Music and the Mind

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Pattern-chaser »

JackDaydream wrote: December 2nd, 2021, 3:54 pm @Thomyum2
I missed out the 2, so please hope that you see the post above...
The use the quote (") button? That's what it's for, I think. And, more to the point, if your 'mention' works, then anyone trying to reply will be plagued by the forum 'dalek' wanting to insert the name of the mentioned poster. It's infuriating when it over-writes the text you just typed, as it just did! 🤬

FYI, I don't see in my notifications that you have replied to a note I posted, I just see that you have made a contribution to a particular topic.
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JackDaydream
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by JackDaydream »

@Pattern-chaser

I am sorry that I don't use the box and quote way of replying but it doesn't seem to work on my phone and just comes up with a strange row of numbers that symbols. It sometimes seems that we live in an age where everything is meant to be possible on devices. In particular, the use of devices has meant that people are mainly streaming music. Most music shops have closed, although I travel to go to them. That is because music shops are a culture in themselves, or subculture. I remember as a teenager that music shops were the place to hang out...
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JackDaydream
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by JackDaydream »

@Pattern-chaser
On the subject of your idea that there 'is no such thing as bad music, or good music. There is only music that you like, and music that you don't', I think that it is a grey area. Definitely, a lot comes down to personal aesthetics and tastes, but, on the other hand, even with particular artists it may that some of their work may be considered as their best and demonstrate a peak in creativity. For example, certain albums by Bob Dylan are ranked by many people as his best, like 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Blonde on Blonde' as opposed to, say, 'Planet Waves' or 'Knocked Out Loaded'. I read that he regards, 'Shot of Love' as his best and I think that I agree with him.

However, part of the problem may be about popularity and opinions of reviewers. I read music magazines, like 'Uncut' and 'Mojo' and the albums which get the best reviews or are listed as the best of the year are not necessarily my favourite ones. I like a lot of lesser known bands, including The Alarm and The The, who have been going for many years and a lot of people may never have heard of them. But there may be a difference between recognizing a piece of music as being 'quality' but still not finding a personal resonance with it. I know people who have said this about albums by REM and Radiohead. Also, I know some people who are able to say what their favourite albums of all time are and I would probably find it hard to get it down to less than about 50, but I know that several by U2 would be in there and, most definitely 'Mirror Moves' by The Psychedelic Furs, but I realise that is my taste. I also remember a phase in which I was listening to The Orb and The Ozric Tentacles, which is sort of ambient psychedelia and my father seemed worried that I had 'lost my mind' because he just thought that it was so weird.
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Consul
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Consul »

QUOTE>
"…we find that one fine art still remained, and must remain excluded from our consideration since there was absolutely no suitable place for it in the systematic context of our presentation: and this is music. It stands completely apart from all the others. What we recognize in it is not an imitation or repetition of some idea of the essence of the world: nonetheless, it is such a great and magisterial art, it exercises so powerful an effect within us, is understood so deeply and entirely by us as a wholly universal language whose clarity exceeds even that of the intuitive world itself; – that we can certainly look to it for more than an ‘unconscious exercise in arithmetic in which the mind does not know that it is counting’, which is what Leibniz took it to be, although he was entirely correct to the extent that he considered only its immediate and external significance, its outer shell. But if it were nothing more, then the satisfaction that it affords would be similar to the feeling we have when some mathematical problem comes out right, and would not be that heartfelt joy with which we see the deepest recesses of our being given voice. Thus, from our perspective, focusing on the aesthetic effect, we must grant it a much more serious and profound significance, one that refers to the innermost essence of the world and our self, and in this respect the numerical relations into which it can be resolved are not the signified but, even in the first instance, the sign. By analogy with the rest of the arts, we can conclude that music must in some sense relate to the world as presentation to presented, as copy to original, since all of the other arts share this distinctive feature, and music has an effect on us that is, on the whole, similar to theirs, but stronger, quicker, more necessary and more unerring. Its imitative relation to the world must also be very intimate, infinitely true and strikingly apt, because it is instantaneously comprehensible to everyone and has a certain infallibility recognizable from the fact that its form can be reduced to completely determinate rules that can be expressed numerically, and from which it cannot deviate in the least without entirely ceasing to be music. – Nonetheless the point of comparison between music and the world, the respect in which the former acts as an imitation or repetition of the latter, is very deeply hidden. In every age, people have played music without being able to give an account of it: content with an immediate understanding of music, people did without an abstract conceptualization of this immediate understanding."

(Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. pp. 283-4)
<QUOTE
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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Consul
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Consul »

JackDaydream wrote: December 2nd, 2021, 6:25 pmGeorge Michael may be right to say that we should listen without prejudice and, who knows, I may end up listening to Beerhoven oneday…
I was 17 when I first heard this piece of music by Beethoven (Symphony No. 7, Op. 92: II. Allegretto), and it was an elevating experience:

"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars
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Thomyum2
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Thomyum2 »

JackDaydream wrote: December 2nd, 2021, 3:26 pm @Thomyum
Thank you for your reply and I don't believe that I have ever interacted before on the forum. I am sure that you come from such a different background to me and I am not even a musician. However, music plays such a central part in my life, which is why I have begun a thread on it. I find that music is bound up with the search for meaning, like reading philosophy. I can remember even going to shops and exchanging CDs for different ones a a teenager because I didn't agree with the lyrics. It may have bordered a bit onto the 'neurotic' and I don't analyse lyrics in that way any longer. However, I see music as being so interconnected with inspiration states of consciousness and peak experiences and inspiration. Ideally, I would like this thread to open up discussion with people with various music tastes, including those with classical tastes and, even musicians on the site, because I think that music and consciousness may be worthy of philosophy discussion. Music is a language which may communicate what cannot be expressed in words.
Hi JackDaydream, yes, I think we've haven't interacted before. I have not posted much on the forum over the past six months as I've had some things going on that have limited my free time. And as you maybe see here, I'm often not quick to respond anyway as it takes me time to compose my thoughts and put together a post, and the threads tend to move on to other things before I can get in an answer! But I'm hoping to start becoming more active again.

There's a phrase that's heard often in music circles which is relevant to this discussion: "De gustibus non est disputandum" - there a Wikipedia article on this that summarizes it well so I won't attempt a translation here. I bring it up here as I think it's important to avoid letting a philosophical discussion devolve into a discussion about tastes - in my experience that usually won't yield many insights. Knowing what a particular person likes or dislikes might be of use to me as it may help establish a connection of a common interest, or if I know that a person and I have similar tastes they may be more likely to give me recommendations for things I'm likely to enjoy - but it doesn't offer me much beyond that.

Although I do also play and listen to music for enjoyment and don't want to discount the importance of that, I know that it's possible to go beyond this and to experience music at a more conscious level where can listen not just for enjoyment but also for understanding - in other words, to not just consider how the music makes us feel, but to understand what the composer or musician is saying - why did they make the choices they made, what musical tradition are they writing from and how are they responding to it and why do others who hear it respond the way they do. To be able to do this requires an investment of time and effort to not just listen, but also study and understand the traditions and conventions involved a particular music or type of music, and this brings a whole new level of appreciation, in my experience. I think when it's we bring the conscious faculties of our mind to the listening experience that we begin to understand what is meant by the aesthetic of the music. And this is really true for all of the arts, not just music.

I'll keep my response short for now, but will wrap up here with a quote from the Wikipedia article on Kant that I think is insightful and very thought-provoking:
In the chapter "Analytic of the Beautiful" in the Critique of Judgment, Kant states that beauty is not a property of an artwork or natural phenomenon, but is instead consciousness of the pleasure that attends the 'free play' of the imagination and the understanding. Even though it appears that we are using reason to decide what is beautiful, the judgment is not a cognitive judgment, "and is consequently not logical, but aesthetical". A pure judgement of taste is subjective since it refers to the emotional response of the subject and is based upon nothing but esteem for an object itself: it is a disinterested pleasure, and we feel that pure judgements of taste (i.e. judgements of beauty), lay claim to universal validity. It is important to note that this universal validity is not derived from a determinate concept of beauty but from common sense.
I think it's related to this 'common sense' of beauty that music is a language and form of communication. Just as a language works for communication when there is a shared understanding of the meanings of the words, music successfully communicates beauty when there is a shared understanding of the meanings of the underlying sounds, whether that understanding be conscious or subconscious.
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Re: Music and the Mind

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@Thomyum2
Thanks for your reply and I am sure that music brings forth such diversity in musical aesthetics. It is such an interesting area of exploration, such as the way in which both words and music evoke such meanings for people. It is such an important area of the nature of meaning and I hope that it has some importance in philosophy. Aesthetics is such a complex area and the interplay of the subjective and objective may be so important and it could be asked whose opinions count ultimately and, in human experience of the aesthetics and emotional aesthetics?
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Thomyum2
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Thomyum2 »

JackDaydream wrote: December 4th, 2021, 3:03 pm Thomyum2
Thanks for your reply and I am sure that music brings forth such diversity in musical aesthetics. It is such an interesting area of exploration, such as the way in which both words and music evoke such meanings for people. It is such an important area of the nature of meaning and I hope that it has some importance in philosophy. Aesthetics is such a complex area and the interplay of the subjective and objective may be so important and it could be asked whose opinions count ultimately and, in human experience of the aesthetics and emotional aesthetics?
Whose opinions count? All of them count!

There's a quote I like - it's been attributed to a number of different people so I don't know where it originated: "If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary." Isn't that the purpose of communication - that we be able to share information, opinions, ideas, etc. with someone who needs them, or receive them from someone who has them? If we all had everything we need and want, there would never be any need to communicate at all.

