Edited by Jeanette Bicknell and John Andrew Fisher
From the introduction:
The topic of song, songs, and singing extends across a vast number of art forms and genres back into prehistory. It stands astride the high-low art continuum, ranging from classical music to popular and folk music. Unlike other art forms that include both high and low genres (such as movies and novels), song and songs have always had multiple functions other than being objects of aesthetic appreciation. The uses of vocal music range from the sacred (sung as hymns as well as heard as masses, anthems, and so on), to communal (campfire songs and soccer fans’ chants), to ceremonial (Jerusalem sung at public events, Barber’s Agnus Dei performed at memorials), to music for entertainment and for dancing; unlike other art forms, songs and singing play a role in everyday life.
From the point of view of philosophy of music, instrumental and vocal music have performed an intricate pas de deux over the last three centuries. In the eighteenth century, purely instrumental musical works began to interest music theoreticians. By the nineteenth century, such works by the great composers largely supplanted vocal music as higher art in the minds of philosophically inclined thinkers. Undoubtedly, understanding the nature and metaphysics of autonomous instrumental musical works involves challenging philosophical issues. Yet it would be a mistake to regard this historical progression as charting a journey from attention to something that is not art (songs) toward something that is (sonatas). In reality, these are two broad types of music, each calling for philosophical attention.
Philosopher and historian of science, Dr. Jay Kennedy – currently a visiting academic in Manchester – has recently put forward the provocative thesis that Plato’s texts are based around a secret cipher; a kind of Platonic Bible Code. Each book of Plato’s major texts, he contends, is structured in such a way as to represent relative musical harmonies according to the ancient Greek scales.
The twelve note musical scale is the foundation of Western music, and is rooted in the mathematical relationships between different soundwave frequencies, their inter-relation, and the effect they have upon the listener. Music theory is based upon the observation that Continue reading “Decoding Plato”
An excellent, detailed introduction to the application of the term “hauntology” to music is at Rouge’s Foam here. The term was coined by Jacques Derrida in Spectres of Marx. It plays on “ontology”; the two terms sounds almost identical in French. He asserts that the spectre of Marx’s ideas will continue to haunt Western consciousness in the same way that the spectre of communism was haunting Western Europe when Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto.
In music it has come to be associated with artists such as Burial, Boards of Canada and the Ghost Box label (see the Rouge’s Foam post for listening). However, its application is much broader than music. Here it is discussed in relation to visual art. As theorist Mark Fisher notes here, hauntology can be seen as a paradigm for the malaise of postmodernism, a static world haunted by the ghosts of the past after Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History. Continue reading “Hauntology”