Thursday, September 26, 2019

Schopenhauer

Some popular philosophy by me is available here.

6 comments:

  1. What do you make of the final section of WWR (§71)? Schopey I think is more extreme than your piece lets on there; the world as a whole isn't supposed to be enjoyed as the highest point attainable by us, but is supposed to be abolished (in a way that goes beyond what philosophy can deal with).

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  2. True. I'm more trying to bring out an often overlooked aspect of his work than giving an (abbreviated) account of the whole thing. The ending, I take it, is meant to be optimistic in its way, at least for a certain kind of (very unworldly) person.

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  3. Pretty good, but:

    1) While the frozen music remark is usually attributed to Goethe, it was actually Schelling who first called architecture "frozen music" or "congealed music" (erstarrte Musik), some decades before Goethe picked up the notion from him. I researched this just recently because I'm planning to use both this and the Eliot quote in the book on music that I'm now writing, which I tried to describe to you while you were here.

    2) I'm not sure about calling Kant "Schopenhauer's hero" in this particular context, as Kant's aesthetics of course views music, not as the highest, but as just about the lowest form of art there is – and instrumental music as even lower than vocal music, while for Schopenhauer it was exactly the other way around. (In this, Kant was a typical 18th-century philosopher and Schopenhauer a typical 19th-century one.) Is there anything more remote from Schopenhauer's view of music than Kant's view of it as being like the smell of a dank perfume that creeps into everyone's nose whether they like it or not (Critique of Judgement §53)?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVxyPjrj2i0

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  4. Thanks, Tommi. Points taken.

    Another problem with the frozen music idea is that Schopenhauer didn't like it much at all:

    In the series of the arts given by me architecture and music are the two extreme ends. Moreover, according to their inner nature, their power, the extent of their spheres, and their significance, they are the most heterogeneous, indeed true antipodes. This opposition extends even to the form of their appearance, for architecture is in space alone, without any connection with time; and music is in time alone, without any connection with space. Now hence springs their one point of analogy, that as in architecture that which orders and holds together is symmetry, in music it is rhythm, and thus here also it holds true that extremes meet. As the ultimate constituent parts of a building are the exactly similar stones, so the ultimate constituent parts of a musical composition are the exactly similar beats; yet by being weak or strong, or in general by the measure, which denotes the species of time, these are divided into equal parts, which may be compared to the dimensions of the stone. The musical period consists of several bars, and it has also two equal parts, one rising, aspiring, generally going to the dominant, and one sinking, quieting, returning to the fundamental note. Two or several periods constitute a part, which in general is also symmetrically doubled by the sign of repetition; two parts make a small piece of music, or only a movement of a larger piece; and thus a concerto or sonata usually consists of three movements, a symphony of four, and a mass of five. Thus we see the musical composition bound together and rounded off as a whole, by symmetrical distribution and repeated division, down to the beats and their fractions, with thorough subordination, superordination, and co-ordination of its members, just as a building is connected and rounded off by its symmetry. Only in the latter that is exclusively in space which in the former is exclusively in time. The mere feeling of this analogy has in the last thirty years called forth the oft-repeated, daring witticism, that architecture is frozen music. The origin of this can be traced to Goethe; for, according to Eckermann's “Conversations,” vol. ii. p. 88, he said: “I have found among my papers a page on which I call architecture a rigidified music; and really there is something in it; the mood which is produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.” Probably he let fall this witticism much earlier in conversation, and in that case it is well known that there were never wanting persons to pick up what he so let fall that they might afterwards go about decked with it. For the rest, whatever Goethe may have said, the analogy of music and architecture, which is here referred by me to its sole ground, the analogy of rhythm with symmetry, extends accordingly only to the outward form, and by no means to the inner nature of the two arts, which is entirely different. Indeed it would be absurd to wish to put on the same level in essential respects the most limited and the weakest of all the arts, and the most far-reaching and powerful. As an amplification of the analogy pointed out, we might add further, that when music, as it were in a fit of desire for independence, seizes the opportunity of a pause to free itself from the control of rhythm, to launch out into the free imagination of an ornate cadenza, such a piece of music divested of all rhythm is analogous to the ruin which is divested of symmetry, and which accordingly may be called, in the bold language of the witticism, a frozen cadenza.

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    Replies
    1. I had forgotten about this passage, or maybe I had never come across it in the first place (I've never read WWR in its entirety). It is very interesting, as the most common gloss on the architecture remark nowadays is something completely different: roughly, that the way in which the parts add up to a whole is similar in both architecture and music.

      One reason why I kind of like the architecture remark myself is that it is the perfect comeback to another aper├žu which I've always found far more stupid: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." (This has been attributed to everyone and their dog, but as far as is known, it was first said by the comedy actor Martin Mull sometime in the late 1970s.)

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    2. Writing about music might be hard, but not as hard (or absurd, if that's the idea) as dancing about architecture. I quite like the 'frozen music' remark too.

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