Does Music Mean Anything?

Locked
John Haueisen
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:57 pm
Location: Worthington, Ohio

Does Music Mean Anything?

Post by John Haueisen » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:15 pm

After reading the many and varied responses to the topic of what music we find most emotionally moving, I had several additional thoughts.

For many of us "emotionally moving" meant bringing tears to our eyes. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that response. Several went on to express other responses to music. For examples of responses other than tears, I can remark that that certain music elicits a response based on words or ideas associated with the melody. For example, in Die Walkure, I sense the musical feeling of redemption, whenever I hear the music which accompanies Wotan's exclamation, "Leb wohl, du kuhnes herrliches Kind!," as he embraces his daughter, Brunnhilde, who has disobeyed his law, ironically in order to make him happy. Obviously in this case I may be associating the music with the action of the opera.

But what about the theme of La Boheme? It seems bursting with an outpouring of love--even for those who have never heard of the opera or its storyline.

In the magical moment of the presentation of the rose, in Der Rosenkavalier, many who have never heard the opera, sense a sort of magic in the ringing of the triangle--a sudden awareness of "love at first sight." Is it just that we associate such sounds with memories of movies we have seen, or is there something in particular types of sounds that strikes a chord with us?

Certainly, Beethoven's Sixth sounds peaceful or even pastoral, even to those unaware of its program title, "The Pastoral."

In the final movement of Bruckner's Eighth, I experience a feeling of desperation--of a brave struggling against all odds.

In the finale of Parsifal, the magical notes resembling a voicing of the "Dresden Amen" seem to elevate the closing experience to another level of spiritual awareness or redemption.

Obviously again, much of the feelings occur because they are associated with a particular storyline. But is there any intrinsic meaning to music? They are just particular groupings of sound waves striking our ears. Why do they seem to induce certain feelings or thoughts? Is there "happy" or "sad" music, "worshipful" or "mocking" music?

I would very much enjoy hearing some of us compare thoughts or feelings we have that we associate with certain music, or any speculation as to what music means.
"Oh, you wretched mortals--open your eyes--and ears!"

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:39 pm

Music is inherent in all cultures. However, no one could have anticipated that music would one day be created by demigods like Bach, Mozart, and Beethonven. So yes, it means something if you love art.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow posited a hierarchy of needs, which has always made sense to me where many psychology theories do not. Aesthetic needs are at the top and are only a matter of concern when the more basic needs are met.

Allow me a personal moment. I am, surprise, surprise, an aesthetically lazy person. In spite of my background and training, I could get along without serious music very well. What keeps me going at all is a carrot and a stick. The stick is having to watch tv series like "Matlock" with my mother back in the States. The carrot is the fact that I do in fact listen to the stuff at least once in a while and am reminded that we are drawn to a heaven beyond the normal contemplation of mortals

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Ralph
Dittersdorf Specialist & CMG NY Host
Posts: 20996
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 6:54 am
Location: Paradise on Earth, New York, NY

Post by Ralph » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:41 pm

Very rarely does music move me to tears - people and their stupidity does.

I experience different emotions from different works. For example both Tschaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Mahler's First Symphony invariably leave me elated. Mahler's Ninth Symphony breeds an introspective calm. Respighi's "The Birds" always makes me smile broadly. And anything by Dittersdorf reaffirms my belief in the power of compositional greatness. :)
Image

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:44 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Music is inherent in all cultures.
Yet, that does not mean that all musical elements and all their applications mean the same thing to all cultures.
However, no one could have anticipated that music would one day be created by demigods like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.
No comment.
So yes, it means something if you love art.
Oh, that way lies "In my love for the art, does its meaning consist."
The psychologist Abraham Maslow posited a hierarchy of needs, which has always made sense to me where many psychology theories do not. Aesthetic needs are at the top and are only a matter of concern when the more basic needs are met, but they are a matter of concern.
All right.
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:45 pm

Ralph wrote:And anything by Dittersdorf reaffirms my belief in the power of compositional greatness. :)
I think that moves quite a few of us to tears, Ralph :-)
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Does Music Mean Anything?

