Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What Touches Us in Music?

What touches us in music or any of the other arts? Is this phrase a simple metaphor, or does it directly express a quality of our experience of music? For Jean-Luc Nancy, touching is a primordial way of experiencing the plurality of beings at the source of Being. He writes, "Being in touch with ourselves is what makes us 'us,' and there is no other secret to discover buried behind this very touching, behind the 'with' of coexistence" (Being Singular Plural, p. 13). For Nancy, any of the arts represent "the exposition of an access, concealed in its own opening"(p. 14). An access to what? Not to an Other exactly. To an orginal plurality? Nancy elaborates:

Art always has to do with cosmogeny, but it exposes cosmogeny for what it is: necessarily plural, diffracted, discreet, a touch of color or tone, an agile turn of phrase or folded mass, a radiance, a scent, a song, or a suspended movement, exactly because it is the birth of a world (and not the construction of a system). A world is always as many worlds as it takes to make a world.

(pp. 14-15).

That says a lot. What can we make of the expression the world of so-and-so, e.g. the world of John Coltrane? Aren't there an multitude of worlds wrapped up in the world of Coltrane? When I say Coltrane's music touches me, is that the equivalent of being in Coltrane's world? And when I'm playing under the influence of Coltrane, not the system of Coltrane changes, but the sound of Coltrane, Coltrane's world, then where does my world end? Does it end where I can't go? I can go all kinds of places. I'm touched by all kinds of music. Yet still there are places I can't go. I know I can't go somewhere when it feels like an effort. Is having a world generally effortless? Is it only giving birth to a world that strains our abilities? Are we perpetually creating our world in one way or another? Is this what touches us in music?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:27 AM.


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