Thursday, June 04, 2015

Music and Silence

I mentioned Jankélévitch's Music and the Ineffable in my last post, and I want to thank Jay Langguth, a philosopher at Thomas More College, for bringing the book to my attention. If I understood the book correctly, Jankélévitch adopts the view that music does not "express" emotions or ideas (in any sense of "express" that is linguistic, so to speak) but rather imitates the rhythms and "atmospheres" of "life, freedom, [and] love." He's talking about instrumental music ("pure music" in the terminology of philosophers of music). I'm not sure I agree, but it's an interesting view to consider, especially when thinking about music without words/lyrics. I would accept that some music takes that form, or is fruitfully understood in this way.

Any way, here's a nugget to ponder from the last chapter (on music and silence): "Music is a sort of silence, and one needs silence in order to hear music; the one silence is necessary to hear the other, melodious silence. As melodious, measured noise, enchanted noise, music needs to be surrounded by silence. Music imposes silence upon words and their soft purring, that is, upon the most facile and voluble noise of all, the noise of idle chatter." -- Vladamir Jankélévitch, Music and the Ineffable (139-140)

And a video of a slow, quiet tune I worked up the other day on the fretless banjo, "based on a true story" (see title). A lot of banjo playing is fast, but I also find myself interested in tunes that work at a slower tempo (and not just because I have a slow and clumsy left hand).