Post by karlhenning » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:49 pm

John Haueisen wrote:. . . I can remark that that certain music elicits a response based on words or ideas associated with the melody. For example, in Die Walkure, I sense the musical feeling of redemption . . . .
You're starting to get out of your text here, John; or rather, this is getting confused because you're trying to have it both ways.

For I want to ask, "And how does music 'express' redemption?" — only you've already disclaimed it with 'music elicits a response based on words or ideas associated with the melody.'

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:12 pm

karlhenning wrote: All right.
I am thrilled, Karl. :roll:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

MaestroDJS
Posts: 1713
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 1:15 pm
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe

Post by MaestroDJS » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:16 pm

Let's see what some noted musicians and writers have said on this subject. Here are ten notable quotables.

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable."
-- Leonard Bernstein

"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife."
-- Kahlil Gibran

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossile to be silent."
-- Victor Hugo

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
-- Aldous Huxley

"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything."
-- Gustav Mahler

"Music is life, and, like it, inextinguishable."
-- Carl Nielsen

"Music is essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature ... Expression has never been an inherent property of music."
-- Igor Stravinsky

"In music one must think with the heart and feel with the brain."
--George Szell

"Music is the shorthand of emotion."
-- Leo Tolstoy

Oops, my quotometer goes all the way up to eleven. :D

Dave

David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3
http://members.SibeliusMusic.com/Stybr
Andante Cantabile for String Orchestra (5:00)
http://www.SibeliusMusic.com/cgi-bin/sh ... reid=83856

Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to author Denise Swanson
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
Murder of a Real Bad Boy
Penguin Putnam ~ Signet, New York, NY

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:20 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
karlhenning wrote: All right.
I am thrilled, Karl.
It's just that I thought the OP was after the question of how music can mean something, and you've gone all "what's it all about, Alfie?" on the matter, John :-)
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:23 pm

Great assortment of quotes, Dave!
Leonard Bernstein wrote:Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.
So, what's the name? And how do you know when the unknowable has been communicated to you? :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:27 pm

karlhenning wrote:Great assortment of quotes, Dave!
Leonard Bernstein wrote:Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.
So, what's the name? And how do you know when the unknowable has been communicated to you? :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
With practice and experience. Meditation and music are inseparable to some, and the unio mystica the desired response to music for most cultures throughout history, including Bach and Bruckner.

This paradoxical “knowledge” without knowing is from one point of view very deficient: it lacks clarity and intellectual precision. It is almost impossible to reduce to logical formulation. But it is essentially beyond concepts and beyond logic. The simple conversational way of conveying this paradox is to say that without having any way of knowing how you know, you just know.

Does this knowledge admit of any doubt? Yes and no. On the conceptual level, where logic and rationality are in command, it may admit of doubt. In fact, it may perhaps admit of nothing else but doubt. It is so unrelated to reason as to seem perhaps irrational. But on another level it admits of no doubt. What is this other level? It is a level of immediate intuition in which an experience impresses itself upon us directly without ambiguity—a level on which we “experience” reality as we experience our own being. One does not have to prove that he exists: he knows it. He may doubt his ability to convince another of the fact. But one does not trouble to prove the obvious. Contemplative experience has about it an obviousness that is not arrived at through any step-by-step process. It is something you either “see” or don’t see. It just bursts upon you, and is there.
Merton, Thomas The Inner Experience – Notes on Contemplation [Harper SanFrancisco 2003 William Shannon Ed. p 80-81]

Joe Barron
Posts: 140
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:26 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Post by Joe Barron » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:34 pm

karlhenning wrote:Great assortment of quotes, Dave!
Leonard Bernstein wrote:Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.
So, what's the name? And how do you know when the unknowable has been communicated to you? :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Music can also digest the indigestible and reverse the irreversible.

