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Nonetheless, Kivy , thinks that there is something significant in the connection between music and ethics in the fact that one might be enthralled with a piece of music while ghastly murders are taking place in front of one. If all he means is that Bach does not automatically, unconditionally, or necessarily engender a love of humanity, then what he says would be plausible indeed. It is difficult to imagine anyone disagreeing with this.

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The correlated judgment would be that music is not an irresistible moral force; music—the right kind of music—does not always and invariably compel the good. Again, it is difficult to think anybody would disagree with this. But Kivy is not making this trite and obvious claim; he is saying that music is not a moral force in the world at all.

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We do not examine the claim that music must make one a better person. This claim is obviously false. Kathleen Higgins [] describes the connection between music and ethics more sensibly. The moral effect of music might alternatively lie in its social effects, for example, in the relations of sociality it engenders or facilitates: in its capacity to bring people together or drive them into isolation.

The I-Thou relation on which human society is built has no place on the disco dance floor. A further possibility is that music has a cognitive moral effect. Corbussen and Nielsen put it this way.

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The idea that music can convey cognitive insight, or that it can be representational, and so may be profound in some way for that reason, is something that some philosophers e. The denial is based on claims of the representational poverty of music itself. The cognitive content of a musical performance, one might say, depends on nonmusical usually textual elements integrated into the performance.

Does the moral force of gospel music, for example, depend on the words?

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Or does the musical setting add something that the words alone could not convey? Indeed, cognitive content might be wholly determined by the representational qualities of a text, in which case musical accompaniment has no cognitive contribution of its own to make. We argue that this is much too simple a view of matters. More remarkable than the denial that music is capable of conveying cognitive truths is the view, also held by Kivy , , that music is incapable of conveying emotion.

This claim, as we will see, suggests a prior set of assumptions at work. When well-read and thoughtful philosophers make claims that seem obviously false—such as the claim that music, by itself, does not convey emotions—it is necessary to trace those claims back to a set of strong assumptions driving the thought. It does indeed seem very strange to deny that music can convey emotion see Budd b. For one thing about music that does seem clear is its emotional power, and apart from its ability to move us literally, as in dance, and figuratively, as in emotional engagement , we would very probably live in a world largely devoid of music.

However we conceive of the moral relevance of music, the issue may appear to be largely empirical. In our discussion we attempt to show this to be only partly true and that empirical findings do not, and cannot, address the most significant aspects—conceptual aspects—of the issue. This is not meant to disparage empirically discoverable connections or hypothesized connections between music and ethics.

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Our aim is to make a conceptual case for the mildly interesting view and the claims about music and the reception of music that support it. The essay is divided into five sections. In the second section, we examine the relationship between music and value; in the third section, the relationship between music and ethical cognition. The fourth section examines claims of the relationship between music and moral affect, and in the fifth section we take a look at the skeptical view that music and ethics have nothing to do with each other.

Ethics is concerned with both a theory of the good and a theory of the right. It is concerned with goodness and value What is good or valuable, and why? Therefore any discussion of the value of music will in part also be about the relation of music to ethics. Other such questions are: Can music, whether listening or performing, enhance well-being, happiness, or goodness? More strongly, is it essential to the good life? Clearly music may be extrinsically or instrumentally valuable—which is not to deny that it may at times be harmful.

Music might have moral instrumental value or nonmoral instrumental value. Music, on this view, might be a functional promoter or detractor. If it seems clear that music is instrumentally valuable in some way or another, it is less clear that it is intrinsically valuable. What does it mean to say that music is intrinsically valuable?

In one view, to say music is intrinsically valuable is to say that the experiences obtained from listening to music, and only obtainable from music, are valuable in and of themselves. Kieran , quotes Malcolm Budd to illustrate the idea:. If we value a work instrumentally, it is merely a contingent means to a particular end … intrinsic value in a work is to appreciate the imaginative experience it properly affords, which may be beautiful, moving, uplifting, pleasurable, insightful or profound.

But it is the particular nature of the work that guides our active mental engagement and responses to it. Hence there is something about the experience of a particular work, if it is intrinsically valuable, that cannot be replaced by any other. In this view there are two components to the claim that music is intrinsically valuable: it is the experience of listening that is valued, and it is not valued for some good that could be got by other means.

One may wonder what it is about the experience of a particular work that one could not possibly get from any other. But must we suppose that the same kind of experience emotions, imaginative flights, ruminations, cognitive insight, and reflection that the song gives rise to is otherwise unattainable? The idea must be that it is the experience of the performance itself that is valued; other experiences might have a similar effect on us, but they are not the same because they are not experiences of the same performance. If one can make sense of this uniqueness claim, then why not suppose it is something true of all artworks and not just artworks?

Why not suppose that all are intrinsically valuable in the sense of being necessary to the particular experience at hand? If we value a unique experience of listening itself and not qualities of the listening that could be replicated, then why is one listening better than another? To answer that question we would normally appeal to some quality of the thing we are listening to.


