Schopenhauer essay on noise

For Kant, music's transience and fleeting nature relegates its aesthetic status, as it simply contributes to a play of sensations which is solely cathartic in nature, i.

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In other words, enjoying music is more a matter of sensual pleasure rather than contemplative delight. Herman Parret counters Kant's conclusions on the aesthetic merit of music, claiming that they are reached due to his lack of real understanding of its nature. Among Parret's arguments, the one that I find most convincing is Kant's neglect of the importance of rhythm.

I will explore this idea in more detail later. In addition, Parret asks why Kant cannot accept any harmony of sounds to be considered as forms. One of Kant's ideas about the form is that it is based on mathematical principles.

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However, Parret convincingly contends that this does not sit well with his idea that harmony cannot be considered a form, for surely the whole notion of harmony is itself based on mathematical principles. So, leaving aside Kant's own perception of or, perhaps, prejudices against music, we can nevertheless use his theory to analyze what is happening when I hear feedback. For Kant, this delight occurs because the imagination delights in forming patterns.

While feedback can be formless in the sense that it is often not constrained by the melody that surrounds it, or by the person playing the instrument that is creating it, the imagination can nevertheless lock into it as a series of sounds of different pitches and waveforms and so create a pattern. It is for this reason that a feeling of delight is engendered within me when I hear feedback, as it is a direct manifestation of my imagination playing with the sound.

The understanding then applies the concept of feedback; this allows me to comprehend the phenomenon in terms of a form of sound, and so I hear it as a wailing, screeching, exhilarating sound. An interesting distinction can be made here as to exactly what happens within my mind when I hear feedback. As I said, Kant believed that both the imagination and the understanding are involved. However, to what extent is each element involved when I hear feedback? For example, do I experience pleasure simply because my imagination is in sole charge of affairs and is allowed the freedom to form its own patterns?

That is, my understanding or cognitive powers do not intervene to allow me to make sense of it. The pattern simply occurs through my imagination alone, and is therefore beyond my cognitive control; it is from this that I experience pleasure. Or, alternatively, is it the imagination and the understanding working together that brings about the pleasure?

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That is, it is the cognitive element that allows me to know and make sense of the feedback sound and it is this 'making sense' that brings about the pleasure. The best example I can use to compare these two positions is the song Upside Down by The Jesus and Mary Chain, as it was the first song I heard which contained unbridled guitar feedback as a fundamental component. That said, while the feedback cannot be ignored due to its sheer intensity, it is nevertheless anchored within the song's rhythm structure.

In fact, almost all the music I have heard that involves feedback is fixed to some degree within the confines of a musical composition. In that respect, it would appear that the second interpretation is appropriate, for while I can clearly take delight in hearing the feedback sound in Upside Down , there is nevertheless a melody riding over it and song structure housing it. I would argue that my cognitive powers, or understanding, would clearly lock into this structure and allow me to take pleasure in interpreting the feedback as both belonging to the song and enhancing the song's overall effect.

However, in the case of the Jesus and Mary Chain concert mentioned earlier, the band had left the stage and simply allowed the feedback sound to build up into a cacophony of relentless noise. No actual songs or melodies were being played at this point. All that I was experiencing was pure feedback. In this instance, it could be argued that my imagination might have complete freedom to create its own patterns with the sound, without being hindered by the understanding, as there was no beat or melody that the understanding could grasp and so make sense of the experience.

The same idea could apply if I listened to the feedback sound as an installation art exhibit.

Arthur Schopenhauer - Studies In Pessimism: 8/9, On Noise

Throughout my account, I have often referred to my responses to the sound of feedback. Just as Sibley pointed out that we use various responses to objects of perception that are both aesthetic and non-aesthetic in nature, within the realm of the aesthetic itself there are also different kinds of response. For example, I can comment on the look, feel or sound of an object of perception by using terms like beautiful, elegant, graceful, garish, hideous and so on. However, I can also use terms such as moving, powerful, dynamic, tear-jerking, somber, joyous, etc.

However, simply showing that aesthetic language can encompass emotional language does not explain how those emotions are elicited. In this section, my aim is to provide a tentative explanation about the emotional experience of feedback and how that supports its aesthetic value. While I do not have space in this discussion to examine the various theories that abound on music and emotion, I would nevertheless like to explore the idea of allying the aesthetically holistic thoughts of Sibley with the mental framework outlined by Kant.

