Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French by Downing A. Thomas

By Downing A. Thomas

The hunt for the origins of language was once probably the most urgent philosophical problems with the eighteenth century. It has escaped discover, in spite of the fact that, that song figured prominently in that seek. This examine analyzes reflections on track and song conception as they seem in the logical and narrative constitution of texts by means of, for instance, Rousseau, Diderot, Rameau and Condillac, and considers the ways that tune enables hyperlinks among language and which means, among conceptions of an unique society and an awesome social order.

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Extra resources for Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment (New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism)

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Commentators have frequently judged referential or expressive theories of a musical "language" as inferior or misguided. Contemporary critics and musicologists see instrumental music as the telos of all music, and non-representational aesthetics as the welcome replacement for outmoded mimetic paradigms for the arts. While this position undoubtedly reveals what aesthetic theory has come to expect from music, it also forces our reading of eighteenth-century discourse on music. Upon closer inspection, it is possible to argue that eighteenth-century conceptions of music do not always abide by the polemical categories and historical narratives invented by Romantic and post-Romantic theorists in order to stake a claim for their aesthetics of detachment from meaning or from ideology.

73 Together with a growing confidence in the possibility of a science of music, the interest music theorists paid to rhetoric through the mid eighteenth century suggests that they hoped to join social grace with virtue through the consistency of musical representation and its effects. Although many theorists had given up on neo-classical mimesis by the end of the century, the effects of music on the emotions and its possible political and civic uses were still of the utmost concern. From this standpoint, music could continue to be useful in the formation of communities and consensus however indeterminate its emotional content, and perhaps precisely because of this indeterminacy.

Although seventeenth-century "musicology" borrowed heavily from Descartes' model, it did not necessarily endorse the metaphysics to which Descartes subscribed in its entirety. In particular, music theorists tended to de-emphasize the possible adverse effects of the passions and the desirability of detachment from the body. While Les Passions de I'ame was principally concerned with establishing a metaphysics of passion - and a system for the understanding and management of that passion - music theorists retained Descartes' categories, seeking to specify the correlation between musical sounds and the passions.

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