Somewhere in the second half of 2023 or the 1st half of 2024, a new book by me will be published by The Cambridge Scholars Publishing (UK):
Saving the Muse; Regaining Classical Music’s Relevance in a Troubled World
The book explores the psychological nature of classical music as a genre in relation to modernity, along the axis interiority/exteriority, describing the genre’s nature as increasingly contrasting with the way Western civilization has developed since the Enlightenment. The central argument is, that classical music – with its core repertoire as a product of the past – has become something like a therapeutic cure in terms of emotional experience relating to universal human needs. Various themes are approached from this central idea, including the need to reformulate man’s relationship with the natural environment, and human nature.
The classical music world has been struggling with specific problems since the beginning of the 20th century, but which got more urgent in the last deccennia. The recent epidemic suddenly brought these problems into sharp relief, and on top of this the current war at Europe’s east borders adds to the destabilization of Western societies. The classical music world has come under unprecedented pressures, especially concerning its relevance in the context of the modern world and in relation to some collective, limited interpretations of modernity. The purpose of the book is to address this urgent question and to offer possible solutions for a couple of serious problems; this makes it a must for every professional in the classical music world internationally and for every lover of classical music with an interest in the art form’s nature.
The book is intended to offer ideas and insights which, in these times, are needed by the entire classical music world internationally, also if only to stimulate further thought, to:
– performers and performing bodies (soloists, ensembles, orchestras, opera companies)
– management (staff at orchestras, opera houses, concert halls)
– funding bodies and sponsors
– policy makers related to the concert world
– music journalists
– academia (music faculties at universities, conservatories)
– audiences / music lovers with an interest in the art form’s background and concerns
Outline of the chapters:
Prologue: Birth from trouble
What would be the best way for music life to recover from the impact of the corona pandemic and to deal with the destabilisations in the wake of the Russian/Ukrainian war? Disastrous periods also offer new chances, and force people to think differently, to reconsider their ways. This has happened before. Description of how the Italian Renaissance was born from misery and pestilence: a lesson in constructive reactions to misery, learning from a spirit of renewal. In the Renaissance, a form of humanism was developed and a new relationship with Nature. A different relationship with Nature, including human nature, offers a better understanding of the relevance of classical music in relation to the modern world.
Chapter I: Music as psychology
Music as an ‘education of the emotions‘, ordering the impulses of man’s interior life. The psychological nature of music, and its communicative powers, which define the art form as one of interiority. The difficult relationship of classical music with modernity: music as representing interiority, much of the modern world the opposite: exteriority. Music as ‘therapy’ for the ills resulting from disruptive experiences of modern life and its challenges.
Chapter II: The spiritual roots of classical music
Often forgotten truth: the Western classical tradition was the child of the Christian church. Gradual liberation from religious authority, but something of its spirit remaining, as reflected in performance ritual and theory elite, and the status of performers. The role of the Enlightenment, and the early romantic poets and philosophers with their claim of the spiritual as something independent from organised religion. The numinous in both religion and classical music.
Chapter III: The Western loss of ‘Self’
The development of the scientific world view since the first industrial revolution in the 19th century. The belief in progress spreading-out over all of society, and later into the arts. Progress not merely as an ideal, but as an ideology. The growing split between ‘progressive science and society’ and the practice of the concert world with its core repertoire of ‘old’ works. The erosion of organised religion and the de-spiritualisation, objectification of the world: the numinous withdrawing into the artistic territory: poetry, literature, music, painting. The change in the ‘image of man’: liberation from moral authority, the cultivation of individualism, man as creating his own value systems, the focus on instrumentalisation, efficacy, materialism. Man as an isolated item in an objective, materialist world; man as a free individual, but also uprooted, bereft of deep stimuli. The ‘unmooring’ of the Self, of subjective experience, from the world. De-spiritualization of world and man. The cultivation of Self in music life as a defence reaction.
Chapter IV: Music and Nature
The relationship between the human mind and Nature: the mind as a result of natural evolution and its dynamics as a reflection of those of nature, and the order of the universe. The perception of order answers a natural capacity in the human psyche. Recent research in neurobiology confirming certain embedded patterns of perception which can be related to musical dynamics. Man as part of Nature, and classical music as reflecting this relationship, not only through its emotional effects but also structurally: based upon tonality which is a form of embedded fluid mathematics.
Chapter V: How it was – the last golden age
The modern world as we know it today was born from the period around 1900, both the good and the bad components. Understanding this period throws a light upon the present situation. The freedom and diversity of the arts and their audiences in the period ca. 1880 – 1940. The status of the arts, and of artists, and its gradual erosion during the 20th century, due to the changes in the image of modern man and of the constitution of the modern world. Music life as a culmination of bourgeois culture: Paris and Vienna as focus points. Networks, influences, exchanges, debates about ‘modernity’ and ‘language’. The boilingpot of modernism: Vienna with Wittgenstein, Freud, Schoenberg, Klimt, Loos. The alternative centre: Paris. From this period music life could learn many things that can be of great stimulus for the near future.
Chapter VI: The desert or the mountains
The future of the classical music world: reconsideration of relevance in the context of modernity. Ways of looking at practices: funding, audience, accessibility, education, promotion. The different interpretations of the term ‘modernity’ and the unpicking of prescriptive ideology. The threats undermining understanding of the relevance of the art form. The relationship with Nature, including human nature. Nature as a workable and viable concept in relation to art and music, and the image of man. The forces of renewal within Nature, which are also accessible to humans, because of their being part of Nature. Advices for the various practical problems besetting the concert world. Only when classical music can preserve her value of powerful, natural interiority as a balancing act with modernity, can it maintain her meaning within the context of the modern world.
Chapter VII: The meaning of music?
Conclusion, and envoi: the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein about meaning and language, and their background. The mystery inherent in the art form. Classical music as an important way of understanding the human condition with its universal experiences, in its evanescent temporality.