Unreal Nature

November 18, 2018

A Rocking Cradle for Their Ruminations

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… Musical reality is always somewhere else …

This is from Music and the Ineffable by Vladimir Jankélévitch translated by Carolyn Abbate (1983):

… Attention paid to music will never seize the intangible, unattainable center of musical reality, but swerves more or less toward the circumstantial sidelights of this reality: the thoughts of a listener plunged into the process of listening, busy feigning the attitude of the acolyte in the sanctuary, are empty contemplation.

[line break added] One doesn’t think about “music,” but on the other hand, one can think according to music, or in music, or musically, with “music” being made into the adverb that refers to a way of thinking. those who believe they are thinking about music are thinking about something else, but more often still, are thinking about nothing — since all such pretexts are useful in avoiding hearing. Between the listeners who think of something else and the listeners who are simply asleep, all degrees of somnolence and daydreaming have been spanned.

… Most people demand from music nothing more than light intoxication which they need as background accompaniment for their free associations, a rhyme to support their musings, a rocking cradle for their ruminations.

… Alas, music in itself is an unknowable something, as unable to be grasped as the mystery of artistic creation — a mystery that can only ever be grasped “before or after.” Before is the psychology, the character of the creator, anthropology. After is the description of the entity that came into being. How to capture the divine instant between the two, the thing that would be so critical to know and that is most obstinately hidden from us? Music’s irritating, confusing secret is evasive and seems to taunt us.

Musical reality is always somewhere else …

My most recent previous post from Jankélévitch’s book is here.

-Julie

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