[SydPhil] Elective Affinities: sounding, moving forms- music according to Hanslick. Thursday September 25 - 6.30 pm

Goetz Richter goetz.richter at sydney.edu.au
Wed Sep 24 19:10:54 AEST 2014

Elective Affinities: Sounding, moving forms. Philosophy and Music According to Hanslick.
Sydney Conservatorium. Thursday, September 25 – 6.30 pm<x-apple-data-detectors://0>
Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium – Macquarie Street, Sydney
Goetz Richter, violin | Jeanell Carrigan, piano
Music by Schubert, Brahms & Schoeck

The 19th century musician, music critic and philosopher of music, Eduard Hanslick generated an ongoing controversy with his rejection of an aesthetics of feeling in his exposition of an understanding of the beautiful in music. Replacing expression as the essential content of music with a formalist conception of music as “sounding, moving form”, Hanslick emphasised that an adequate understanding of musical thought must account for the combination of the intellectual and emotional experience of music. He found an explanation in music as a “contemplation of the imagination” (Nachdenken der Phantasie) and claims music to be a spiritual art. While its intellectual and emotional content is present it also is dependent and perhaps contingent. In the realm of purely instrumental or absolute music Hanslick’s thought still inspires much controversy and confusion today.
This performance explores Hanslick’s thought further through the interpretation of works by Schubert, Brahms and the 20th Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck.  While these works appear to be at the heart of a Hanslickean aesthetics of sounding, moving form, their intense, and often distinctly emotional nature also reflects the Hegelian “subjective inwardness” of music which Hanslick supposedly wished to confront. Using the performance as a reflective foil I will try to outline a brief argument how Hanslick can reconcile such seemingly contradictory approaches to music.

Elective Affinities @ Sydney Conservatorium
The metaphor of Elective Affinities has been most compellingly articulated in 1809 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in a novella with this title (Wahlverwandtschaften). The author describes processes of attraction and separation which transform human relationships and challenge the truth of its participants. The idea originates in 18th century chemistry (and earlier alchemy) where it describes the capacity to establish the identity and truth of physical substances through processes of combination or division. A further extension into the realms of morality and society in the early 20th century leads the founding father of modern sociology, Max Weber, to suggest that elective affinities may not only explain social relationships but provide us with a logic for the social sciences. More recently, the American philosopher of music, Lydia Goehr has used the idea of elective affinities to describe the relationship between philosophy and music and to argue (with Adorno) that philosophy and music stand “in a mutually informing relationship”.

Elective Affinity @ Sydney Conservatorium attempts to constitute an interdisciplinary inquiry into music, aesthetics, art and philosophy. Lead by musician and philosopher Goetz Richter it considers phenomena in their affinity to- or separation from music and its variously related disciplines to advance a differentiated and inclusive, performative understanding of philosophy and music.

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