That sort of ties back to what I said earlier about music being in a tension between the expected and the unexpected. If there was one absolutely beautiful piece of music, we wouldn't need to create music, we could just listen to that piece all the time. But that's obviously not the case - I'm sure most people would tell you they get bored and eventually lose interest in a piece they heard too many times and there's no longer any novelty left in it. There is no beauty in something dead and stale. The beauty doesn't come from the work itself, it comes in the way that piece interacts with our expectations - that 'free play' of the imagination and understanding that Kant is talking about. In that sense, music and the arts are like living things. I think this is why the Greeks associated them with the 'muses' - living goddesses who embodied the life within each of the art forms.
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JackDaydream
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by JackDaydream »

@Pattern-chaser
I love the Doors and discovered them a long time after you, but they are a major point in my exploration of philosophy and states of mind, ranging from the philosophy of Nietzsche to that of Aldous Huxley, especially captured in the song title, ' Break on Through to the Other Side.' It raises so many experiential and philosophy questions.
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JackDaydream
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Re: Music and the Mind

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@Thomyum2
The question of whose opinions count is interesting, but let's hope that it is not just the majority. Of course, elite majorities can be problematic too, and let's hope that within 'culture' certain ideas and values may prevail even if there may be diversity and dialogue about aesthetics.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Pattern-chaser »

JackDaydream wrote: December 3rd, 2021, 1:02 pm @Pattern-chaser
On the subject of your idea that there 'is no such thing as bad music, or good music. There is only music that you like, and music that you don't', I think that it is a grey area. Definitely, a lot comes down to personal aesthetics and tastes, but, on the other hand, even with particular artists it may that some of their work may be considered as their best and demonstrate a peak in creativity. For example, certain albums by Bob Dylan are ranked by many people as his best, like 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Blonde on Blonde' as opposed to, say, 'Planet Waves' or 'Knocked Out Loaded'. I read that he regards, 'Shot of Love' as his best and I think that I agree with him.

However, part of the problem may be about popularity and opinions of reviewers. I read music magazines, like 'Uncut' and 'Mojo' and the albums which get the best reviews or are listed as the best of the year are not necessarily my favourite ones. I like a lot of lesser known bands, including The Alarm and The The, who have been going for many years and a lot of people may never have heard of them. But there may be a difference between recognizing a piece of music as being 'quality' but still not finding a personal resonance with it. I know people who have said this about albums by REM and Radiohead. Also, I know some people who are able to say what their favourite albums of all time are and I would probably find it hard to get it down to less than about 50, but I know that several by U2 would be in there and, most definitely 'Mirror Moves' by The Psychedelic Furs, but I realise that is my taste. I also remember a phase in which I was listening to The Orb and The Ozric Tentacles, which is sort of ambient psychedelia and my father seemed worried that I had 'lost my mind' because he just thought that it was so weird.
You say that my take on music appreciation is "a grey area", but then everything else that you say seems to be entirely in sync with my belief, that "there is no such thing as bad music, or good music. There is only music that you like, and music that you don't." 😉🙂
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JackDaydream
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Re: Music and the Mind

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@Pattern-chaser

I suppose that I agree that there is no absolute standard of 'good music', because it comes down to aesthetic taste. However, it may be that there is still some kind of nature of quality in terms of specific guidelines or standards.

In particular, one aspect of this may be that I have heard many people say that one of the reasons why a lot of current music does not sound so good is because it is made on digital devices as opposed to in recording studios. This may be one facet of this, but the whole nature of personal taste probably has issues of aesthetic subjectivity as well as being about specific standards. For example, you may like folk music and within that genre there is the area of comparisons made in connection with established classical artists. It can end up creating hierarchies, but of course, these are challenged in the ongoing development of styles. For example, Americana and a lot of nu folk are recognized and appreciated by many.
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by A Poster He or I »

I felt compelled to post my thoughts here after reading how Thomyum2 actually tries to figure out what music "is trying to say." For several years I participated in an online music forum and was ridiculed several times for being the only participant willing to state that I THINK about the music I'm listening to (besides the subjective enjoyment of the music's "feeling.").

It should not be too surprising that I do this mostly with Classical music (my favorite genre) and also with Progressive Rock. Why did the composer pick that next note? What is he trying to say with a C-sharp note there instead of the B-flat that I subjectively anticipated?

This thinking about music drove me many years ago to become a composer and producer of my own music via computer MIDI technology. Even though I have no music education and play no instrument, MIDI lets me "program" music into existence, letting me "objectify" the subjective experience of music I feel within me.
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Re: Music and the Mind

Post by Rhys Griffin »

My mind went quickly to Oliver Sacks and his book Musicophilia. As a neurologist he observes that music activates or engages more areas of the brain than just language. I get that. I have been a devotee of many styles of music over the years, from southern rock to Russian liturgical to Monteverdi to Modern Jazz Quartet to Patsy Cline. On and on. Everything except opera. To me music is one of the essential functions, appetites and pleasures of the human mind. Music has the potential to integrate us mentally, emotionally, relationally and more. Since most forms of music are presented with rhythm it seems that rhythm is inherent in our being, whether we speak of the heartbeat or temporal flow. The old notion of the Music of the Spheres to me was a projection of the inner realities of music onto the cosmos, saying more about the human than the heavenly.
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