Saturday, March 25, 2023

the blessedness at the heart of things


In a different mode, or another plane of being, music is the equivalent of some of man’s most significant and most inexpressible experiences. By mysterious analogy it evokes in the mind of the listener, sometimes the phantom of these experiences, sometimes even the experiences themselves in their full force of life — it is a question of intensity; the phantom is dim, the reality, near and burning. Music may call up either; it is chance or providence which decides. The intermittences of the heart are subject to no known law. 
 ... After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Music “says” things about the world, but in specifically musical terms. Any attempt to reproduce these musical statements “in our own words” is necessarily doomed to failure. We cannot isolate the truth contained in a piece of music; for it is a beauty-truth and inseparable from its partner. 
The best we can do is to indicate in the most general terms the nature of the musical beauty-truth under consideration and to refer curious truth-seekers to the original. Thus, the introduction to the Benedictus in the Missa Solemnis is a statement about the blessedness that is at the heart of things. But this is about as far as “our words” will take us. If we were to start describing in our “own words” exactly what Beethoven felt about this blessedness, how he conceived it, what he thought its nature to be, we should very soon find ourselves writing lyrical nonsense…  
Only music, and only Beethoven’s music, and only this particular music of Beethoven, can tell us with any precision what Beethoven’s conception of the blessedness at the heart of things actually was. If we want to know, we must listen — on a still June night, by preference, with the breathing of the invisible sea for background to the music and the scent of lime trees drifting through the darkness, like some exquisite soft harmony apprehended by another sense.

—Aldous Huxley
via Maria Popova here 



As the sun needs an eye in order to shine, and music an ear in order to sound, so the worth of every masterpiece in art and science is conditioned by the mind related and equal to it to which it speaks. 
Only such a mind possesses the incantation to arouse the spirits imprisoned in such a work and make them show themselves. The commonplace head stands before it as before a magic casket he cannot open, or before an instrument he cannot play and from which he can therefore summon only inchoate noises, however much he would like to deceive himself in the matter. 
A beautiful work requires a sensitive mind, a speculative work a thinking mind, in order really to exist and to live. 

—Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)
from Essays and Aphorisms
R. J. Hollingdale translation


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