AN EXAMINATION OF DAVID THOREAU’S MODERNIST UNDERSTANDING OF MUSIC

AN EXAMINATION OF DAVID THOREAU’S MODERNIST UNDERSTANDING OF MUSIC

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ABSTRACT

An often cited definition of music is that it is an “organized sound”. Most contemporary music are often associated with loss of vitality, soul and ability to evoke emotions and aesthetic experience. The study investigates David Thoreau’s modernist understanding of music with the aim of identifying whether his concept of music differs immensely from the conventional understanding of music in the 19th century. The work reveals the stylistic and aesthetic features of music from Thoreau’s perspective and concludes that modern music composers have to attach themselves to nature and free their minds from mundane things such as passion of the flesh in order to be able to purify their minds which makes for the possibility of receiving natural sounds and hearing nature’s rhythm anytime, anywhere. The work further analyses the angle of music composition with all its technicality and the ones produced by nature in order to determine the plausibility of Thoreau’s theorizing.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

1.1      Background of Study

Aesthetics ought to be present at all time in music and other works of art in order to help project the beauty of such work for universal acceptance and appreciation as well as the ability and capacity to evoke aesthetic experience in the mind of the perceiver. However, as a result of pluralistic issues such as detachment from nature and the Universal Divine (God), inability to purify the soul, misinterpretation of the concept and essence of music, misunderstanding of the meta-empirical facts underpinning music and so on, limits the meaning, essence as well as the aesthetics in music.

These issues rekindles our urge to detain this topic in the axiological clinic for the purpose of giving it the necessary injection in order to correct the ills and restore its loss vitality for the purpose of commanding universal acceptance and appreciation. Many modern composers’ attention have been swerved by other issues which concerns itself with the expected ends and considerations. Democratization for example has greatly affected music because the patronage has now shifted from the few to many. The average musician of today cannot compose without considering the negative interest of the majority because he looks for his support to the people at large and so has to keep in good relation, and so limits the modern composers to composing that which pleases the majority without considering the ethical part of it in terms of the languages applied in such music composition.

Modernist understanding of music is a vital topic whose insight provides us locusts of reflection into the beauty of nature taken to be the trailblazing point of everything in the world. It automatically becomes a subject of frictional and professional debate among scholars. Therefore, the significant issues addressed in this work include the following.

i.                    Music as natural sound.

ii.                 Can nature produce sounds that could be regarded as music?

iii.               Is there artificial sound in natural sound? Or can natural sounds be penetrated?

iv.               What are the requirements to hear nature’s music?

v.                  Do nature’s music have effects on attentive listeners?

vi.               Is music a cognitive enterprise?

1.2       Statement of the Research Problem

            Music as a concept has imported controversies among scholars and musicologists in the realm of art. It is generally regarded as “an organized sound”. The problem in this axiological issue of music is on whether nature’s music can be accepted and appreciated without modification and arrangement, and whether there is any kind of musical composition that is completely detached from cognitive process, deliberation and intention. This issue has always been debated for long and this work shall examine the view of David Thoreau on Modernist Understanding of Music and also attempt proffering a solution to the problem.

1.3       Aim and Purpose of Study

The purpose of this work is to do an examination of David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music. In the course of this examination, much emphasis shall be laid on music as a natural sound and as a cognitive enterprise. The arguments for and against shall be considered. Thus, it is the aim of this work to:

1.      discuss music as an art.

2.      examine David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music.

3.      do a review of other related literature on music

4.      do an evaluation of David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music.

1.4       Justification of the Study

This work is researchable because music as a concept is an art which sweetens and harmonizes existence and is as well open for appreciation and perception by all living beings since it has the ability of evoking aesthetic experience and unifying people in the world and most importantly can shape the morality of the nation by virtue of its positive message strength. Therefore, it would be worth researching and examining David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music because it would give us a basis for the very first step to take and other important issues to acknowledge in order to achieve a good music whose aesthetics is intact and can be universally accepted and appreciated.

