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Music, analogy and the beauty of everydayness: on music's sense: first movement.

1. Music, Sense and Concept

Music seems to be uncomfortable in clothes of words.

This statement could be the consequence of an empirical fact: no description of a music is able to exhaust its richness, wholeness and depth--in short a description of a music is not the music. This statement implies that no analysis or linguistic translation of a music is able to convey the whole value, the synthetic unity, the fundamental sense of this music.

Yet, to speak of "sense" of music is already a compromising and compromised statement. It implies a strong theoretical and aesthetic position that considers music as a "language" that language fails to understand (or to conceptualize): the "sense" conveyed by this "language"-music belongs to and is expressed only by its own kind of language, and hence all attempts are in vain to translate this sense into natural, conceptual languages, in other words to synthesize it in concepts. (2)

The complex issue of music-as-language is not the primary object of investigation here. Rather I aim to demonstrate why all attempts to conceptualize the "sense" of music are in vain, and to outline which theoretical consequences follow this conclusion. In supposing that "sense" is a-conceptual, for the rest of the paper its denomination will be (except in a few and justified cases) always in inverted commas.

An indirect proof of the negative relationship between conceptual language and music's "sense" is presented by art itself when it refers to music. In Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus we find an interesting answer to the question of why Beethoven's last piano Sonata op. 111 in C minor is constituted only of two movements. In order to present his (very much Adornian (3)) answer, the character of music teacher Herr Kretzschmar focuses on the final movement of the sonata, the Arietta and its variations, and specifically on the last reprise of the theme (C-G G / D-G G):

Wenn es aber zu Ende geht und indem es zu Ende geht, begibt sich etwas nach soviel Ingrimm, Persistenz, Versessenheit und Verstiegenheit in seiner Milde und Gute vollig Unerwartetes und Ergreifendes. Mit dem vielerfahrenen Motiv, das Abschied nimmt und dabei selbst ganz und gar Abschied, zu einem Ruf und Winken des Abschied wird, mit diesem d-g g geht eine leichte Veranderung vor, es erfahrt eine kleine melodische Erweiterung. Nach einem anlautenden c nimmt es vor dem d ein cis auf, so dass es nun nicht mehr "Him-melsblau" oder "Wie-sengrund," sondern "O--du Himmelsblau," "Gru--ner Wiesengrund," "Leb'--mir ewig wohl" skandiert; und dieses hinzukommende cis ist die ruhrendste, trostlichste, wehmutig versohnlichste Handlung von der Welt. Es ist wie ein schmerzlich liebevolles Streichen uber das Haar, uber die Wange, ein stiller, tiefer Blick ins Auge zum letzten Mal. Es segnet das Objekt, die furchtbar umgetriebene Formung mit uberwaltigender Vermenschlichung, legt sie dem Horer zum Abschied, zum ewigen Abschied so sanft ans Herz, dass ihm die Augen ubergehen. "Nun ver-giss der Qual!" heisst es. "Gross war--Gott in uns." "Alles--war nur Traum." "Bleib mir--hold gesinnt." Dann bricht es ab (Mann, 1947: 85). (4)

Mann's answer though does not explain anything. Words are used here not to analyze or argue, but rather to build an evocative analogy of images illustrating "why" this movement is the last movement--the farewell to the Sonata. The metaphor of a comforting chant telling "now forget--the pain" and "it was--only dream," this allusive and hence artistic "explanation" is enough to establish that no other movement is further possible, no other Sonata is even conceivable afterwards. This analogical answer presents the "sense" of this music, lying beyond and beneath all musicological analysis or rather this is the only possible answer: it cannot be otherwise but an analogy, a construction of a relationship between two objects on the basis of the identity not of the objects themselves, but rather of the form of these objects, the principles, the laws of their unity as objects. (5) Hence if it is true that the "sense" of this music cannot be directly expressed by words, then it can only be indirectly represented by the construction of an analogy, that is, via another, different element (such as the consolatory chant) in which this "sense" appears in disguise, in the light of the identity of law. For this reason it is possible to conclude that Mann's artistic representation of the Arietta's "sense," rightly for its analogical nature, is superior (6) to all analytic attempts to translate into words and explain in concepts the mystery and the namelessness (7) of Beethoven's last piano Sonata.

The supposed "superiority" of Mann's analogical determination of the "sense" of Op. 111 (or rather of those bars of Op. 111) could depend on the shared "artistic" nature of the two languages, the languages of music and novel--language that operates with the construction of analogies in order to (re)present the universality of its object. The non-analytical "analysis" of the Arietta could only belong to and only be explained in respect of (and only exist within) a language endowed by the same power of representation such as the novel's. Therefore not only Mann's page on Beethoven contains a representation of the "sense" of the music (via its artistic representation): it also offers an indirect hint about the mode according to which both artistic creations operate as constructions of analogical representations.

The fact that a work of art's "sense" is (supposedly) present and can be (supposedly) grasped only analogically opens the Pandora's box of all sorts of conjectural speculations on the nature, conditions and elements of this analogy.

2. Orientations in Thinking

I shall state what I believe are some of the best responses to this issue, and hence confess what are my "orientations in thinking." According to one con ception the analogy creates types, which are the conditions of representation of universalities within (or rather as) a specific artistic object: these types function as mirrors or icons of the represented universality--and vice-versa the universality can only be represented, that is, it is excluded from all direct conceptual determinations. Hence the mode according to which art operates is the "typical", (8) that is, the construction of a specific artistic product (for instance a character in a novel) that contains in itself the potentiality (aesthetically) to be the "type" of the correspondent category, that is, the principle of expression of a not-otherwise-conceptualizable universality. (9) This universality refers to human life: the typical presides over the construction of a character that contains in itself and plays the role of the aesthetic, typological representation of a universal category of human possibility--as the law of the reality of this possibility. This function and this concept of the typical informs art in itself, and defines aesthetic language. According to this, aesthetic language allows the receiver of a work of art to recognize himself or herself within the work of art, to discover for the first time and at the same time to understand how "old" and universal that life is--rightly because this universality is not (and cannot be) directly stated and conceptualized but rather "only" analogically represented in typological translations. Recognition in/as the universal type and discovery of the universal type coincide: a whole life, with its miseries and joys, graces and sadnesses, disillusions and hopes, sentiments and actions, hopes and destinies, is not only the object of artistic creation, it is also the mirror for an actual, real life to see itself, its universality, the law of its existence, its otherwise unspeakable, untranslatable "sense," within and only within this typological representation. Yet the typical has only an orientative function; it is only an answer, a proposal, amongst other answers. And nevertheless it could at least play the role of orientation - which is not the case for all daemons slipping out from Pandora's box. Worst daemons and Traume des Geistersehers are indeed attracted and aroused by music due to the lack of any conceptual commonality between music and language. (10)

The first daemon slipping outside this box are sentiments, and the role that they supposedly play in music. If music is a language that language cannot understand, this is the case also for sentiments, for also the sentimental sphere is supposedly endowed with a reason that reason fails to understand. (11) Hence it could be thought that the content of music's "sense" is the representation of the sentimental sphere: (12) in order to conceptualize this "sense"-as-sentiment the argumentation refers to the psychological effects of the reception of music. It is evident how such arguments and their conclusions are proven only on the basis of a subjective position--and hence any general validity of them is illegitimate. Certainly historical data can be used in supporting these kinds of psychological conclusions: the spooky darkness of Mozart's piano Sonata in a minor K 310 refers to the death of his mother (or rather the psychological effects that this sonata is supposed to enhance and raise are explained in relation to this biographical data). Yet this procedure cannot be considered cogent for two reasons: on one hand because the historical reference is mainly used as corroboration and not as falsification of what is spontaneously, intuitively already present since the beginning; on the other hand because historical data is more or less irrelevant when it comes to the determination or explication or justification of the aesthetic (and not merely the historical) "sense" of a work of art. In fact, it could be stated that,

the artwork has a value in itself, independently from who created it, even if it is an eminent artist. We could very well ignore everything about who created it--as it is the case for the majority of the ancient and medieval artistic production--: the artwork would not cease to be a masterpiece (Pettoello, 2010: 376). (13)

The same position can be extended to all attempts to justify the attribution of sentimental content according to the general historical situation of the period of composition: a piece unveils this or that sentiment because it is gravid of the aura of the time of which it is the offspring, because it is composed in the Napoleon era, because it is imbued with the Romantic period, because it is a post-world-war piece, because no melodies could be composed after the Holocaust, etc.

