...Such disagreements grew from deeper ones over whether the art [music] was to be valued for its emotional power, its sensuousness, its manipulation of abstract forms, or its enactment of "improving" ethical values. (Harold Love, How Music Created A Public)
Dipping my toes into some pretty heavy stuff at the moment, thinking about the place of music in the space of the public sphere, and further to that the role music criticism might play. Reading Love's historical account of the very emergence of a musical public (ie. a public that exists solely because of their love for music, to play or listen, which has not always existed but is actually a fairly recent phenomenon, roughly overlapping with the eighteenth century development of the literary public sphere) and I came across this quote, in which he is talking about the elements of debate that occurred between the musical public back then, and I come to realise that the mode (for want of a better term) of music is something that has been fretted over long before I came along, in fact ever since it emerged as a relatively autonomous sphere. Because to bring it back to the personal, I've been thinking a lot lately about exactly where music fits in for me, and I find myself moving closer and closer to an aesthetic, emotional connection or conception (that in my view links up with traditionally literary criticism centred on thematic insight), no matter how hard I try to politicise, economise, socialise the whole bloody thing. I'm not sure it's a necessarily bad thing, although I would like to devise a way of rejoining the aesthetic and social that is not through the moral or the personal, if that makes sense. I guess it might come through the affective, or possibly through a renewed 'textual' analysis that posits larger things within the text itself, (to paraphrase Barbara Johnson, herself speaking for Derrida, 'when one hears (or plays), we always hear more than (or less than, or other than) one thinks').
Nevertheless, it's comforting, and also somewhat annoying (in that it hasn't been sorted out) to know that these sorts of problems have been going on since wayyy back. And of course different positions are of course themselves submerged 'ideologies' - matters of taste are always far more than just that. Which one to choose?
manipulation of abstract forms
enactment of 'improving' ethical values
But of course - it's not so much a question of style (music outwards) but taste (listener musicwards). And yet is this demarcation itself something worthwhile, or is it itself a kind of ideological (discursive?) operation (see Adorno's typology of listeners...)? Nevertheless, do we still tend to privilege a particular mode of listening in the everyday?