Spinoza and musical power

Thompson, Marie (2017) Spinoza and musical power. In: Spinoza's Artes, 11 August 2017, University of Sydney.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Keynote)
Item Status:Live Archive


In this paper, I wish to use a Spinozist framework to pursue a particular understanding of musical power. To talk of the power of music risks evoking romantic imaginations of music’s capacity to traverse cultural boundaries and to inexplicably move us. Contrary to many of these dominant tropes, the philosophy of Spinoza provides a way of understanding musical power that neither mystifies it nor simply resorts to subjectivism. Musical power has also been understood apropos of political institutions; as well as music’s ability to transmit ideologies. While Spinoza does not necessarily require us to depart with such understandings of musical power, the (materialist) notion of power I wish to develop here is primarily framed in relation to the body and its capacities.

I begin by differating musicological discourses of ‘good and bad’, which pertain to aesthetic value judgements; from a Spinozist ‘good and bad’, which are descriptors of a particular power relation between entities. I then hope to exemplify how Spinoza’s notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ might be applied to musical experience. I will discuss Pauline Oliveros’ notion of Deep Listening, which employs listening as a means of gaining knowledge about the body and its relations. In doing so, I hope to show how Spinoza’s thought might be useful for understanding musical experience, while also showing how musical experience might exemplify Spinozist thought.

Keywords:spinoza, music, power, affect
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W300 Music
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
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ID Code:29978
Deposited On:12 Mar 2018 14:36

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