The so-called "formalist" reaction to this (supposed) connection between sentiments and music shall play an essential role as the other main orientation of the forma mentis. With the exclusion of all sentimental associations as merely arbitrary determinations of an extra-musical "sense," also the entire reference to a supposed extra-musical "sense" for music is dismissed: the only "sense" that could be attributed to music in the less possibly arbitrary and most possibly scientific way coincides with its form, that is, the harmonic, rhythmic, timbric, agogic and melodic structure, and therefore it is the result not of a subjective attribution of "sense" but rather of the analysis of the musical matter. Once again, the historical data can be useful in order to better determine the formalist conclusions and vice-versa. These conclusions can inform the criteria of the historical determination of the piece (the determination of an harmonic or rhythmic structure is conceptualized with reference to the historical division of epochs and styles (14)) but in no case is history used as principle of attribution of "sense" to music--for no "sense" at all is accepted (nor found) beyond the strict limits of the musical object itself. Yet formalism could be subjected to the decisive criticism of switching too much attention from the subjective reception of the work of art to the quantitative specificity of the artistic object itself. If the aesthetic value of a music consists only of sounds and their connection (15) and if the aesthetic judgment depends only on the "spiritual work" of paying constant attention to the development of the themes, (16) it could lead to some controversial conclusions: that in order to appreciate music in a cogent and true aesthetic way it would be necessary to have a strong musical expertise (with the consequent annulation of immediacy and spontaneity in the aesthetic reception and appreciation); that musical beauty (and the aesthetic value of a piece) would depend on the physical properties and quantifiable characteristics of sound and hence it would be possible to determine the objective general laws according to which a music is (and incontestably is) a masterpiece.

A synthesis between the refusal of the psychological data and the attention to the aesthetic (and not merely scientific) nature a work of art was presented by Hermann Cohen, in his work Asthetik des reinen Gefuhls. Cohen assumed sentiments not in their psychological determination but rather in their transcendental qualification as "pure sentiment," that is, as method of production of an autonomous content (without receiving it from the connection with knowledge or will). This content is represented by aesthetic laws--laws of the creation and reception of a work of art (different from the laws of knowledge of this work). Hence pure sentiment coincides with a specific kind of legality (as condition of the production and systematization of laws) which is neither the legality of knowledge nor the legality of the (moral) will. According to this conception the creation of a work of art is nothing but the production of laws according to the legality of the pure sentiment. Also the artistic fruition of the work of art is based on the laws of this work of art: the aesthetic reception of a work of art implies a re-creation of the laws that constitute the work--and given that this operation is free (that is, it depends on the subject who receives the object, not on the object itself) the same work of art can be subjected to different aesthetic judgments. (17) It is evident how these laws--and hence this legality--have a validity which is different from the legality of the system of nature (and also of morals): the aesthetic laws are valid only, and exist and can be expressed (in their aesthetic sense (18)) only within and as the work of art. They are (almost paradoxically) universally valid only for this specific work of art. Consequently each work of art is an utter and whole world in its own, and aesthetic laws are potentially infinite, and the principle of the sense and cogent unity of this infinity is the legality of pure sentiment. Hence the laws of the work of art, given their independence from the legality of knowledge and morals, cannot be reduced or translated in terms of either objective universality (as laws of nature) or prescriptive validity (as moral laws): these two translations would imply the falsification of these laws, the misunderstanding of their sense, given that it would negate not only their belonging to the legality of pure sentiment, but also their coincidence with the work of art constituted by them. As artistic creation and fruition are the only forms of the sense and understanding of the legality of pure sentiment, this legality can only be indirectly formulated under the aesthetic guise of an artistic creation and fruition. (19) In other words this legality and its elements (the aesthetic laws) have a sense that concepts can frame only by implying a falsification (an illicit translation) of this sense. (20) This is particularly evident in music, whose language, being irreducible to concepts in light of its own legality, is conceived by Cohen as the clearest expression of pure sentiment as the only content of art. (21)

As for the typical, Cohen's position is a solution amongst other possible solutions. The two solutions (the type and the legality of pure sentiment) are equivalent not in their contents, but in their form: both are attempts to define the principle in the light of which a group of objects is called "art" and to determine the conditions according to which the fact of this "art" exists and is recognized as having sense and hence conceptualize the "sense" of the work of art as such (neither as depending on subjective psychological impressions, nor as depending on the structure of the specific artistic object). Given their formal equivalency, both are only proposals--and apparently this would confirm once again that whenever the "sense" of art is on stage, words seem to fail.

For this reason my aim is not to assume one of these orientations in thinking as the primary answer or (worst) as the final solution of the problem of music's "sense." My aim is rather to deepen the conceptual reasons why this "sense" is and can only be a-conceptual and hence why all answers are and can only be proposals and not the definitive conceptualization of this "sense."

This aim seems contradictory: if we assume that the "sense" of music is a-conceptual, if we assume that it belongs only to and can be expressed only by the language called "music," then all linguistic translations and all attempts at the conceptualization of this "sense" are automatically in vain--and consequently equally in vain are all attempts to determine the formal reasons why this "sense" is a-conceptual. Language seems here to fight against itself, and this is the reason why the "sense" of music shall be (almost) only and always in inverted commas.

3. Reductio ad absurdum

It seems it would be better for my theoretical journey towards the reasons and nature of the a-conceptuality of "sense" to declare its capitulation right here and now, because either analysis approaches music by focusing only on the elements and components of this object-music and consequently it excludes all references to a "sense" that does not strictly coincide with the musical matter, or the determination of a "sense" analogically represented by music is at its turn only analogical, that is, it can only be made by artistic means (as a meta-art) and hence it is not suitable for a scientific paper. Vice-versa, either we try to conceptualize the "sense" of a music by knowing that this operation is false and falsifiable since its true beginning or else we stop writing in argumentative prose and start to make poetry or literature.

Yet if my journey ended here, it would rather fail its own aim. The determination of the conceptual reasons why the "sense" of music is not synthesizable by language and not subsumable to concepts can and should be derived neither from an empirical fact (that a linguistic translation of music is not music) nor from the assumption of a third position (such as the formalist one). This a-conceptuality must be proven; it must be questioned and founded--exactly like the fact that an equilateral triangle is also equiangular is proven neither by the empirical evaluation nor by a third position (a teacher), but rather by a demonstration. That the "sense" of music is a-conceptual is not our conclusion: this is our thesis; this thesis can be corroborated by empirical facts and by illustrious opinions--but in neither of the two cases it ceases to be a thesis, and hence to claim to be proven. This thesis shall be proven and deduced by a reductio ad absurdum: the argumentation shall try to go in the opposite direction, in order to attribute and determine conceptually an aesthetic "sense" for a music; this is how my programmatic purpose would be satisfied.

In the light of this negative relationship with its own methodological assumptions, the argumentation shall hopefully realize a series of important consequences.

Firstly it satisfies a fundamental practical necessity which is methodologically implicit in every attempt to analyze or treat aesthetics: the imperative of the confrontation with the Thing, with the Object--that is, with true and empirical works of art. This imperative refers to the requirement to get one's "theoretical hands" dirty with the "stubborn facts" (22) of existing music. This is the imperative of being open to invalidating theoretical certainties in the light of their comparison with actual notes and pentagrams, with existing uses and receptions of the music. This operation refers to the criterion of narrowing the extremely wide panoply of possible objects of investigation by selecting a specific kind of music; on the other hand it refers to the criterion of attribution of "sense" to this selected music, a criterion that shall appear as neither the result of an illicit universalization of a mere subjective position, nor as the formalist exclusion of all possible attribution of extramusical "sense."

It is important to underline that this operation could be read as a useless repetition of the same conclusions by Hanslick, but it is not. This is so firstly because Hanslick's arguments occupy a fundamental position here, and rightly in the light of this the reference to sentiments is excluded as much as possible from the attempt to determine a not-merely-formalistic "sense." Secondly Hanslick is the offspring of his own Zeitgeist, and his analysis is strongly historically informed by the problems of his own epoch: (23) his pamphlet's conclusions, in order to be confirmed in their general methodological validity, in order to satisfy their claim for confirmation, have to always be put under discussion, and confronted with actual, new issues (including the developments and changes in art). Thirdly the formalist methodology, if rigidly assumed, implies the exclusion and annihilation of a fundamental aesthetic element: the aesthetic present as immediacy between subject and object, between the time of the listener and the time of the music. This immediacy lies beyond and before any analytic mediations.

