In his republic, Plato delivers a stern warning about the dangers of music, which he understands to be all-powerful, with the capacity to influence not only men’s minds, but even their actions. Conceptions of music, of course, vary enormously from age to age; indeed, music that is considered beautiful and emotionally compelling by one generation is often misunderstood, if not abandoned, by the next. The question thus remains: how does the idea of the beautiful in music vary from one age to another and what does it tell us about that particular cultural moment? We explore this theme is a variety of ways, both through musical analysis and through philosophical and sociological treatises. Musical selections will include medieval polyphony, Monteverdi, Beethoven, the Viennese school, etc. Discussion topics will include the meaning of music; the effect of notation and recording technology; the difference between vocal and purely instrumental genres; the distinction between high and low or popular and classical musics. Readings will range from Plato and Aristotle to Rousseau, Kant, Hanslick, Adorno, among others.
this course will be taught by Daniel Felsenfeld