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6. Wittgenstein on the Mental Processes of Understanding Music

Does the analogy collapse here? It seems that Worth is returning to a picture of meaning that separates language from the world. She thus misses the point of the well-known Wittgensteinian analogy, under the interpretation she herself adopts. In any case Worth does not explain how music goes beyond itself according to Wittgenstein, saying only that though an emotional reaction is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for understanding music, it often accompanies such an understanding (.). Lewis, in "Wittgenstein On Words and Music," p. 119, offers an internalist interpretation of Wittgenstein: "Understanding a musical theme will consist in grasping the interrelations between or amongst its 'parts,' in appreciating the contribution of each to the whole." In the conclusion of his essay he also quotes§ 175 of , and explicitly points out the contradiction between the two different emphases. The sense of "pointing outside itself" in is different from that in the , he says in the last paragraph of his essay: "The sense in could be captured, I think, by saying that understanding a musical theme overlaps with or is not isolated from other aspects of human life" (Ibid., p. 120). This notion, which is only briefly mentioned in Lewis' essay, is, in my opinion, the heart of Wittgenstein's philosophy of music, as we shall see.

Rising early in New York City allows you to hear the birds on the street.

The most recent conference program of the Musicological Society of Australia included a paper with the tart title "Exposing the Structure of a Work of Art and Accounting for Its Impact Are Not the Same Thing." That declaration could serve just as well as the motto of this review, for is a disappointing retreat from the state of the art in musicological study of popular music into an intellectually isolated formalism. The study of rock-era popular music is and always has been dominated by writers who concentrate on lyrics, mediation, industry, technology, subcultures, videos--everything but the music--and music scholars who work on popular music have long had to argue that analysis of musical practices and details is crucial. In the eighties and nineties, the work of Philip Tagg, Charles Keil, Richard Middleton, David Brackett, Christopher Small, Barry Shank, Susan McClary, Allan Moore, Sheila Whiteley, Stan Hawkins, myself, and others demonstrated how nonformalist music analysis can illuminate the workings and meanings of popular music. The significance of all of this work seems largely to have escaped John Covach, Graeme M. Boone, and their contributors, for they repeat the basic argument about the importance of analysis as though it were new, and they do almost nothing that could be counted as building upon this previous scholarship. These essays are not aimed at musicians or fans, certainly, since their discourse is unapologetically academic. But it is clear that their authors also are not trying to engage previous analysts of rock music or the larger interdisciplinary community of popular-music studies--people from musicology, sociology, cultural studies, ethnic studies, history, American studies, and communications who have for decades been studying popular music and debating its significance--for the work of such scholars and the concerns they address go largely unmentioned.

Peter Kivy, New Essays on Musical Understanding - …

Review: New Essays On Musical Understanding, Mind | …

In any case, even if understanding music is indeed a mental process, we can nevertheless ask how an explanation involving a gesture or an image is related to it. Do they come to the listener's mind?

Asking questions on a number of levels simultaneously is a central method in Wittgenstein's writings. In some cases the questions call for an answer, and here too we can try to answer them. But the way Wittgenstein concludes the discussion indicates another direction. It is an expression of despair; he is no longer able to bear the common but wrong picture that leads to the same questions again and again. This picture always leads us into a trap. Though it seems natural, moving the issue of understanding music into the mental solves nothing. Either we are left with the enigma of musical intentionality ("Are we supposed to imagine the dance while we listen?") or we lose the music ("If seeing the dance is what is important, it would be better to perform that rather than the music.") Thus, as long as we start with a mental process we will end up at a dead end.

Review: New Essays On Musical Understanding

On Jan 1, 2005 A. Hamilton published: Review: New Essays On Musical Understanding

Recordings are now the primary way we hear classical music, especially the more abstract styles of "absolute" instrumental music. In this original, provocative book, Arved Ashby argues that recording technology has transformed our understanding of art music. Contesting the laments of nostalgic critics, Ashby sees recordings as socially progressive and instruments of a musical vernacular, but also finds that recording and absolute music actually involve similar notions of removing sound from context. He takes stock of technology's impact on classical music, addressing the questions at the heart of the issue. This erudite yet concise study reveals how mechanical reproduction has transformed classical musical culture and the very act of listening, breaking down aesthetic and generational barriers and mixing classical music into the soundtrack of everyday life.

Wittgenstein, who had a deep interest in music, discusses it on many occasions throughout his writings. His remarks about music have motivated philosophers to build a comprehensive picture of his philosophy of music. Wittgenstein, who had a deep interest in music, discusses it on many occasions throughout his writings.[8] His remarks about music have motivated philosophers to build a comprehensive picture of his philosophy of music.[9] Wittgenstein's intention, however, is not a purely aesthetic one; his lectures on aesthetics include an exceptional example of discussing music for its own sake, which means not as part of an explanation of meaning in language. One of Wittgenstein's principal methods of presenting his philosophy of language is comparing sentence understanding with other human practices like understanding a rule, obeying a signpost or understanding a facial expression. Music is mentioned among these practices.

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Search details for new essays on musical understanding

Why, then, were these essays written? The editors tell us that they analyze rock because "we like it," a vaguely defiant gesture that some of the other contributors echo. It is easy to understand this impulse, given the marginalization of popular-music studies within the academy until quite recently. There must be more to it than that, though, or popular-music analysts would be merely heavily armed fans defending their individual tastes, brandishing roman numerals and Schenker graphs in place of lighters and devil signs. In fact, many of the contributors to this volume share an intellectual trajectory: as they have turned their attention from serialism to rock, they have worked the new terrain with their old tools --something that anthropologists and comparative musicologists learned not to do nearly a century ago. Judging from the essays themselves, these authors hope to confirm the transhistorical and transcultural utility of certain methods of analysis by colonizing new repertories with them, and they seek to prove the worthiness of rock music by locating within at least some of it a number of already prestigious traits, such as organic unity, formal complexity, and resemblance to European classical music. The main purpose of this volume thus appears to be the reciprocal legitimation of [End Page 355] rock music and modernist analytical techniques.

New Essays on Musical Understanding - Alibris

Wittgenstein's remarks about music have motivated philosophers to build a comprehensive picture of his philosophy of music, concentrating on the central issues of musical meaning. It is often claimed that, according to Wittgenstein, understanding music consist in grasping the internal relationships between musical events. Musical practice, however, is naturally saturated with what philosophers often call extra-musical meanings. The present study, by considering a musical issue in Haydn's instrumental music, attempts to show that musical language games in the Wittgensteinian sense involve explanations of music that enhance the listener's ability to understand music by broadening his musical competence. Nevertheless, constituting understanding of music, these explanations might use professional musical terms as well as non-musical terms, comparisons, gestures and so on. Thus, though music does not goes beyond itself in the sense of being understood through correlations between purely musical "concepts" and extra-musical contents, it does go beyond itself in musical practice, which involves understanding music through explanations and descriptions of music using various kinds of terms and images.

New Essays On Musical Understanding Author Peter Kivy …

Key Words
musical meaning, understanding music, philosophy of music, Wittgenstein, Haydn, description of music, explanation of music, extra-musical description, formal description of music, musical expressiveness, empirical investigation of music, philosophical investigation of music

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