If you put music and science together you get neuroasthetics. Or musicology. Standing on the lowest step of the modern school of knowledge, being an undergraduate at a university, I wanted to find out how full-grown academics choose their particular perspectives in putting man and music together. After an interesting conversation with my friend, the neuroscientist, I went to musicology class with my ears wide open.
Our professor smiled at us. It was kind of an evil smile.
“Nothing you find in literature is true. You cannot even trust a composer when he talks about his own pieces.”
“So why are we doing all this? Reading, writing, discussing…” Somebody asked.
“Because thinking is fun. And so is thinking about the thoughts of others.”
There it was again, the academic passion.
“That’s why you’re doing what you do, that is why you are musicologist?” I asked. I didn’t ask: That’s why you spend your life reading texts, writing new ones that don’t tell the truth, which are read by other musicologists who then once more use those to write new texts…
“Amongst other things, yes. But it’s not only about reading and writing texts. It’s about knowledge. Music can reveal so much about ourselves, about manhood.”
“Yes!…” At this moment, musical passion gained upper hand. ”But isn’t it true, that music tells us most in the moment of actually expressing, of the actual performance? In the moment it sounds. So why should we write texts about it, which pretend to capture this expressivity, texts which are lying?”
“Nobody is lying. But indeed, there is a certain gap between the performance of a piece and the things that people might say or write about it afterwards. This is mainly because of multiperspectivity. No perspective is absolute, not even the composer’s one. And this is wonderful! Musicology takes this gap and uses it. We look at controversies, expectations, the meaning of music for the people at particular times… But then, however, there are some aspects of the music itself that we can deal with in quite an objective way. And these aspects become really interesting if you leave the purely asthetic dispute and put them into a broader context. Structure for example. The structure of music can reveal a lot about the structure of thinking of a time period. It even can be highly political while having purely asthetic intentions.”
“…like the atonal music with its idea of equality of all notes, which developed parallel to modern democracy.”
“One might say so – at least from our current perspective…” The evil smile flitted across her face and then she got serious. “If you asked me for the reason of my choice of profession, I would tell you that dealing with music has to offer a knowledge of the world, that nothing else could to this extend. It can in the end help to understand more and more what we actually are.”
Explaining manhood. I knew this urge from somewhere. I thought about giving her the number of my friend, the neuroscientist. Maybe they could cook a nice soup together.