Thanks, Karl, that struck me as kind of a silly thing to say, too. If something is unnamable, then it cannot be named and nothing can name it. I think what Bernstein is saying is that the experience of music is like nothing else, but that doesn't necessarily mean it names or communicates anything. I've always been agnostic on "meaning" in music, and I think often the term becomes too slippery to talk about, uh, meaningfully. Meaning can mean the communication of an idea, which I don't think music does without the help of language, such as a program, an expressive title, or exegesis, or it can mean an inherent, recognizable coherence. Most of us say music has meaning if it meets this criterion. Conversely, we call music we don't like meaningless sounds and we don't regard it as "real" music.

Another, but separate question is whether music conveys emotion. We speak of music being happy or sad, or making us happy or sad, but that is different from meaning. Looked at in another way: The statement "I am happy" has meaning, but my own feeling of happiness itself does not.

I hope this is clear to everyone, because I don't think I could ever repeat it.

John Haueisen
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:57 pm
Location: Worthington, Ohio

Does Music Mean Anything?

Post by John Haueisen » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:39 pm

When referring to Die Walkure, perhaps the word "redemption" relied too much on the text. Yet, I think that even without any awareness of the text, one hearing the melody accompanying that portion of the libretto, would have to notice that the music was expressing some sort of heavenly embrace or reconciliation.

Perhaps we need Maslov to set up a control group test of individuals' reactions to music they have never heard. Even a multiple choice such as,

"Did the music you have just heard, sound to you:
a) happy
b) sad
c) meditative
d) angry
e) excited
f) _____________?

Has anyone ever attempted such a test? Seems it might give us some hints about the impact of music, at least within our culture.
"Oh, you wretched mortals--open your eyes--and ears!"

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:56 pm

Words are not the only things that convey meaning, but today we seem to think that unless we have a precise definition, formula or expression for something it has no meaning. Indeed, words themselves are not things but symbols of things. The word "tiger" can't claw or roar.

What is the "meaning" of a mountain? Should we not appreciate it for what it is, not some distortion of ours by trying to apply the wrong concepts uneccessarily? If one has never been moved by the sight of a mountain, in sunshine and in storms, there is no point talking about it.

How much more so for art, particularly that which seeks to express or unite us with sacred mystery.

John Haueisen
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:57 pm
Location: Worthington, Ohio

meaning of music

Post by John Haueisen » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:05 pm

[quote="Brendan"]Words are not the only things that convey meaning,

Well said, Brendan. We probably should not worry too much about categorizing one art form with the descriptives used by another.

Yet there is a natural curiosity to ask our neighbors, "Did you hear that?" It's part of wanting to better understand our surroundings.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
"Oh, you wretched mortals--open your eyes--and ears!"

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:13 pm

MaestroDJS wrote:Let's see what some noted musicians and writers have said on this subject. Here are ten notable quotables.

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable."
-- Leonard Bernstein

"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife."
-- Kahlil Gibran

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossile to be silent."
-- Victor Hugo

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
-- Aldous Huxley

"A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything."
-- Gustav Mahler

"Music is life, and, like it, inextinguishable."
-- Carl Nielsen

"Music is essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature ... Expression has never been an inherent property of music."
-- Igor Stravinsky

"In music one must think with the heart and feel with the brain."
--George Szell

"Music is the shorthand of emotion."
-- Leo Tolstoy

Oops, my quotometer goes all the way up to eleven. :D

Dave

David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3
http://members.SibeliusMusic.com/Stybr
Andante Cantabile for String Orchestra (5:00)
http://www.SibeliusMusic.com/cgi-bin/sh ... reid=83856

Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to author Denise Swanson
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
Murder of a Real Bad Boy
Penguin Putnam ~ Signet, New York, NY
Bach: excellent
Beethoven: lets hope so, especially in reference to modern philosophy, but sure beats Aristotle. I prefer reading Plato than listening to Beethoven
Bernstein: Yes the mystical aspect to classical
Gibran: Good, certain composers music has the power to change the world, if given the chance. ie the mystical
Hugo: I think of Pettersson here, also Schnittke
Huxley: A repeat of Hugo
Mahler: Interesting, but Mahler's world takes too long to unfold, even dull at times. I want a bold new world where no man has gone before kind of sym.. I think of Pettersson here, "worlds within worlds"
Nielsen: Excellent, I also believe we will carry our beloved muisc with us into the next world. Thing is I'm not taking any Nielsen with me.
Stravinsky: Super duper excellent. "PSYCHOLOGICAL MOOD" "A phenomenon of nature" I believe Stravinsky here is using these terms 'phenomenon" and "nature' as in Jung's sense, the collective unconscious. That is the artist is in touch with the 'ground of our being". Of course some compoers offer deeper expressions of this phenomenon.
Pettersson comes to mind here.
Szell: Interesting.
Tolstoy: Interesting. But what a book some music can speak. Volumes of emotions. I think of Schnittke and Pettersson here. But also Webern , Berg, Carter, for their ability to speak wonders with the tiniest of notes, flirting in and out of the main fabric. Schonberg as well has profound micro-polophonics going on.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:23 pm

Joe Barron wrote:


Thanks, Karl, that struck me as kind of a silly thing to say, too. If something is unnamable, then it cannot be named and nothing can name it. I think what Bernstein is saying is that the experience of music is like nothing else, but that doesn't necessarily mean it names or communicates anything. I've always been agnostic on "meaning" in music, and I think often the term becomes too slippery to talk about, uh, meaningfully. Meaning can mean the communication of an idea, which I don't think music does without the help of language, such as a program, an expressive title, or exegesis, or it can mean an inherent, recognizable coherence. Most of us say music has meaning if it meets this criterion. Conversely, we call music we don't like meaningless sounds and we don't regard it as "real" music.

Another, but separate question is whether music conveys emotion. We speak of music being happy or sad, or making us happy or sad, but that is different from meaning. Looked at in another way: The statement "I am happy" has meaning, but my own feeling of happiness itself does not.

I hope this is clear to everyone, because I don't think I could ever repeat it.
Hi Joe, Been reading your posts over at GMG on Elliot Carter. I just received 4 or 5 more Carter cds this wekk, thought I had him complete, but now I do. Have almost everything he wrote, say 98%. Love everyone of his works.

Very good post.
Yes emotions not in reference to light souled emotions, though that can enter into our listening experience as well. But I realize you are refering to the depths, the heart of the man, a place where emotions are born from.
this is where our muisc can affect us, in our unknown depths.
Our most beloved composers are those that affect us in our depths. But of course not all composers affect us this way, yet we still listen to it.

btw there is alos compoers who we feel speak AGAINST us. IOW they are contrary to our spirit. These we should avoid.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:54 pm

Take Korsakov's Scheherazade (man thats a tough word to spell, correct). Its a WEEEEEEEEEE YIPEEE experience :roll:
Aaron Copland, nice music, but nothing I'd say 'affects/moves/inspires/grabs" me, IOW nothing that WOW's me.
Plenty of "nice music' out there.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

lmpower
Posts: 877
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 2:18 pm
Location: Twentynine Palms, California

Post by lmpower » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:48 pm

Music not only means something, but it can express the meaning of life better than words.

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:58 pm

lmpower wrote:Music not only means something, but it can express the meaning of life better than words.
Well impower now you've taken this topic to a whole nother level.
So which composers do you feel speak the meaning of life as you know it, this time in your walk on this earth. Everyone I believe should give their age when they name the composer/'s that best speaks the meaning of life for them.
No need to name my 2 composers, as you already know. I'm 50.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

val
Posts: 1039
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 5:46 am
Location: Lisbon

Post by val » Thu Oct 19, 2006 2:32 am

I believe that all music has a "meaning", but that meaning is in the music itself. When we try to express it in another language, like words, we are only making association of ideas. When I say that the slow movement of Beethoven Quartet opus 132 gives me a sense of transcendence, I know I am not expressing the feelings I have when I listen to it. I am just trying to find in the world of the concept some pattern that can be understood by someone else: but the point is that I suspect that my original feeling cannot be revealed to someone else.
If our musical feelings could be expressed with words, than music would not be necessary.

