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July 2009

Using a blog for a serious topic raises a question: Will web-readers who are known to skim their texts fleetingly and read carelessly, endure sustained reflection? The answer could present us with a problem but also with an opportunity. Perhaps the challenge is to invent a new, double-headed style? In thinking aloud we may need to proceed aphoristically- igniting the imagination and reflection in quick sparks – staccatissimo. At the same time, we may need to try to sustain long phrases.

According to anecdote, after starting to use his typewriter, Friedrich Nietzsche’s style changed to become more punctuated – more on the interesting topic of how technology modifies thinking can be found in this thought provoking article by the way.

Music is not really a topic about which one can think quickly. In this regard it is like time: St. Augustine famously found that we all seem to know what it is but when we contemplate it, it disappears and we become confused. Much philosophy is like this. We must be able to endure perplexity. Perplexity is a most important state of mind for a thinker. Without it we are likely to remain captive to the ignorance that hides within convictions.

On this site I hope to share some ideas on music. While these ideas are articulated within a historical philosophical framework, I hope to relate any historical discussion to the here-and-now. In fact, the here-and-now has motivated this blog in the first instance. Music making, listening and learning are central activities of the human spirit. I regard them as fundamental to human essence and as fundamental to a flourishing society. In that respect, music is more than an aesthetic phenomenon and more than an instrument of pleasure. It is an “Existenzial” – it articulates the ontological condition of human existence. We are human because we make and participate in music. When Heidegger states that “language is the house of being” we should add that music is the ground on which such a house can stand. Relentless noise – the denial of music- is akin to nonsense and babble: it destroys our spiritual being and well-being.

One of the essential determinations of music is silence. Our capacity to endure silence has audibly declined. What is there to endure? What do we fear? In silence we are confronted with the limitations of our existence. The silence of reflection connects us at the same time with the infinite ground of such an existence. In silence we think, we imagine and we listen. Without silence we cannot conceive matters clearly. Silence is fundamental to the authentic experience and conception of music. We listen to music when- and because we ourselves are silent. Without silence, music turns into noise. Silence connects us with the truth of music. If we wish to master music, become musicians and make music well we need to master silence.

Our circumstances here-and-now may be remembered for their noise, for their non-sense and for the restless activity that flees from silence. This time may be remembered as a time with little music notwithstanding the overwhelming availability of music and notwithstanding the noisy propaganda that accompanies music and public musical productions.

I invite all to browse the various entries to which I hope to add regularly. Most importantly, I welcome critical comments.