Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Meaning of Music

I am reading The Glass Bead Game now. Ille, whom I had a lovely breakfast that turned into lunch recommended it. Ille is a pretty special person, and a scientist. She loves exactly one opera, Salome, the opera that was based on Oscar Wilde's play. And she loves exactly one book of fiction, The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. She says she reads it over and over again and every time she gets something new. So I ordered it off Kinokuniya (did you know they don't have it and it took more than two weeks for this book to come? For shame!) and am now in the middle of the introduction. I found the following passage which I am sure is fictional (Hesse interspersed real history with invented history) but I loved it so much I thought I would put it here This is apparently from the chapter on music by Lu Bu We's Spring and Autumn:

The origins of music lie far back in the past. Music arises from Measure and is rooted in the great Oneness. The great Oneness begets two poles; the two poles beget the power of Darkness and of Light.

When the world is at peace, when all things are tranquil and all men obey their superiors in all their courses, then music can be perfected. When desires and passions do not turn into wrongful paths, music can be perfected. Perfect music has its cause. It arises from equilibrium. Equilibrium arises from righteousness, and righteousness arises from the meaning of the cosmos. Therefore one can speak about music only with a man who has perceived the meaning of the cosmos.

Music is founded on the harmony between heaven and earth, on the concord of obscurity and brightness.

Decaying states and men ripe for doom do not, of course, lack music either, but their music is not serene. Therefore, the more tempestuous the music, the more doleful are the people, the more imperilled the country, the more the sovereign declines. In this way the essence of music is lost.

What all sacred sovereigns have loved in music was its serenity. The tyrants Giae and Jou Sin made tempestuous music. They thought loud sounds beautiful and massed effects interesting. They strove for new and rare tonal effects, for notes which no ear had ever heard hitherto. They sought to surpass each other, and overstepped all bounds.

The cause of the degeneration of the Chu state was its invention of magic music. Such music is indeed tempestuous enough, but in truth it has departed from the essence of music. Because it has departed from the essence of real music, this music is not serene. If music is not serene, the people grumble and life is deranged. All this arises from mistaking the nature of music and seeking only tempestuous tonal effects.

Therefore the music of a well-ordered age is calm and cheerful, and so is its government. The music of a restive age is excited and fierce, and its government is perverted. The music of a decaying state is sentimental and sad, and its government is imperilled.

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