The second important consequence is strictly related to this conclusion. By suspending the validity of its own methodological presuppositions, the theoretical itinerary I am about to start will satisfy another methodological necessity, this time not pragmatic but formal. This refers to the correct delimitation of the range of methodology itself, and to the validity of this method. The formalist methodology implies the exclusion of a double risk of fallacy: the assumption of a subjective position as universally valid and the focus on elements that do not belong to the object of investigation. Yet these fallacies are the consequences of a need (the determination of the "sense" of music) which remains dissatisfied with the formalistic methodology for the sake of the formulation of coherent, rigorous and (as-much-as-possible) scientific statements about music. (24) In other words the formalist position can be interpreted as a mere deferment of the issue of a "sense" analogically present in a music and ("yet" and "hence") not expressible by any analysis of the musical matter's quantifiable components. (25) Thus it is necessary to see whether, by using the formalist methodology, the gain of cogency and scientificity is more worthy than the exclusion of the quest for a not-merely-formalistic "sense." This operation is possible only via the assumption of the supposedly non-coherent position: via the temporary epoche of the formalism it can be attempted to determine the "sense" of music in a (formalistically absurd) linguistic-conceptual mode. This negative approach is the best way in order to "confirm" both the a-conceptual, a-linguistic nature of the extramusical "sense" and the validity of formalistic methodology. In other words, the supposition of an a-conceptual "sense" of music is as hypothetical as the a-conceptuality of this "sense:" this merely supposed a-conceptuality can be proven only conceptually--only by submitting this supposed a-conceptuality to the proof of concept.

Finally, by negating its formal presupposition, and by daring to be open to criticisms, the argumentation will realize a more general aim that transcends the limits and results (the limited results) of this contribution. Given that more or less any methodology determines the threshold before which the validity of a theoretical procedure stands and can only stand, it would be absurd to claim for universal recognition and validity any conceptualization of the "sense" of music, but also any conclusions about the nature of this "sense:" it should be evident, in the light of the (assumption and temporary suspension of) formalism itself, that in aesthetics all generalizations are tainted with arbitrariness (for they stand on conceptually muddy grounds). Yet from this negative point, a positive point can be deduced: all generalizations shall be conceived not as unveiling a mysterious truth of or about music, but rather as stones thrown in a lake, as conditions for waves to be created, a reactive movement determined, another point of view introduced, and perhaps discussed. This is a declaration of the limit of the validity of my conclusions: they do not want to stand for themselves; rather they aim to be, as in a geometrical demonstration, mere means for the prosecution of the research itself in general. (26)

4. The Welle: Form and Examples

As previously clarified, the best method in order to conceptually confirm the a-conceptuality of music's aesthetic "sense" is the reductio ad absurdum of the thesis of a-conceptuality. Therefore the first step is the attempt to conceptually determine this "sense." This attempt--and only this attempt--is what informs the present paper; this means that since its beginning the conclusion of the argumentation is partial and aims to be partial: the more the conclusion is appealing and convincing, the more this theoretical cogency and solidity claims to be questioned in the name of its own methodological presupposition and origin.

I begin with a narrowing of the object of investigation, that is, with a musical example, for it is impossible to analyze the whole musical panorama. This narrowing necessitates a criterion. In order to avoid as much as possible the operation leaving itself vulnerable to the criticism of subjectivity, and so as to avoid the risk that this criticism would find a fertile terrain in the event that sentiments or psychological affections were involved or even hinted at, this criterion of narrowing can only coincide with the effort to give to the issue of sentiment as little nourishment to grow as possible. Hence, within the totality of the musical objects, the chosen ones will be those that manifest the least possible evident and clear connections with sentiments. Amongst these are Bach's preludes and fugues: these compositions can be considered (27) good examples of the arbitrariness of all attributions of sentimental content to music, for they are unable to raise any sentiment at all.

For the sake of simplicity I take as examples some kinds of prelude characterized by a specific and peculiar form of musical writing--or rather I aim to focus on a specific and peculiar form of musical writing that informs some of Bach's preludes. (28) The following aspects define this writing: it is constituted by a repetition, along the entire composition, of the same rhythmic pulse and the same note pattern. The constancy of this repetition determines a formal elementary structure that represents the fundamental "atom" constituting the whole composition. The repetitions of this musical atom are subject to a continuous variation of the harmony; the result is a mutation of chords and harmonics within the identity and constancy of the rhythmic and notational structure. Given that the composition is constituted only by harmonic variations upon the repetition of pulse and pattern, the melodic aspect is almost completely lost: these pieces have in most cases no melody at all (and therefore they are not cantabile). I am keen to call this peculiar form of musical writing Welle, waves, for an empirical reason: this constant repetition and variation assumes on the score the form of an undulating movement. (29)

There are many examples of this wave or Welle musical writing, and each one of them has its specificity--otherwise the examples would all be the one and the same. This is less trivial than it might appear: the fact that each example is different from other examples could pose a problem concerning their mutual reference to the Welle form. If the examples were not sufficiently different from each other, they would be all reduced to the "definition," the pure expression of this musical writing. This absurdity points to a conclusion, already hinted in the second part of this article, that the aesthetic law of such pieces, the sheer expression of the Welle form is not dissociable from its exemplifications, and hence it is impossible to determine or synthesize the formal and pure definition of this musical form without the constant and necessary reference to existing pieces. In other words there is not such a thing as the one and pure Welle musical writing, the archetype of this law: there are only incarnations, specifications of this law not only in, but also, foremost as musical examples. Therefore in principle the conceptual determination of this aesthetic law (as well as its denomination as "Welle") is different from the aesthetic law in itself as the a priori condition of the sense of all exemplifications: pragmatically speaking this conceptualization results a posteriori from a potentially infinite operation of discrimination between the genus proximum and the differentia specifica within the set of existing compositions (and this is an operation for historians or critics of art, not for a composer or a listener to the work of art); in the light of its a posteriori determination this definition elevated to the status of "norm" of composition is subjected to constant modifications and changes according to the specific modes of its "realization" in (or rather as) new pieces of music.

In any case what could be considered, in the light of its importance in the history of music (and in the education of every executor and composer), the historical (not formal) archetype30 of all other possible exemplifications of Welle musical writing is the first Prelude in C major of the first book of the Well-tempered clavier, BWV 846. Given its iconicity I will treat it as a primary example. Yet the same musical design informs (or is shared by) other Bachian compositions. Always focusing on the first book of the Clavier, the Prelude in C minor BWV 847 and the Prelude in D minor BWV 851 are examples. The design is present also in other kinds of composition such as the cello Suites--for instance the first and last parts (before and after the cadenza) of the Prelude from the fourth Suite in E flat major, BWV 1011. Implicit in the previous example, the Welle form often figures in some parts of a wider composition: for instance the Prelude from the second English Suite in A minor, BWV 807, has two passages of the Welle writing form, corresponding to bars 70-77 and 99-106. (31) It is also to be found in the soloist-like passages of the great French Ouverture in B minor, BWV 831, bars 51-53, 81-83 and 108-113 (or rather the second half of 108-second half 120). (32) It could even be added: the prelude-like introduction of the Allemande from the fourth French Suite in E flat major, BWV 815, bars 1-6, and the wonderful passage for keyboard solo from the first movement of the fifth Brandenburg Concerto in D major, BWV 1050, bars 184-194. Also the technique of arpeggiato chords can be considered an example of this form of musical writing--I limit myself here to three cases (for keyboard, cello and violin): the first part of the "Prelude" from the fourth French Suite in E flat major, BWV 815a, bars 1-18; the central section of the Prelude from the third cello Suite in C major, BWV 1009, bars 45-60; (33) finally the very well-known arpeggios of the Chaconne from the Partita for violin solo in D minor, BWV 1004, bars 88-119. These three cases are peculiar because for each of them it is improper to speak of harmony; yet the lower note plays the role of a sort of pedal, determining in this way the fundamental harmonic. Moreover, although it would be improper to speak of melody, nevertheless the higher or lower voices often produce the illusion of a melodic line (this is very evident in the case of the Chaconne).