Of course, the case is different when music is from the beginning associated with words, like in the opera, the Lied or a Cantata. But even in those situations I think that the meaning of the music has not a level of identity with the words. I would except the situations where the poem itself countains already some sort of musical pattern, like rhythm (the case of Goethe's "Gretchen am Spinnrade").

Jack Kelso
Posts: 3004
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 11:52 pm
Location: Mannheim, Germany

Post by Jack Kelso » Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:25 am

paulb wrote:btw there is alos compoers who we feel speak AGAINST us. IOW they are contrary to our spirit. These we should avoid.
No, Paul---I don't subscribe to that. When I was 20, there were composers who "didn't agree with my tastes"----but definitely do now. This isn't like eating potato salad because cole slaw upsets the stomach; the spirit grows with each new listening experience.

The first joy of music is in the discovery of it, then it evolves into a new intimacy with the learning of it.

Some composers undeniably speak more directly to some of us than to others, but that doesn't mean because--let's say, John loves J.S. Bach that he can't (with a certain effort) win appreciation and soulful feelings from music of Elgar or Pfitzner....

Avoiding composers because we believe they "speak AGAINST us..." or are "contracy to our spirit" negates the joy of discovery of the new, which is necessary to expand our spiritual horizons.

Ironically, it's your "avoidance" theory that works against the spirit.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:04 am

Jack don't give your advice to Maurice Ravel. At least not over a good parisian lunch. you may end up paying the bill.
Or are you not aware of his wish to avoid, in all manners, a certain early romantic? Initials LvB
Last edited by paulb on Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

MaestroDJS
Posts: 1713
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 1:15 pm
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe

Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:10 am

lmpower wrote:Music not only means something, but it can express the meaning of life better than words.
paulb wrote:So which composers do you feel speak the meaning of life as you know it, this time in your walk on this earth. Everyone I believe should give their age when they name the composer/'s that best speaks the meaning of life for them.
No need to name my 2 composers, as you already know. I'm 50.
Well, I'm a mere youth of 49 who learned long ago that life has no meaning: it's merely a consequence of complex carbon chemistry. That realization lifted a tremendous burden off my shoulders. In turn, that let me step back from the general hurley-burley of the rat race, relax, and simply try to be the best person I could possibly be. That also let me get on with the real business of life, which is to appreciation the infinite varieties of creations in this grand and glorious Universe of ours.

Which composers best speak the meaning of life for me? Choose only 2 or 3 favorite composers, and one has only an extremely narrow field of view, because no single composer can possibly know or teach everything. Certainly some composers speak to me more than others, but I can't think of many to specifically avoid. Today I happen to be on a big bad bouncing Bachianas Brasileiras bender, courtesy of Heitor Villa-Lôbos. Like the Amazon jungle of his native Brazil, the exuberance and profusion of his music suggests a force of nature that defies control. That might be life at its fullest. From there it is only one small step and simultaneously one giant leap to the incomparable precision, majesty and metaphysical beauty of Johann Sebastian Bach. Consider biologist Lewis Thomas’s opinion about the contents of the disc that was to be placed on the 1977 Voyager spacecraft before launching it on its long journey into the cosmos. Carl Sagan had asked Thomas for his suggestions about works which would represent the human race at its very finest. Thomas replied: "I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach." Then he paused and added: "But that would be boasting."

