Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

By Susanne K. Langer | Go to book overview
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On the Problem of Musical Hearing

HELMUT REINOLD


OUTLINE OF THE SUBJECT

Music is possible and has meaning in our lives because we are able to hear. Whoever surrenders ingenuously to music need not think about that, but for the musicologist hearing is the starting point of all his thinking and research. For without hearing there is no music; and there is no music which does not obey the laws of human hearing.

Musical hearing is therefore not only a musicological problem, but as a human faculty it is first of all a purely anthropological one. Although this shows that musicology and anthropology are related, hearing is nowhere -- even in theoretical anthropology -- as central a problem as it is in musicology. From this it is evident that the musicologist cannot simply appropriate from other fields of science what he wants to know about hearing. He must look with his own eyes at our human faculty of hearing musically, must include its problems in his own thinking, and in so doing focus his attention on other interrelations, as for instance the medical scientist does. For, after all, the physiological processes in which medicine is interested, the acoustic measurements possible from the physical

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