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But qualities can be replicated, and citing value in them undermines the uniqueness thesis. Alternatively, one might hold that intrinsic value is fundamentally an honorific title, one that hides or discounts the instrumental value of the thing in question and does so largely on ideological grounds. In this view, all artistic value, including the experience of music, the pleasure it may bring, is best understood as having instrumental value—even when that value can only be obtained by means of experiencing some particular thing such as a work of music.

Kieran agrees with Stecker , who claims that the value of artworks, including music, is instrumental rather than intrinsic. Nonetheless, the value of art must be cashed out in terms of the ends realized. Thus the inherent value of art is a distinct form of instrumental value [emphasis added]. A song is valuable if its experience does some good for a listener. It need not, for example, be the good of pleasure, pure and simple; it might involve the good of taking a certain kind of pleasure in a certain kind of listening: listening to a certain kind of song, sung in a certain kind of way, to a certain effect.

The question about the relationship between music and ethics has, at least in the first instance, less to do with the nature of ethics than with that of music. It is connected, directly and indirectly, to other central issues in the philosophy of music. These include questions about musical profundity. Can music be profound, and what is meant by the claim that it can, or cannot, be? Even more general questions about the nature of music almost immediately come to the fore. Does or can music convey ideas? In asking about the connection between ethics and music, should only absolute music be considered, or should music in any and all of its varieties, music with words and narrative, staging and moving images—songs and opera and film, for example—also be considered?

Kivy thinks that interesting questions about the connection between music and ethics only arise for absolute music. This is because once any kind of representation is introduced—a narrative, for example—it is easy to see a connection with ethics. The connection is made through the text. If a musical piece is accompanied by lyrics making ethical assertions, or even arguments, then of course such music is ethically charged—not by the music itself, as Kivy sees it, but by the accompanying text.

The reason one might think that music does not convey ideas is that it lacks obvious semantic content. Consider film music. Film music often plays a representational function; it can, for example, tell us that a protagonist is in danger. It need not just induce a generic anxiety in the audience though it can of course, also do that ; it can alert the audience in a straightforward and unambiguous way of a danger not yet revealed. It can also mislead an audience, signaling danger when there is none. By itself film music does little of this, but in company with the moving image, it is plainly representational.

There is something troubling about restricting attention to absolute music. So much music is not absolute, so why should we limit ourselves to pondering the moral qualities of absolute music? If we want to know whether music can make us better persons morally speaking, then why not consider music as it is experienced, as integrated with representational and narrative aspects?

This leads to a second point.

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Is it always possible to divorce the narrative component of a musical work from the absolutely musical part without altering the musical work itself? Aaron Ridley spends a good deal of time arguing that it does. The poem put to music or lyrics of a song are part of the music itself. Neither the lyrics nor the song is the same independent of one another. Thus, Ridley , 86 argues:. Songs are not a hybrid of words and music. They are a kind of music—one that includes words.

Words are not just musical in their own right; music can add to the meaning of words—can alter or transform them and imbue them with new significance and meaning. Music can alter the force of a text: the way it is to be interpreted. It can turn a question into a rhetorical question; praise into sarcasm; a slight story into a philosophical tour de force.

Much of it is in the libretto, which is a reworking of a medieval German poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach. But not all of it is in the libretto, and it is not only in the libretto. One is a matter of generalization. This is to be a story of the fundamental condition of humanity, not just a story about a pure fool and a fallen knight with a wound that will not heal.

Wagner uses music to signal the gravity and significance of the staged events and thus contributes to the idea of its generalization into a claim about the human condition. Imagine the libretto of Parsifal set to music by Arthur Sullivan. For most of the opera, the music is, as it were, undriven. Parsifal proceeds with a calm and very slow deliberation, as if unfolding spontaneously from inside.


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  6. One would not absorb this idea by listening to the opera without understanding the libretto. But it is doubtful that one would come to fully understand or appreciate it by reading the libretto alone, either. Perhaps music cannot convey moral thought without a supporting framework, but it is often more than a contentless accompaniment to vehicles of thought. It is, or can be, a part of the vehicle. Music can be grave or jaunty Levinson b ; it can be dramatically referential, as in leitmotifs; it can be propulsive or undriven.

    Ajam is a word with various meanings and interpretations. It is commonly recognised as a historic name for Farsi speaking people. There are numerous reasons as to why Ajam was chosen as the name of this musical project. In many historic and contemporary conflicts, Ajam, much like many other terms relating ethnicity, has been used as a politically fueled word to rile tensions and breed animosity.

    He was just another brilliant addition to the band. Lots of people did.

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    Especially people of my age. So she came and lived with us in the studio and we hung out and ate meals together. Maybe not. She was very different than me. She was much more sophisticated, elegant and beautifully dressed. She was all the things people think I am and Anita really was. She also reflected on herself by refiguring some of her own songs. On one of them, she revisited her creative renaissance, when she released Broken English. So she tried it again, and the version on Negative Capability is softer, folkier and more measured. She was 17 at the time. But if it seemed to mean something different when she was 40, the song is a whole other beast at I hope they like the new version.


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