Earlier I looked at some ways in which feedback can be considered aesthetically from a Kantian perspective, whereby the feeling of pleasure is created by the imagination alone or through its interplay with the understanding. However, as Sibley rightly argues, aesthetic responses are not confined solely to pleasure, but encompass a huge range of reactions, some of which are clearly emotional in nature.

It would therefore follow that we must look to see what Kant has to say about the emotions in his theory of aesthetics. Unfortunately, we run into problems here, as Kant offers no place at all for emotional responses.

Studies in Pessimism, by Arthur Schopenhauer

They simply belong outside the aesthetic realm. Indeed, music itself actually occupies quite a lowly place in Kant's theory of the aesthetic. But why is this the case? On the face of it, it does appear odd, given music's obvious power to move us. Kant's position is better understood when we recognize his emphasis on form in aesthetic appreciation. Crucial to Kant's theory is the distinction between true aesthetic beauty contemplation of the form , and the agreeable stimulation of the senses. For Kant, music can never be regarded as beautiful, for it has no form upon which to make a judgment of beauty.

So, if I am to employ the ideas of Kant to support my assertion that the emotions are fundamental to the aesthetic response and show how they arise aesthetically, I must show, at the very least, that some of Kant's ideas can be successfully challenged, particularly with regard to emotional responses. In my efforts, I appeal to an idea I introduced earlier: Herman Parret's claim that Kant crucially neglects the importance of rhythm, a concept in which the mind imposes a spatial dimension to a melody.

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Kant was willing to accept that a melody comprised of isolated, pure sounds, not mediated through an instrument, can be thought of as having a form. In that respect, a melody produced by a single human voice would qualify. Consequently, given that rhythm relates directly to movement of the body, it seems that the bodily aspect is fundamental to the aesthetic enjoyment of music. Indeed, this is especially true of the elements of rock music such as feedback.

Once a bodily element like rhythm is shown to be vital for us to appreciate a melody aesthetically in the way Kant believes we do, then we move towards including mentally responsive features that are caused by bodily responses. We may then be able to bring in emotional responses, e.

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I have argued here that music and bodily movement are inextricably linked by the idea of rhythm. However, in forging this link it appears I now find myself at odds with an important element of Kant's aesthetic theory: his distinction between the realms of the beautiful and the simply agreeable that I mentioned earlier. For Kant, this association of music with the body means it must be relegated merely to the realm of what "the senses like in sensation," i. In her paper, "Sniffing and Savouring" , Emily Brady makes a number of strong arguments against Kant's view in relation to bodily sensations, putting forward the case that they can meet his criteria of the proper objects of aesthetic judgment.

First, she argues that, contrary to traditional aesthetic theories, sensations can be disinterested. Disinterestedness is defined as contemplation of an object's aesthetic properties for their own sake rather than for some other interest. She argues that eating and drinking can be enjoyed in this way and not just as a means to satisfy hunger or gluttony.

Second, Brady turns her attention to the traditional aesthetic belief that "tastes and smells lack a mental component considered essential to aesthetic appreciation" given their association with the body in that they lack structure. Third, she contends that Kant is wrong to claim that our appreciation of smells and tastes lacks a mental dimension, making a detailed analysis of an individual's mental sensations arising from tasting ice-cream such as reflecting on the taste, making comparisons, and the memories the taste and smell conjures up.

Fourth, she raises an issue which has a direct bearing on the arguments I put forward later in this paper, that is, the role of emotions in the aesthetic response. Brady argues that smells and tastes regularly involve emotional reactions and provides a number of examples.

While accepting this has some justification, she nevertheless contends that she has shown that there is a degree of reflection and imagination at work when smelling and tasting, and so smells and tastes "can be the subjects of aesthetic appreciation, even if they are not like more traditional objects that sit in galleries. With this in mind, I argue that bodily sensations cannot be simply agreeable, as Kant would have it.

However, I remain broadly sympathetic to his views concerning the mental framework he outlines to explain how an aesthetic response is elicited and, if we accept some of Brady's arguments outlined above, bodily sensations may after all have a place in his aesthetic theory. Kant's aesthetic position may be shown to be perhaps more flexible than he himself would have had it, and I would now like to go on to show that the mental framework he outlined may elicit an aesthetic response that is more complex and can incorporate other responses, such as emotions.