Philosophies of Music History

By Warren Dwight Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
THE QUEST FOR ORIGINS: "THE CLEAREST VIEW"?

"He who considers things in their first growth and origin (physis) will obtain the clearest view of them."-- Aristotle: Politics, 1, 2.

"The quest for origins has been of absorbing interest. It would seem that we can never understand anything at all until we have discovered its origin in something which preceded it."-- Woodbridge : The Purpose of History, p. 63.

IT is a rare history of music that does not begin with "The Origins of Music." Therefore, the queries to be raised in this chapter include the following:
1. Is it necessary, or even possible, to get back to "first growth and origins"?
2. Why has it been deemed necessary?
3. What methods have been used?
4. What is the difference between historical origins, properly speaking, and speculative origins which lead back admittedly into It the gray dawn of history," where "the clearest view" is impossible?
5. Is the "thing which preceded" the only medium by which we can understand history?
6. Granting its value and necessity, is it sufficient? May there not be other important sources of historical evidence, such as correlations with contemporary events and living realities?

"All social laws, indeed all universal laws as well, have one characteristic in common: they explain the becoming, but never the beginning of things, the ultimate origin. This limitation must be insisted upon the more emphatically since the human mind is given to inquiry after the genesis of things. It desires knowledge of the first arising, the ultimate origin -- a tendency fatal to science; whereas with all the laws cognizable it can apprehend only the perpetual becoming.

"Hence, none of the questions about the ultimate origin of human

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