleep, it can conjure images and recollections. We associate it with our memories and phases of our lives, and it informs us as it continuously evolves. It is poetry of the ear and feet, it helps drive dance and cinema. It is a synthesis of early art and modern technology. But it can be made with nothing more than one's own voice, or hands.