These are examples of the Welle form of musical writing to which we can try to attribute a "sense" (as minimally sentimental as possible, given the structure of this form). In fact if this attribution aims to be conceptual (as it does), then it refers primarily (that is, formally) not to the musical examples but rather to the form of the music, and only secondarily (that is, practically) to the actual examples. In other words the centre of my analysis is not Johan Sebastian Bach but rather the Welle musical type: the argumentation focuses on the empirical data only in the second instance, in the light of the fact that the aesthetic value of the work of art depends on its relationship with a law of composition, that is, with a form. Hence the "sense" of a music is related not to the quantifiable properties of the object-music itself (harmony, rhythm, intensity-dynamics, frequency, timber, agogic ...) nor to the empirical conditions of its determinations (the supposed psychological union between the author's and listener's sentiments or else the general style and aesthetic expectation of the epoch of composition). Thus, on one hand whatever programmatic intentions are conceived the musical "sense" of the work of art is not reducible to the musicological description of the music; on the other hand the present argumentation aims not to infringe the formalist pars destruens. This theoretical journey towards the "sense" of music started with the exclusion of both formalist pars construens (the "scientific" analysis of the components and properties of the music-object) and psychological/ historical elements as a way of determining a "sense" that is both "extramusical" (or more correctly extra-object, as lying beyond the evaluation of the object) and universal (that is, beyond the empirical circumstances).34 Hence the supposed "sense" (whatever it is) of a work of music, being in principle deducible from and applicable to the form of musical writing, should be deducible from and applicable to all exemplifications of the form. The problem is that, as stated before, a form of musical writing does not exist in an objectification in se, but only in and as its incarnation and specification and realization in actual, real, existing compositions. (35) Hence the present argumentation shall widen the spectrum of musical examples beyond Bach, (36) and take into account other exemplifications of Welle musical writing--the more distant from Bach the better, for temporal distance is a guarantee of the greater objectivity of the result. My choice falls on some minimalist compositions.

The minimalist compositions I focus on shall be constructed along the same structure of the Welle musical form. They are characterized by a single rhythmic and formal atom repeated in a structure of harmonic variations. Perfect examples of this are Dead things (bars 89-104) and Choosing life (bars 49-64), two pieces of Glass, 2002. In both cases the composition is built on the repetition of the same atomistic rhythmic and note-pattern structure (ascending-descending-ascending triplets for Dead things, descending and then ascending four notes for Choosing life) framed within a constant variation of the harmony. The harmonic variation follows often a descending movement per semitones: in Dead things the lower note of the right hand descends from G natural to G flat to F, and the bass eagerly follows this sort of passus duriusculus (bars 89-94). In Choosing life there is a differentiation between right and left hand, both giving the impression of a mutual chase in their harmonic descent: the first harmonic variation is introduced by the left hand as a rise from E to F, then the right hand's lower note descends a semitone from E to E flat while the left hand's middle voice jumps a tone lower from F to E flat, then the bass upper voice lowers from A to G flat, and next both right and left hand modifies the harmony, the right descending a tone (a semitone for the lower voice) and the left hand both descending and raising a tone (a semitone in the case of the middle voice) and suppressing the fourth voice. After these modulations, in the first case there is a leap in the harmony towards D major (bars 95-96), to which corresponds also a variation in the design of the triplets (ascending-descending-descending and ascending-ascending-descending); in the second case the bass is lowered from D major to B flat major (resembling the first case) (bar 57) and as for the first case also here the harmonic leap is accompanied by a modification of the musical design: the descending pattern is replaced by an ascending one. These two modifications of the musical atom constituting both pieces do not invalidate the fact that these two pieces are examples of the Welle structure, given that in both cases the criterion of an "atomistic identical structure that is repeated" not only continues to inform the composition even after the variation, but also (and consequently) it is always formally presupposed as the condition of the unity and coherency of the piece. In other words, in both cases the composition always implies the principle of the invariance of an atomistic organization of notes and rhythm--and for this reason, also the two modifications not only presuppose Welle musical writing, but they also formally belong to this structure.

Even limiting the analysis to Philip Glass alone, many other examples could be adduced. For instance, again from Glass, 2002, the central part of the final piece The hours. Moreover, the form of Glass' Mad rush is based on the same logic of repetition of an atomistic structure within a perpetuum mobile of harmonic little variations. (37) Also some part of compositions for movies (such as the Qatsi trilogy) can be included in the set (for instance the organ in Prophecies).

5. Looking for the "Sense" of the Welle: Cinematographic Examples

It is necessary now to go on and beyond the strict analysis of the Welle form of composition--for the aim is to determine a "sense" for this Welle form which is neither identical with the Welle itself nor reducible to the components of a music (for otherwise the musicological analysis would already have determined the "sense" of the art work). We require a "sense" that is as much coherent and conceptually cogent as possible. This determination of "sense" excludes all empirical circumstances of composition and reception (and the previous switching from empirical data to formal data impedes the illicit deduction of "sense" from the conceptualization of subjective elements), and uno tempore it excludes the narrowing of analytic attention to the musical matter alone (the previous focusing on the form of the music underlined that the value of all musical objects derives from their formal principle of unity, as all "mere" specific realizations and exemplifications of this principle). On one hand the voice of the subject electing personal reactions as "sense" must be silenced--otherwise the "sense" would be arbitrary and it could not be attributed to the form of the music (the Welle) but rather only to this personal listening of this music. On the other hand the "sense" cannot be entirely identical with the different musicological elements and quantifiable properties constituting a music: the music must be assumed as the elective place of presence of this "sense," not as the "sense" itself (38)--otherwise the "sense," depending on the specificity of the "musical idea" and the constitution of a music, would exclude all references to the formal category of this music (given that each exemplification of a category owns a unicity, an "individuality/ idiosyncrasy" that is never reducible to the category itself). (39) Hence the "sense" does not depend on the subjective position or on the strict objective position: neither is it the result of this unique me imposing my subjective "sense" on a music nor is it reducible to the elements constituting this unique music (or rather to this music as this unique specification of objective elements). This autonomy of the "sense" from both the subjective and the strict objective positions makes its conceptualization quite difficult: the determination of this "sense" should neither derive from the direct subjective position nor be limited to the direct confrontation with the music. Hence the "sense's" determination can only be indirect. An indirect determination implies a mode of representation of the "sense". And given that art operates with analogical representations of its objects, the musical "sense" can be determined through the reference to its artistic representation (as both external to the subject and different from the music itself) (40) within and by another work of art ("another" because different from music). (41) But this representation of a music's "sense" implies that music should be present within another work of art, that is, it is used by and within the other work of art for the constitution of the other work of art itself. The result is that the aesthetic function that music plays within the economy of another work of art is the representation of its "sense." The requirement of an indirect determination of "sense" is hence satisfied: the "sense" of a music lies in (and is determinable in the light of) its indirect, analogical translation as music's function in another work of art. (42)

Now it is necessary to find a work of art in which the Welle form of music plays a constitutive aesthetic function. (43) This time this other work of art is not a novel (as in the previous case of Thomas Mann and Beethoven), rather it belongs to the art of cinema: the "sense" of the Welle musical form is conceptualized by looking at its use as a musical accompaniment in films. (44) Given the presence of minimalist music in movies, it is not an object of interest for this paper to reconstruct the history of cooperation between minimalist music and contemporary film. (45) Rather what matters is the analysis of movie scenes where the Welle form of musical writing is present. Hence, I will narrow the analysis to two cases: Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) and The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002).

Both movies are gravid of minimalist music. They would not have the same aesthetic value and they would not have the same contents and the same signification, without the accompaniment of their music. This is specifically true for the Qatsi trilogy--for it almost completely lacks any other sound except the music of Philip Glass. Within the trilogy, I will refer to a short scene from Koyaanisqatsi: after the dramatic demolition of the Pruitt-Igroe complex the film displays a time-lapse sequence: running clouds over a city and on skyscrapers, the frantic movement of the crowd. Then a slow-motion sequence follows, and a new music plays, called SloMo People (41.28). The crowd is still filmed, but now it is possible to see that different elements compose it--that is, the persons. Women, men, young, old, colorful, grey, fat and slim: the people are there, and we are there as the people. Then (42.50) a new theme appears in the music: this is a Welle construct. This time there is no more a homogeneous sum of persons--the camera focuses on individuals, motionless, looking at the camera, this individual, this woman, this girl, this aviator, this group of entrameuses, and behind them a train passes, an airplane waits to fly, the lights of the casino flash. What are these scenes, if not representations of our everyday condition of everyday human beings? Without the music these angles would represent just nameless persons--but thanks to this music, these persons in their routine gestures and locations are the mirror of us in our routine gestures and locations.