Anyway, I could go on and on about my favorite composers, because there are hundreds, if not thousands. Recently I rediscovered Gioacchino Rossini, almost literally. For example, after knowing and loving his William Tell Overture for almost my entire life, last month I finally heard the complete 4-act 4-hour opera. Mighty good stuff there. September was also a terrific month to discover and rediscover Dmitri Shostakovich during his centennial commemorations. Robert Schumann speaks to me on many different levels, both musically and literally. Camille Saint-Saëns, Hector Berlioz, Max Bruch, Ludwig van Beethoven, Roy Harris, Johann Pachelbel, Percy Grainger, Carl Nielsen, Joseph Haydn, Gustav Mahler, Wolfgang Mozart, P.D.Q. Bach, Spike Jones, bring 'em on! If I listen to music, glorious music, from a myriad of perspectives, and try to minimize some of my prejudices, I might finally figure out what the heck life is all about. More please. :)

Or ... maybe I should take Charles Ives' advice and simply "walk up the mountain side to view the firmament!" Well, I can do better than that. For real awe-inspiring beauty, it's hard to beat a total solar eclipse viewed from orbit around Saturn! Maybe this is the true meaning of life: simply to open our eyes and ears to the beauty all around us. There are plenty of problems in our world, but so much more beauty and wonders to explore. When used wisely, life can be a truly magnificent experience.
Image
MaestroDJS wrote:Well, I'm a mere youth of 49
Good thing longevity seems to run in my family. My grandfather lived to age 95, and provided I'm not run over by a bus, I'd need at least a century to absorb and process only a fraction of this grand and glorious universe of ours. Near the end of his long life of 88 years, Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau was asked what he wanted most. He replied, "Another hundred years, simply to read."

Dave

David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3
http://members.SibeliusMusic.com/Stybr
Andante Cantabile for String Orchestra (5:00)
http://www.SibeliusMusic.com/cgi-bin/sh ... reid=83856

Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to author Denise Swanson
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
Murder of a Real Bad Boy
Penguin Putnam ~ Signet, New York, NY


PS. Maybe this is the true meaning of life: If we enlarge part of that image of Saturn and look very closely between two of the faint rings, a tiny dim blue dot is visible in the vast interplanetary distance (see upper right). That tiny fragile insignificant dot, that miniscule oasis, spinning through the vastness of space is our home planet Earth. Magnified still further (see inset, with a faint suggestion of our Moon at upper left), as seen from the outer solar system through the Cassini spacecraft cameras, the entire expanse of direct human experience thus far is only a few pixels across. This view puts the entire meaning of our humble yet precious existence into an entirely new perspective.
Image

John Haueisen
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:57 pm
Location: Worthington, Ohio

music and meaning

Post by John Haueisen » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:17 am

[quote="val"]When I say that the slow movement of Beethoven Quartet opus 132 gives me a sense of transcendence, I know I am not expressing the feelings I have when I listen to it. I am just trying to find in the world of the concept some pattern that can be understood by someone else: but the point is that I suspect that my original feeling cannot be revealed to someone else.
If our musical feelings could be expressed with words, than music would not be necessary.

Thanks, Val, for stating that so very well. I guess this is what I was asking with this topic of the meaning of music:

Can words, inadequate as they are to describe music, at least offer us some pattern of comparison to allow us to communicate with others? Perhaps we each experience different original feelings, but there must be something that many of us can experience in common--something like Beethoven's "universal brotherhood" in Sym 9's "Ode to Joy."
"Oh, you wretched mortals--open your eyes--and ears!"

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Re: Does Music Mean Anything?

Post by karlhenning » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:51 am

John Haueisen wrote:Perhaps we need Maslov to set up a control group test of individuals' reactions to music they have never heard. Even a multiple choice such as,

"Did the music you have just heard, sound to you:
a) happy
b) sad
c) meditative
d) angry
e) excited
All of this "leads the witness."

The fact is, music broadly suggests/supports affects; but to demonstrate the impossibility of assigning a specific emotion* to specific musical gestures/artifacts, play the same five-minute passage of music to fifty people, and have each person generate an adjective to describe it.

We might (possibly) get fifty answers which all gravitate in about the same "emotional village"; but we'll never get fifty identical answers of (say) "longing for the unattainable."

It would be something like a wine-tasting, where we somehow expect fifty individuals to describe the same wine in exactly the same way.

