The Quest for Voice: On Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy: The 1997 Ernest Bloch Lectures

The Quest for Voice: On Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy: The 1997 Ernest Bloch Lectures

The Quest for Voice: On Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy: The 1997 Ernest Bloch Lectures

The Quest for Voice: On Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy: The 1997 Ernest Bloch Lectures

Synopsis

What is musical meaning? Where does it reside and how can it be known? How do music and philosophy relate? Concentrating on the music, politics and philosophy of Richard Wagner, Lydia Goehr addresses these classic questions.

Excerpt

What is musical meaning? Where does it reside and how can it be known? Does it make a difference to its meaning if the music is composed with or without words, as a symphony or as a song? Why is it thought that music can express human feelings with an immediacy not possible in other languages or arts? What is contained in the claim that music is autonomous, or that it is prophetic and can articulate a 'politics for the future'? These are some of the questions the German Romantics asked about music. In this book I try to answer these questions by focusing on the view that music means something, not just because it is a well-formed symbolic language, but because when human beings engage with this language they express something about themselves as human beings. That something, in Romantic terms, approaches a subjective freedom expressed within and against objective constraints.

In this expression endures an ancient activity that once signified a philosophical quest for the cultivation of the soul and a political quest for freedom. This activity was originally captured by the Socratic concept of mousikē. Reconnecting music to the original aspirations of mousikē has an advantage for us today insofar as it allows us to recognize music's broad philosophical and political significance and its autonomy. For, as paradoxical as it sounds, connecting music to mousikē demonstrates that music is philosophical and political already by virtue of music's being autonomously musical.

Schopenhauer and Nietzsche contributed much to establishing this connection. Yet I focus far less on these or, indeed, on any other philosophers of German Romanticism. Hegel and Feuerbach would have been obvious choices. Rather, I focus on Richard Wagner: with an impact unparalleled he demonstrated in theory and in practice the wide-reaching significance of thinking about philosophy and politics in terms of music, and music in terms of philosophy and politics. He showed the dangers of losing the musical in our music, the meaningful in our philosophy, and freedom in . . .

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