The second movie (46) has the explicit aim to represent the wholeness (I would say the inner law) ruling a life, as completely presented in a life's single day--on the model of Mrs. Dalloway. A whole life in a single day--a single day carrying the whole sense of this life. In this case there are three lives that belong and are bounded by the same artistic attempt to evoke their universality within their specificity and unrepeatability, the universality of their law and concept within and as their own private and entropic uniqueness and moreover within and as a single day of this uniqueness. This is one of the best possible examples of what I have stated before as "typical:" a whole life in a day means a whole sense in a type of this sense, in an analogical mirror. This is the type: an element of unicity and unrepeatability, but which analogically contains in itself and is able to refer to the concept of this unicity, to the law of this unrepeatability objectified in a work of art. In the case of The Hours, three different lives with three different histories can be conceived as typical: three women are fully and utterly themselves, with their own personalities, life stations, sentiments and struggles, and rightly because of this unicity of theirs, they are representations of universal possibilities of a universal life, present in every life and in no life. What is this life? In this single day of three lives we discover the overwhelming sorrow of a creative mind constrained in the bonds of placid everydayness, the overwhelming sorrow of the routine daily suffocation of an unchosen life, and the unconfessed sorrow for the liquefaction of happiness into mundane, banal distraction. And once again, what would these lives, what would this sorrow be, without music? It would be this particular sorrow of one of the three lives --it would not be perceived and perceivable as the universal element in its analogical disguise under the mask of three lives. This music fills the banality, the everydayness, in which every one of the three lives drown, by contributing essentially, with its constant repetitions and perpetuation of the pulse, to the aestheticization of this everydayness.

It is time to pass to the cinematographic use of Bach's modality of composition of the Welle structure. As stated before I will limit the analysis to the Prelude in C major in the light of its iconicity, and I will limit its filmic presence to two examples, very distant in time and in thematics: Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) and The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011).

In the first movie the Prelude is played a few minutes after the beginning: the girls are ready to leave the college to spend the afternoon away from the college, the head mistress gives the last instructions. Attention turns from the mistress for a last and unseen goodbye for the secluded girlfriend (a goodbye which is also a farewell). Then everybody starts out for Hanging Rock. Beginning with the secret goodbye-farewell and during the whole trip, Bach's Prelude plays.

In the second movie the Prelude is played at the very end. The filmic recall of Margaret Thatcher's unique life--and yet simply a life--reaches its ending, the present of this now old woman, washing her cup of tea (she who stated once, as prelude to her political uniqueness and courage, that she would never be banished to the kitchen to wash dishes). At this point the Prelude starts to play: the Iron Lady has finished washing the dishes on her own, and the camera is fixed on the corridor; we see her walking to the stairs, looking down seemingly half lost in her oldness; she stays there for a little while, then enters a room and is out of sight. In the now uninhabited corridor the music continues to play until its end, while all else fades.

These two scenes are very different--for their subjects and their represented stations of life (youth and old age, plural and singular), for their position in the film, for their location (outer/inner, Australia and England), for the cinematographic technique of the two footages (the fixed and not fixed camera). Yet what is common between the two, besides the music, is the utter intimacy and banality of what is represented: nothing striking happens (especially if compared to what will happen to the Australian schoolgirls or to what had happened in the old English woman's life). A hidden goodbye under the summer straw hat, a washed teacup, a dusty trip in the heat, a woman meandering in her home: these moments, gestures, actions, and the times of their accomplishment and realization, are not remarkable; they are a part of everyone's routine. Yet these times are not merely routine; they are the "unrepeatable routine" of everydayness in its generality, thanks to their aesthetic representation: they are not merely banal moments, they are aesthetic banal moments, they are moments and times of two movies. And in both movies these moments are united by Bach's Prelude--music and scenes melt together and somehow allude and hint to each other. The Prelude contributes in the aesthetization of these otherwise-meaningless times: it expresses in the inexpressive way of music the sense of these moments in their routine quality as the "everydayness" of these times, as the universality of the everydayness, as the general beauty of the repetitiveness in the specific beauty of the repetition of the movements of the vehicles' wheels, of the repetitiveness of everyday domestic actions of an old lady.

Therefore the Prelude is able to make these moments universal: the vacuity of these moments is "enchanted" with a sovereign beauty for and in their everydayness, for and in their repetitiveness. Hence the aesthetic function of this form of music is to give sense and beauty to what otherwise, in its objectivity, would be time without any aesthetic value (and even perhaps without any value). Of course, no matter which kind of time is made beautiful by music--for no matter which music exists only within time as the time of its expression, that is, as aestheticized time, as beautiful time. (47) Yet in the cinematographic examples the Welle form of music is connected with a specific content of time: the time of everyday life, as uninteresting, more or less characterless time lacking novelty or unicity (exactly for this reason this time is everyday life time, and its events are non-events). This banal, reiterative everydayness is enchanted in film with and thanks to this music: music is the aesthetic, analogical representation of banal universality and universal banality, of beauty of and for vacuity.

6. Time and Enchantment: A Conclusion?

The above empirical study of four films aimed to analyze the commonalities between some cinematographic uses of the Welle form of music. In all cases the Welle is in an analogical relationship with the aesthetic representation of everyday events and moments: in all cases the Welle musical writing has the function of aestheticizing or "enchanting" with beauty some scenes that, otherwise, would be merely trite contents of time--being dull repetitions exactly for the sake of their aesthetic neutrality. Thanks to the Welle musical writing this ordinariness is beautiful in its banality: beauty "rains" over this lack of aesthetic quality. Everydayness' boredom is made universal in its aesthetic representation--in other words the vacuity of the everyday is analogically represented as an aesthetic universality. In short, the Welle form of music has the function of the aesthetic enchantment of everyday life.

It is important to underline that this "enchantment" does not mean the annulation of the aesthetic neutrality of the time to which the music is associated. On the contrary "enchantment" implies that music attributes to this neutrality its aesthetic relevance rightly as repeated, everyday time. Therefore the repetitive simplicity and the eventless nature of this kind of time are not nullified, for they are indeed the true elements of analogical representation, the condition of the aesthetic, analogical unity between this scene and this music. And the Welle music writing, according to its artistic use in cinematography, does have the function of attributing to these everyday scenes their aesthetic sense. The music makes the everydayness sense filled: they are beautiful in and for their repetitiveness and eventlessness.

This function depends on the aesthetic, analogical (that is, non-directly-conceptual) representation of the form of the specific time that the music is applied to. We could ask: what is the formal evidence in support of this aesthetic union between this music form (the Welle) and this kind of time (the time of everyday life), a union that produces beauty in virtue of the union of the two? The answer implies the effort of determining the law48 (identical in the music and in time) on which the analogy "kind of music-kind of time" is built. Only in compliance with the identity of music's and time's law is it possible to build the analogical relationship between music and the extra-musical spatio-temporal event (for instance: a presto, dotted music is analogous to a galloping). (49)

The atomistic simplicity and the eventless repetitiveness of the Welle musical writing are analogous to the repetitive eventlessness and simplicity that qualify the type of time this form of music is artistically associated with. The law, the form of the movement is identical in both cases: it is a sort of "varying periodic function." In both cases the structure refers to an undulating movement as sum of two movements: the bi-dimensional ascent and descent on the ordinate and the progression of this point on the abscissa; the sum of the two movements generates a wave. This wave is mathematically described by a periodic function; but in the cases of both music and time, this function does not appear as identical in all the repetitions of the period, but rather identical within variations: it is the sum of rhythmic-notational repetition and harmonic variation for the Welle, it is the sum of the repetitiveness of the action and variation of the same action according to the actor in the (aesthetic representation of) everyday time. Both unities of repetition and variation are a sort of "eternity in movement," where the fixity and immutability of the nunc stans is inserted within a constant modification of its expressions (of its "periods"). This is the law on which the analogy time-music is built according to this study: the periodic function of a wave's movement that, differently from its strict mathematical description, inserts its repetitions within a system of variations (of "specifications"). This conveys the idea of a fixity (of the musical atom/of the multiple exposure or the fixed camera) within its movement (in time and as time, as gestures and as harmony), as movement and invariance, movement of an invariance, moving invariance: it is a fixity that constantly varies itself, or a constant variation that is eternally identical to itself in the light of its periodic movement. It is repetition as variation, and variation as repetition. It is the principle of a union of temporal succession (of music and images) and a cycle of pulse; it is the principle of a union of identity and modification that informs the undulating movement.

