Spinoza and Musical Power

Thompson, Marie (2019) Spinoza and Musical Power. Textual Practice, 33 (5). pp. 803-820. ISSN 0950-236X

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2019.1581686

Spinoza and Musical Power

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In recent years there has been a growing body of scholarship that seeks to use Spinozist concepts to theorize musical experience. However, very little of Spinoza’s work explicitly considers music. In one of the few places in which musical experience is discussed in Spinoza’s Ethics, it is used as a means of exemplifying the ways in which an entity, in itself, is not ‘good or evil’: it is neither, or both, depending on the relations into which it enters with other bodies. Drawing upon Spinzoa’s remarks, in this article, I consider what a Spinozist theory of musical power might entail. I argue that the particular, immanent and materialist notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that can be found in Spinoza’s work and are exemplified via music, enable a departure from both ‘aesthetic moralism’ and ‘aesthetic relativism’. With reference to contemporary discourses of musical violence, as well as Pauline Oliveros’ praxis of Deep Listening, I assert that Spinoza makes space for music’s ethico-affective ambivalence. Drawing attention to Spinoza’s citation of deaf experiences of music, I also consider the extent to which a Spinozist model of musical power allows for ‘auraldiversity’. In doing so, I aim to demonstrate the ways in which musical experience might exemplify some of the key tenets of Spinoza’s thought.

Keywords:Spinoza, Music, Affect, Bodies, Sonic knowledge
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W350 Musicology
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:33095
Deposited On:06 Sep 2018 15:01

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