Cheers,
~Karl

(*) Not that all emotions are specific, of course--which is part of the problem, too.
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:54 am

val wrote:I believe that all music has a "meaning", but that meaning is in the music itself. When we try to express it in another language, like words, we are only making association of ideas.
Excellent!

(The whole post is good, but this is the heartmeat core.)

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Post by DavidRoss » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:00 am

MaestroDJS wrote:Oops, my quotometer goes all the way up to eleven.
Please do your fans a favor, Dave, and stay off the drum kit. 8)

Sometime within the past year an article was posted here citing several well-known authorities' responses to a well known work--the slow movement of Mozart's 40th, IIRC. Their interpretations were all over the map, from somber to celebratory.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:04 am

Dave nice thoughts, lovely photos.
But for once let me say I am not in the least impressed with any space photos of "look at our earth, its that little speck of dust in the wide universe". Not impressed at all when compared to the "vast wide universe" and such nonsense....also not impressed with the color photos of showing earth from the moon shot, she is all dressed in shaeds of blue, whit cloud masses, green land masses.

Both these photos are presented as "little insignificant earth" "our beautiful planet of blue".
These ideas are for young children and old feeble minded women.
Lets face it, earth is a process of psychological realtionships. And what is going on here is like never before, great evil is about to swallow our planet, and this chewing process is really painful.

No I'm not impressed at all with photos.
its what is in the hearts and minds of humantity. And frankly its a frightening sight. Us humans can really be quite ugly, if not monsters.


Bach? Meaning? For who? Me? No way, its nice lovel music no doubt. but as for meaning? far from. My friend always loves to quote all these authors saying how Bach is the reoresentational face of God in muisc, etc etc. In a way I understand, but God is met in the individual soul, bach speaks to a few, many others not.

As I say there are 2 specific composers that reflect most who I am , and how i see our planet. . Further I feel they speak the world soul as best i know what condition she is in right now in this epoch.
Does music have meaning?
Some composers speak a tiny word, others an old dusty language, others with a sentimental voice, etc. Its limitless the meanings of all the different composers.
but to me the deepest and most profound message for this epoch, comes from Pettersson and Schnittke.
Shostakovich as well can be heard with this voice, but S and P carries this message much further.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

MaestroDJS
Posts: 1713
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 1:15 pm
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe

Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:16 am

Okay, Paul. Enjoy. :)

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:20 am

DavidRoss wrote:Sometime within the past year an article was posted here citing several well-known authorities' responses to a well known work--the slow movement of Mozart's 40th, IIRC. Their interpretations were all over the map, from somber to celebratory.
Yeah, and you'd have thought that with a long-established masterwork, after 218 years we'd have got our story straight :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

paulb
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 6:08 pm
Location: baton rouge

Post by paulb » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:27 am

karlhenning wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:Sometime within the past year an article was posted here citing several well-known authorities' responses to a well known work--the slow movement of Mozart's 40th, IIRC. Their interpretations were all over the map, from somber to celebratory.
Yeah, and you'd have thought that with a long-established masterwork, after 218 years we'd have got our story straight :-)

Cheers,
~Karl
Which is why i never mentioned Mozart as expressing meaning for me.
Mozart can mean anything and everything, like unto God himself. Mozart has no limitations. Things I've said before many times.

I'll go one further, Mzoart is universal. he speaks to the babe in the womb, the middle age, and the elderly. Even one further, universal as in the entire universe. Mozart is muisc that would be loved by other folks on other planets. We were blessed to have Mozart on outr planet. Of all the planets, Mozart came to us.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

karlhenning
Composer-in-Residence
Posts: 9816
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:12 am
Location: Boston, MA
Contact:

Post by karlhenning » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:33 am

paulb wrote:No need to name my 2 composers, as you already know.
Beethoven and Sibelius, right?
I'm 50.
Thank heaven not all of us are so sonically ossified at 50!