This unveiling of the artistic analogy of "conceptual secrecy" between music and time is only an answer amongst many possible others. For instance, another solution could be that the void (of significance, novelty, unicity) of the everydayness is disposed to be analogically represented by the void (of melody, of rhythmic and formal modifications and inventions) of the musical atom.

Yet it is unimportant which is the law that explains why this analogy works. The only element that truly matters is that this analogy does work. In light of the effectivity of the analogy and thanks to this effectivity the function of the Welle musical form within another work of art (film) has been determined: it is the musical "vessel" of the aesthetic sense of everydayness as a specific kind of time.

In its turn this function coincides with the aesthetic representation of the "sense" of the Welle form of music. The films' scenes with the concurrence of the music are the artistic representations of everydayness in general; so the function of the Welle form of making aesthetic the scenes' everydayness represents the fact (the "sense") that this form of music makes beautiful the everydayness in general. This is the "sense" of Welle represented by and in its artistic function: to be the "music" of the aesthetic sense of everydayness in general--to be the "music" of the contemplative beauty of everyday life, to be the "music" of the consolatory presence of beauty even in times when beauty seems to fall into boredom and senselessness. It is the "music" of the sense of everyday life as vacuity--thanks to which this vacuity is perceived and lived as beautiful vacuity. This is the "sense" of the Welle form of music as indirectly expressed by the artistic union of scene and music--and, consequently, this is the "sense" of all music that is exemplified by this form.

Yet this conclusion can not be satisfactory. Or better, the more it satisfies the quest of a "sense" of (a form of) music, the more it is dissatisfactory. In fact, according to our programmatic presuppositions, the music's "sense" is either a-conceptual, or it coincides formalistically with music itself: there is no universal determination of a concept of a not-merely-formalistic "sense" of music--this determination being possible only in and as its artistic analogy, in and as literary or cinematographic expressions. This means that no matter which universalization of this artistic analogy representing the "sense" of (form of) a music, at its turn, it is illegitimate. In short, no matter which conceptual determination of the music's "sense" is false because it is falsifiable. Therefore also the result that the argumentation reached so far (i.e. the "unveiling" of the Welle form's "sense" as enchantment of everyday boredom) is somehow false. This falsity must now be proven through the attempt to falsify what has been obtained until this point (from the synthesis of a form of music named Welle until the clarification of the not-merely-formalistic "sense" of this form). (50)

The task I aimed to accomplish is hence incomplete: the reductio ad absurdum reached until this moment only its first step, the (illusory) moment of a meaningfulness for what should be, according to our presuppositions, absurd. The question now is to show why and how the theoretical result just obtained hides an absurdity, why and how the just-unconcealed "sense" of Welle form is limited, what is the absurdity and limitation, and what are the theoretical conclusions of a reductio conducted to its logical end. Our quest is only at its half, which means that it has to move further in order for this theoretical journey on music and its "sense" to be concluded. (51)


Institute Eric Weil, University of Lille 3; University of Geneva

Andrea Vestrucci is Doctor of Philosophy at the Universities of Lille and Milan. He has been Professor of Ethics at the Federal University of Ceara (Brazil) and Endeavour Fellow at Monash University, Melbourne. He is author of The Movement of Morals (Milan 2012), editor of Ethique et esthetique. La responsabilite de l'artiste (Paris 2011). Amongst his most recent papers, "Scheme and Reprise, Transcendental and Historical" (Lisbon, 2013) and "The Unity of Moral Being. Elements for a relationship Weil-Schiller" (Fortaleza, 2014). He is currently conducting research on the conditions and elements of a Logic of Freedom with the chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Geneva.


(1.) I deeply thank pianist, composer and author Luca Ciammarughi for all inspiring conversations we exchanged which helped to improve this contribution. I am responsible for all errors and incoherencies.

(2.) Cf. Hanslick, 1982: 76. Cf. Schweitzer, 1905: 257, 196. Cf. also Schweitzer, 1948: 413.

(3.) Cf. Mann, 1982: 629 (24.IX.1943), 634 (4.X.1943), 635 (6.X.1943); 1986: 45 (5.I.1944), 13 (23.I.1944), 15 (30.I.1944). Cf also Adorno-Mann, 2002: 9-12 (T. Mann and T.W. Adorno, 5.X.1943), 18-15 (T. Mann and T.W. Adorno, 30.XII.1945).

(4.) In the English translation by H. Lowe-Porter: "But when it ends and while it ends, something comes, after so much rage, persistence, obstinacy, extravagance: something entirely unexpected and touching in its mildness and goodness. With the motif passed through many vicissitudes, which takes leave and so doing becomes itself entirely leave-taking, a parting wave and call, with this D G G occurs a slight change, it experiences a small melodic expansion. After an introductory C, it puts a C sharp before the D, so that it no longer scans 'Heav-en's blue,' 'Mead-owland,' but 'O-thou heaven's blue,' 'Green-est meadowland,' 'Fare-thee well for aye,' and this added C sharp is the most moving, consolatory, pathetically reconciling thing in the world. It is like having one's hair or cheek stroked, lovingly, understandingly, like a deep and silent farewell look. It blesses the object, the frightfully harried formulation, with overpowering humanity, lies in parting so gently on the hearer's heart in eternal farewell that the eyes run over. 'Now for-get the pain,' it says. 'Great was --God in us.' 'Twas all--but a dream,' 'Friendly--be to me.' Then it breaks off."

(5.) Cf. Kant, 1968c: [section] 58; Kant, 1968b: A 179-180; Kant, 1968a: B 222-223. Here and for all the paper I will assume "form" as synonym of "law": cf. Cohen, 2009: 361, 383.

(6.) What Maestro Andras Schiff stated in his lectio on Beethoven's 111 was the eminent confirmation of a personal intuitive certainty of mine. Cf Schiff, 2006.

(7.) Cf. Mann, 1947: 84: " ... ohne es doch damit namhaft zu machen, weil es recht eigentlich namelos ist."

(8.) I refer here to Lukacs' works on literature and in particular on realistic novel. Cf Lukacs, 1963-1975.

(9.) The concept of typical has a defined historical and theoretical frame. In the case of Lukacs, it is my suggestion that the reflection on the typical cannot be properly understood without reference to the Kantian and neo-Kantian theorizations on the limits and conditions according to which the sense is attributed to an empirical intuition (the limits and conditions according to which this intuition can be subsumed under universal laws of understanding, it can be conceptually understandable, it makes sense). It is not by chance that in Kant the problem of the type plays a fundamental role not only in the fields in the aesthetics (Kant, 1968e: [section] 59), but already in the connection between prescription and real, actual determination of the will: In Kant, 1968d: A 119-127 the connection between the noumenic of the prescription and the phenomenic of the single Tater (in better words, between practical and theoretical uses of reason) relies on the analogical construction of a law of nature as the representation (or type) of the moral law. In the case of Lukacs, the typical should be put in relationship also with Emil Lask's reflections on the issue of the nature, extension and validity of the concept of category and on the legitimacy of any connection case/category (cf. Lask, 1993). A reconstruction of the presence and role of the type and typical in Kant's second and third critique (and also first one, in reference to transcendental scheme), as well as an analysis of the neo-Kantian influences on Lukacs conception of typical, constitute one of the main topics of my work following the compilation of this paper.

(10.) Music does not represent anything that could be found in the world as the phenomenon or object of experience, and then as the element, or specification, of a concept. For this reason the content of music either cannot be conceptualized (cf. Hanslick, 1982: 52), or it is considered as coincident with its own musical structure (cf ivi, 137-138). Or rather music does have a link with the world but this link does not refer to worldly objects and experiences, but rather to the movement of experiences' determination (cf ivi, 52-53)--that is, music is "nothing but time".

(11.) Cf. the famous pensee by Pascal, 1897: n. 277: "Le cmur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point".

(12.) Cf. Hanslick, 1982: 49.

