Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Consider non-representative musical expression. It is a sphere where the thing stated cannot be distinguished from the manner of stating it. In this sense and in this sense only, music has, strictly speaking, no meaning, but perhaps just because it is meaning. Explore this.

The fact is that we introduce a relation into the heart of the music, a relation between the content expressed (?) and the expression, which is of the same type as that which joins the expression to the execution. But this is an illegitimate transference. From this point of view the idea of objective music takes on a meaning, but it is a negative meaning.

But is the term 'expression* really one that can still be used with regard to music? Could there really still be expression when we can no longer speak of content expressed a content distinct from the expression itself? I think the notion of essence, anyhow so difficult to define, might be introduced here. There is an essence of Schubert, of the later Beethoven, of the later Fauré, etc. The expression would then be the opening-up of the essence to itself. I believe this is the idea to be explored. Combine the idea of essence with the idea of universe. The essence regarded as the highest point of a certain universe. It is almost impossible here to make abstraction from the metaphor of 'the summit', and this is the metaphor whose roots could usefully be laid bare. The idea of'the summit* could perhaps be replaced by that of 'the centre. In both cases there is a periphery, or to put it more accurately, precincts (zones of encroachment).

Gabriel Marcel, A Metaphysical Diary (1928-1933), tr. Katharine Farrer (1949)
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