1.5       Significance of the Study

The relevance of this work is that it would enable people to understand what music entails and what composers needs to observe in order to achieve a good music worthy of appreciation. Also, it would give a strong ground on whether David Thoreau’s view is tenable or not. Thus, the significance of this research is that;

1.      It shall enlighten people on the concept of music.

2.      It shall enable people to know the right steps to take in composing music.

3.      It shall enable people to know the right state to situate oneself in order to achieve a good composition.

4.      It shall enlighten people on the metaphysical underpinnings of music.

5.      It shall proffer solution to the problem of modern music which is lack of sustainability and inability to evoke emotions and aesthetic experience.

6.      It shall enable us to know how to fuse nature’s sound for harmonization.

7.      It shall reflect on the philosophical import of the concept of music in existence.

1.6       Method of Study

Based on the topic of this work “David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music: An Examination”, it would be worth stating that the means through which I intend to carry out this research work is by consulting the primary works of David Thoreau both in the library and on internet. Also, a review of other related literatures on the concept of music and aesthetics shall be carried out so as to examine David Thoreau’s view properly

 

1.7       Scope of the Study

This research work seeks to examine David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music. It would be worth stating that the aim of this work is not to examine the entire philosophy, rather it is only an examination of David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music.

1.8       Organization of the Study

This research work is divided into four chapters, chapter one shall lay emphasis on the background of study and also give an insight into the background of David Thoreau and explication of terms. Chapter two shall deal with review of related literatures on music and aesthetics, and chapter three shall focus on an examination of David Thoreau’s Modernist Understanding of Music. The last chapter, chapter four shall deal with the evaluation and conclusion of the research work.

1.9       Clarification of Key Terms

1.9.1   What is Music?

Corroborating Clifton in his work Music as Heard, ‘Music is an ordered arrangement of sounds and silence whose meaning is “presentative”  rather than denotative” (Clifton 1). Igor Stravinsky, the most prominent composer to defend the modernist idea of musical anatomy submits that “when a composer creates music, the only relevant thing is his apprehension of the contour of the form, for the form is everything. He can say nothing whatever about meaning” (Stravinsky 115). In the above explanation offered by Stravinsky, contour simply refers to the way in which the pitch of music or the pattern of tone varies.

            Music is concerned with the question of aesthetics which according to Idang “is a philosophical study of art and of value judgment about art and of beauty in general” (Idang 77). Onwuekwe in his work A New Comprehensive Rudiments and Theory of Music, defines music as the art of combining different sounds in a manner agreeable to the ear. It is the art of combining sounds or tones for reproduction by the voice or by the various kind of musical instruments in rhythmical, melodic and harmonic forms to affect the emotion (2). 

            Levinson, whose goal is to define music as an art, proposes that music is “sounds temporally organized by a person for the purpose of enriching or intensifying experience through active engagement (e.g. listening, dancing performing) with the sounds regarded primarily, or in significant measure as sounds” (273). Kania in his work Silent Music, proposes his own definition thus: “music is (1) any event intentionally produced or organized (2) to be heard, and (3) either (a) to have some basic musical features, such as pitch or rhythm, or (b) to be listened to for such features” (12). However, for the work of art to be called music, it must posses what is referred to as melody which according to Machlis and Forney is ‘a coherent succession of single pitches” (14). Luciano Berio viewed music “as everything one listens to with the intention of listening to music and vary from person to person according to their experience and proclivities” (19).

1.10    Background of David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, to John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar. He was the third of four children named after a recently paternal uncle, David Thoreau. He attended Harvard college, where he studied Latin and Greek grammar and composition, and took classes in a wide variety of subjects, including Mathematics, English, History, Philosophy and four different modern languages. During his Harvard years, he was exposed to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who later became his chief mentor and friend. In 1845, Thoreau built a small home for himself on Walden pond, on property owned by Emerson. He spent more than two years there. He wrote literary works. He worked on A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). The book drew from a boating with his brother John in 1839. He also wrote a work known as Walden or Life in the Woods, and other journals such as Winter Walk, Maine Woods and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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