(13.) It implies that the beauty of something--or, better, the judgment of beauty on something--does not depend on the "efficient cause" of this something, that is, author, composer, artist. Otherwise we would assist the fallacy of commutative property in arts: if an artist has composed a masterpiece, then no matter what is produced by this same artist is necessarily a masterpiece.

(14.) For instance the Alberti bass defines the classical period and all later propositions of this stylistic tool are read as historical quotations.

(15.) Cf Hanslick, 1982: 73.

(16.) Cf. ivi: 120.

(17.) This excludes all references to a supposed empathy as principle of appreciation of a work of art--as supposed sentimental connection between the content of the object and the sentimental sphere of the subject. Cf Cohen, 1982 I: 185-186.

(18.) Distinct from gnoseological or moral senses: the laws of composition and creation of a work of art can be objective laws of knowledge (such as harmony, intensity and frequency) but they have their aesthetic sense only in their presence within and as the work of art. Cf Cohen, 1982a: 74-78.

(19.) There is an interesting parallelism with the prescriptive form of law, and the instance which is the condition of understanding and conveyance of this specific form of legality: on one hand the moral law, being related to freedom as the unity of non-natural causality, can be expressed only in prescriptive form (that is, as a norm) and understood only by practical reason; on the other hand the laws of the aesthetic legality, being related to pure sentiment, can be expressed only in and as works of art in the creation and fruition of a work of art. This analogy with morality illustrates the limits of language vis-a-vis of the legalism of pure sentiment: as the moral law cannot be expressed in its purity as descriptive law but only in its (pure) practical translation, that is, as the categorical imperative, so the aesthetic legality cannot express its function outside the coincidence between aesthetic laws and their reference and sense in and as a work of art.

(20.) My reading of Cohen's argument might appear contradictory, for it seems to determine in concepts what cannot be determined in concepts. But this contradiction is only apparent: Cohen does not determine what this legality of the pure sentiment is, that is, he does not define the content of this legality--for all definitions of its content (the artistic laws) are already the falsification of the laws, that is, their reduction to the field of knowledge and hence the annulation of their belonging to the method of the pure sentiment.

(21.) Cf. Cohen, 1982b: 135-138.

(22.) The origin of the quotation "Facts are stubborn things" is debated. I personally refer to Adams, 1965: 269.

(23.) It is not relevant here to recall the historical, philosophical and musicological causes that determined the composition of Vom Musikalisch-Schonen. For a reconstruction of the influence of (and difference from) Hegelian aesthetics, and of the underlying problem of absolute music, Cf Dahlhaus, 1979: 110-114.

(24.) It is important to underline that the formalist methodology excludes all validity not for arbitrary, fantastic or sentimental determinations of the "sense" of a music, but "only" for the consideration of these determinations as universally valid, that is, as scientific statements. Hence it would be enough for a determination of the "sense" not to claim a universal validity, in order for the "need" of this determination of this "sense" to be satisfied. But the issue is less easy than it might appear: the formalist methodology is not merely a scientific method on music, it is rather a metamethodology attributing validity to methods (musicological, analogical, psychological). The formalist conclusions do not derive from a method itself, but rather the method derives from the exclusions of other methods. Therefore it is always possible to say a "sense" for a music (that is, we are always able to do so), but this possibility appears as a degradation of the cognitive powers of human beings: if "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen," then no matter which attempt to determine the "sense" is self-deceit, it is the effect of a willing self-lowering, willing theoretical and educational self-humiliation.

(25.) My reflection has started with the recognition of a "sense" which cannot be reduced to the musical matter: no conceptualizations of a music seem to be able to say what music "says" to the listener. This implies also that the quest of its deter mination (whether possible) of a "sense" is not satisfied by any analysis on the elements constituting this music. The formalist method assumes all possible elements different from the musical matter (or rather form the reduction of music to sound) as alien from a scientific approach--and yet the problem continues to haunt even if (or rather because) the satisfaction of the quest for its determination is excluded from the horizon of possibilities.

(26.) This statement might appear either banausic or the fruit of a false modesty, but I think it is gravid of consequences not only for the methodology of Geisteswissenschaften, but also for the conception of scientific contribution in general. As of today, we can agree that most contributions are affected by what seems to be a fundamental methodological confusion, resulting from the confusion between results and means for the result to be reached: normally, the deepening of an author or a cultural and theoretical movement should be the means in order to reach a scientific contribution that, while resulting from that deepening, transcends the lectio of that author or cultural movement in order to make a step further. On the contrary what we observe for quite a while is a fossilization fixated on the analysis of third positions (even if it be rigorous, philologically cogent analysis) or even a life-long mono-thematic or mono-authorial specialization, justified by the complexity of the thought or by the possibility of reaching new conclusions on methodological problems (yet these conclusions are in general limited to the last pages of a contribution). This situation is in step with the artistic situation, where the preparatory efforts and attempts for the constitution of New (the avant-garde) is confounded with the end itself and taken as artistic productions. A step further, a development of the actual state of art, is possible only if a synthetic proposition is formulated: if there were only analytic propositions, no progress whatsoever would be possible, in any fields. Of course it can be debated whether progress is desirable or not--but the same fact that curiosity exists and it aims to be satisfied (by the reading of this contribution as well as of any other ones) is already the best possible negation of this debate. The true problem lies with the fact that a synthetic proposition is not devoid of risks, rightly because it is synthetic and not analytic: criticisms can always hit the element of novelty (that is, what of the predicate is not contained in the subject). The recourse to a clear (self-evident) and formal (non-empirical) methodology, and to a reasoned (neither re-capitulatory nor too arbitrary) reference to history can play the role only of a limitation of the risk, never its complete dissolution. Yet the leap of a synthetic proposition (if sustained by the never-100%-safe parachute of the synergy of method and history) can lead not only to criticisms, but also to a further turn of the cogs of thought. Between the two extremes of a fearful complete refusal of risk and an arbitrary leap into the void, a synthetic contribution aware of its unavoidable formal risk and humbly conceived as gateway for new contributions can be the proper medium in where virtus stat (and this is already a strong methodological statement). Speaking of music and musicology, Ducros, 2012 is a perfect example of this: his infamous speech, although probably affected by an illicit universalization of a very empirical (occidental) habituation to tonality, had and still has the unavoidable value of having provoked the opinion of musicologists and public on a delicate theme such as the future of cultivated music, by (re)clarifying some of the limitations in the development of music in the XX Century.

(27.) Cf Hanslick, 1982: 56, 66.

(28.) This second formulation is far more correct than the first one. The analysis should take into account the specific works not in themselves, but in the light of their musical form: this form is nothing but the law that constitute the unity and the sense of these works as works of art. It is for the sake of the law that the work is a work of art--in other words it is the law to be beautiful, that is, not the work in itself but as a work of art. For this reason the reference to the specific work of art is justified and has aesthetic sense only in the light of the necessary reference to the subjacent laws. In the light of Cohen's position, there is a mutual determination between laws and works: on one hand the aesthetic laws exist nowhere but in their exemplifications and incarnations in specific works, in their function as forms of objects; on the other hand the work of art is called work of art, that is, it has its autonomous aesthetic value only in the light of its being informed by a law. In this mutual determination the aesthetic relevance of the object as work of art depends utterly on the formal side (from laws to the objects), not on the material side (from the object to laws: this is rather a matter of critics, not of receptors).

(29.) Therefore I am only stating that the structure of the musical pattern and the organization of the partition are analogous to an undulating movement; I am not stating that these compositions are descriptions or symbols of waves--as it is the case in Schweitzer's constant interest in the descriptive function of Bach's music. For his analysis of music as description of waves, cf. the parts dedicated to Cantatas "Siehe ich will viel fischer aussenden" (Schweitzer, 1948: 439), "Schleicht spielende Wellen" et al. (466-467, 659-660 and 666), "Ihr Menschen ruhmet Gottes Liebe" et al. (490-491), "Jesus schlaft, was soll ich hoffen" (543), "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" (586 and 731).

(30.) Once again, the archetype does not mean a priori form of Welle.

(31.) In this case it would be more correct to distinguish two different moments of the writing, characterized by two different organization of the notes: in the first one (bars 70-72 and 99-101) the right hand figuration is three ascending groups of four identical in all three bars--the modification being associated with the ascending harmony of bass (G-A-B or C-D-E); in the second part (bars 73-77 and 102-106) there is another figuration of the right hand, even more fragmented (while the design of the left hand remains the same). In this second section the harmonic variations refer to both right and left hands, now in opposition (the high note--which constitutes also a hinted melodic line--of the right hand lowers while the high voice of the left hand rises, then the lower voices of both hands rise, then for the right hand the low voice lowers and the low one rises, etc). In any case, both moments are exemplifications of the Welle rhythmic structure and organization of notes.

(32.) In these examples from the French Ouverture the harmonic modulation is mainly based on a sequence-like structure.

(33.) I would even add the previous bars, 35-36 and 37-44, in the light of their structure.

(34.) Only in this way and under these conditions the attribution of "sense" could hope to be truly conceptual and at the same time, truly not-merely-formalistic. On one hand the "sense" shall be connected neither to subjective intentions (of the composer) or reactions (of the listener), nor to the mood of an epoch, but only to music in itself. On the other hand, this "music in itself' is not the object-music: the object is assumed as a means for a law to be realized, for a form to exist within and as the object; this "music in itself' shall hence be understood as the Welle. This attention to the form of music excludes all references to both the non-universal empiricity of history, author, receptor, etc ... and also to the universal but too-narrow objectivity of the work of art as an object. In this way a double relationship with formalism is implied: on one hand I acknowledge formalistic criticisms of the risk of subjectivism in the attempt to determine a "sense" as much conceptually rigorous as possible (whether any rigor is possible at all) (pars destruens of the formalism). Yet on the other hand this form shall not be identical with the "sense" of this object-music: the "sense" belongs and refers to the form (and not to this specific music); it does not coincide with it. Hence I must bracket formalist pars construens, that is, the (supposed) exhaustion of musical "sense" through a "scientific" approach; this, in order to pursue the determination of a "sense" that is not subject to the musicological reduction of the work of art. In short, the formal analysis is a starting point, but not the end point.

(35.) In fact, the aesthetic laws of composition of a piece do not exist anywhere but as a type of artistic composition itself. Therefore the artistic creation is production of laws. These are very peculiar laws, or formal types of composition, for they exist only in and as the work of art realized with, by and according to these laws. In other words these laws cannot be expressed, and cannot be formulated in a conceptual statement, for this formulation is already there in their expression within and as the artistic result. Cf. Cohen, 1982a: 68-73.

(36.) More explicitly, the focus on the empirical compositions of the empirical human being called Johan Sebastian Bach is contingent. I could take into account other baroque authors, or even modern and contemporary authors (and I will, subject to the limits to my capacities): the result should be the same, for all other compositions would have been equal exemplifications of a specific form of composition. This implies that Bachian and non-Bachian compositions (potentially or actually) taken into account are assumed as epiphenomena of a form of harmonic construction, of a category of the organization of harmony. Albert Schweitzer implicitly uses the same method in relation to Bach and Schubert. According to Schweitzer (1905: 338), his qualification of Bach as composer-poet in light of his extraordinary musical mastery of conveying in music the meaning of music's texts suits also Schubert in the case of his Lieder: the music has primarily a descriptive function in relation not to sentiments in general, but to those images and sentiments meant by the vocal texts composed for. It is interesting to notice how this position changes in the second edition (this time written not in French but in German) of Schweitzer's work on Bach: here the theologian-musicologist still associates Bach and Schubert for their use of words and tones, but this time they (as well as Berlioz) are not conceived as "poets" but instead as "painters" (Schweitzer, 1948: 417). This change is the consequence of Schweitzer's differentiation, in the second edition, between "dichterlische" and "malerische" attitude in aesthetics in general and in music in particular; the limits of this paper allow me to propose only the following hint: that this interesting change of mind in Schweitzer is probably due to his reading of Hanslick's treatise.

(37.) In the light of the characteristics of the piece (as of the majority of pieces built in Welle) I could not help but spontaneously and intuitively associate the pieces with compositions made for the agility and independency of fingers--in one word, with etudes for the betterment of the beginning pianists technique. Here, as much as there, the composition is constituted by the repetition of the same rhythmic structure and the same organization of notes, and by constant though slight variations of harmony. For instance, it is in my opinion remarkable how the a minor 16th of Pozzoli's etudes of "average difficulty," if played slower than it would be required, can appear to have the same aura as some Glass' pieces. It could be observed that the intention underlying the two pieces is different: on one hand music is a means in order for fingers to be able to play other music, on the other hand music as end in itself (and the end of playing etudes). But this observation is irrelevant, for it falls into the mistake of considering an empirical element (the intention of the composer) as a hermeneutic principle for understanding a music. After all, if this inference were correct, no pieces composed as exercises could be worthy to be played in a concert, and no sonatas could be used as exercises in order to play other sonatas. The falseness of these two statements is proven not only by practice, but also by the practical purpose of many of Bach's compositions for keyboard (although Ubung in this case means more divertissement than exercise: cf Schweitzer, 1905: 185; 1948: 297) and by the "easy" Sonatas by Beethoven in g minor Op. 49 n. 1 and in G major Op. 49 n. 2.

(38.) In other words the "sense" must not be reduced to the components, the organization, the internal relations, the physical and acoustical evaluation of the music.

(39.) Moreover in this case the "sense" would be as fully conceptualizable as any other results of scientific analysis of the specific music--for any result concurs with the determination of the idiosyncrasy and individuality of the specific music. But the possibility of conceptualization is the thesis this argumentation intends to negate.

(40.) In other words it is question of seeking a mediation between the two limited sources of conceptualization of the "sense", being on one side the subjective psychological position (its limitation consists in its arbitrariness and contingency) and the objective scientific position (its limitation consists in the fact that the whole operation conducted here started from the hypothesis ad absurdum that a not-merely-formalistic "sense" is there). This mediation should neither be the subject, nor the music. Hence it can only be the non-conceptual translation of this music (in our case the Welle form of musical writing) in another medium, so that in this translation the "sense" could be grasped in and as its analogical representation.

(41.) This specification is fundamental, rightly in the light of the peculiar nature of the musical "language." If a conceptualization is needed, that it is necessary to refer to a kind of art characterized by a more direct relationship with concepts--which is not the case with music. Moreover, it would be simply absurd to imagine a music that uses another music for its own constitution.

(42.) In order for an analogy between two elements to be built, it is required that the forms, the laws of unity of the two elements are identical. In this case the two elements are the music and its function in another work of art. The analogy between them is built on the identity of the form of both elements as belonging to the category "work of art," as specific ways of construction of analogical representation.

(43.) Hence if previously the empirical elements must have seen through the mirror of their form (the Welle), this time it is the form of musical writing to be seen through the mirror of its artistic use.

(44.) This operation seems to be incoherent: if the "sense" of a music cannot be conceptualized directly, but only indirectly through the reference to an artistic use of the music, then shouldn't also this "artistic use" (the soundtrack) of the music known only indirectly, via the reference to an artistic use of the artistic use? Coherence seems to imply a regressio ab infinitum. But this criticism is incorrect: the analysis of the artistic use of a form of music as a mode to have an indirect access to its "sense" does not coincide with the attempt to determine the "sense" of the artistic creation where this artistic use takes place. These are two different operations: on one hand it is the attempt to conceptualize the "sense" of a form of artistic creation (the Welle form of composition) in the light of the presence of this form within another artistic creation; on the other hand it is the attempt to conceptualize the "sense" of an artistic, empirical creation. In the first case the reference to the second artistic creation is limited to an aspect of it (the soundtrack of a film, not the "sense" of this film), in the second case there is no second artistic creation, and there is not a limited aspect of its assumption (it is the case of the "sense" of this film).

(45.) Cf Potter, Gann and Sion, 2013, for minimalism in general; and Kostelanetz, 1997 (especially part three) for Glass.

(46.) In this case I do not analyze a specific scene, but the whole movie--given that the Welle is a constant element of the entire soundtrack.

(47.) Cf. Mann, 1953: 767-768.

(48.) Cf. supra, [section] I.

(49.) Cf. Schweitzer, 1905: 341-400; 1948: 450-508.

(50.) For this reason the not-merely-formalistic "sense" of music is and should always be in inverted commas; cf. supra, [section] I.

(51.) I develop this argument in the following paper "Music, Wandering and the Limit of Any Method. On Music's Sense: Second Movement," published in this issue of Knowledge Cultures.


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Author:Vestrucci, Andrea
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Date:May 1, 2015
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