Music – the highest form of art?

WE R FSTVL is putting Upminster on the map and I thought I’d try and pour some philosophical wisdom over the wonders of music. I must admit, my ear is not well attuned to any aspect of music; harmonies, rhythms or timbers – I know what they are, but not with the technical attention of a trained or experienced musician – no way.

What I am focusing on here, rather than the way in which music is structured are some of the key questions behind the philosophy of music; what the relationship between music and mind is and what the connection between music and emotions are.

A cheery German guy called Schropenhauer acclaimed that “music is the highest form of art”. This is largely due to the way people ‘get lost’ in music by neglecting the ‘business of life’ that we are often consumed by, suffering at the perils of the will.

The mind, our minds can be a bit of a monster from time to time, hindering rather than helping us, it can pull us all over the place. The mind is powerful enough to create and reinforce bad habits, negative patterns of behaviours and the seed of aggression can all be traced back to singular thoughts that one time occurred in the mind and snowballed into a complex web of  validating subsidiary thoughts. What a mess our minds are – music takes us out of ourselves, out of this never ending train of thought and commentary.

Music is ‘auditory cheesecake’ according to Steven Pinker and the notion of aesthetics, which musical philosophy falls under, is concerned with the sensory experience an individual enjoys. Music has the ability to both express and affect emotion. Has a song ever made you cry? Made your skin tingle? Put you in a better mood? Got you pumped for some activity? Similarly, have you ever watched a film momentarily without the sound on and thought – probably unconsciously, ‘well this is a bit…flat!’

Obviously in films there is rarely silence with people talking and various other types of action going on, but what would Jaws be without the ‘der der’. And how about the screeching from the Scream thriller – scary right?

It expresses exactly what words or visuals can’t express and it affects us suitably too, my examples are of music that elicit fear, but there are many others for the whole spectrum of human emotions that we, as human beings, enjoy and sometimes do not enjoy! There is this one song that I know if I put on, crying and a deep sense of sadness follow almost immediately – so I avoid it like the plague, but music can also ease loneliness and even incite our passions.

It got me thinking about why WE R FSTVL was so good; it’s about people coming together for the celebration of music to express themselves and tune into their feel good emotions; love, happiness and freedom. These are the intangible things that we all crave to see reflected back at us in our everyday life, and on this day – they very much were.


Photo credits

BlackBerry Images: Pink Glitter Kicks

Gerado Lazzari: Creamfields Brazil

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