Cheers,
~Karl
Karl Henning, PhD
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston, Massachusetts
http://members.tripod.com/~Karl_P_Henning/
http://henningmusick.blogspot.com/
Published by Lux Nova Press
http://www.luxnova.com/

John Haueisen
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:57 pm
Location: Worthington, Ohio

Re: Does Music Mean Anything?

Post by John Haueisen » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:50 am

Karl wrote:
It would be something like a wine-tasting, where we somehow expect fifty individuals to describe the same wine in exactly the same way.[/quote]Cheers,
~Karl

Exceptionally apt analogy, Karl!
"Oh, you wretched mortals--open your eyes--and ears!"

Dalibor
Posts: 99
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 11:37 am

Post by Dalibor » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:19 pm

It's interesting to note how carefully you all avoided to mention that music can also convey atmospheres and sensations, or more precisely to evoke a world itself rather then our emotions or will inside that world. This is called impressionism, if I recall well?

I was always puzzeled as to why people from classical music always use only very general thermes to describe how music affects, such as a name of the feeling; say "dramatic", "sad", "contemplative" etc. When I listen to music I have far more precise and detailed impressions than this. A music can make me see the world as it was thousands of years ago, to feel the spirit and way of life of the time it was written, or to be in the middle of a fairy-tale - atmosphere-wise. Or it can mean nothing specific, like it is ussualy the case

But I noticed this strange obsession with connecting music and literature in classical cricles. Music is certainly more naturaly connected with visual arts actually

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 18549
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Post by Lance » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:13 pm

Holy Moly: This guy could be the MOZART or BACH of the 21st century. From whence does all this knowledge come?
Dalibor wrote:It's interesting to note how carefully you all avoided to mention that music can also convey atmospheres and sensations, or more precisely to evoke a world itself rather then our emotions or will inside that world. This is called impressionism, if I recall well? [Yes, I believe this to be correct.]

I was always puzzeled as to why people from classical music always use only very general thermes to describe how music affects, such as a name of the feeling; say "dramatic", "sad", "contemplative" etc. When I listen to music I have far more precise and detailed impressions than this. A music can make me see the world as it was thousands of years ago, [Do you have a crystal ball to observe thousands of years ago?] to feel the spirit and way of life of the time it was written [Incredible! Please convey more of this as you see it.] , or to be in the middle of a fairy-tale - atmosphere-wise. Or it can mean nothing specific, like it is ussualy the case

But I noticed this strange obsession with connecting music and literature in classical cricles. Music is certainly more naturaly connected with visual arts actually
[Liszt, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Mussorgsky ... the list goes on and on ... were inspired to write music based on either literature AND/OR poetry. Today's composers are still inspired by one or the other or both. Think Hartmann, Eichendorf, Heine, Caspar David Friedrich ... again, the list goes on and on.]
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:41 am

Dalibor wrote: Music is certainly more naturaly connected with visual arts actually
Yes, of course. That's why we have so many classical music works inspired by Michaelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Da Vinci, El Greco, Picasso, Renoir, Rembrant, Vermeer, Turner, etc., and so few inspired by Goethe, Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, the Bible, Ovid, Heine, Vergil, Ariosto, Boiardo, Tasso, Eichendorf, Moirke, Ruckert, Anon, etc.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Dalibor
Posts: 99
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 11:37 am

Post by Dalibor » Sat Nov 04, 2006 9:11 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Dalibor wrote: Music is certainly more naturaly connected with visual arts actually
Yes, of course. That's why we have so many classical music works inspired by Michaelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Da Vinci, El Greco, Picasso, Renoir, Rembrant, Vermeer, Turner, etc., and so few inspired by Goethe, Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, the Bible, Ovid, Heine, Vergil, Ariosto, Boiardo, Tasso, Eichendorf, Moirke, Ruckert, Anon, etc.
That is of no importance at all. Music is unable to tell anything like a story, but it is able to create something like an impression of a picture. It is just that classical music is obssesed with literature trying to be more concious, more "serious" art. It's all just pretense

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests