It is not uncommon for African musicians to use the adjective sweet to characterize a positive musical experience. Ewe-speakers may characterize singing and drumming that is performed expertly as vivi (sweet)—generating strong feeling and conveying a meaningful message.
Not a quality of cloying sentimentality, “sweet music” has a presence that moves a listener, often in a profound way. Listeners feel musical beauty through the interplay of the phenomenal surface of musical sound and the theoretical underneath of musical syntax.
African musicians are aware of the expressive opportunities afforded by musical syntax, and intentionally create music within known systems. The evaluative term sweet can open a path towards the scholarly articulation of musical syntax and culturally relevant statements about aesthetic judgment in Ewe agbadza.
This according to “Sweetness in agbadza music: Expressiveness in an item of agbadza singing and drumming” by David Locke, an essay included in Discourses in African musicology: J.H. Kwabena Nketia Festschrift (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2015, pp. 98–123).
Above and below, agbadza music and dancing.
Related article: Traditional Ghanaian sampling
The widespread preference for buzzy timbres in African traditional musics has been notably borne out in the Mandé region of West Africa.
The two main types of buzzing mechanisms in Mandé music are metal buzzing rattles, which are attached to the neck or bridge of various string instruments, and mirlitons (vibrating membranes), which are placed over small holes on the resonating gourds of wooden xylophones.
Over the last seventy to eighty years, an older and rougher buzz aesthetic within Mandé music has become increasingly endangered, with buzzing largely disappearing from instruments such as the kora and the ngoni in favor of a more “clean” Western aesthetic. Considered in a wider cultural context, the incorporation of buzzing sounds within Mandé music might be connected to forms of esoteric, supernatural, and spiritual power.
This according to “The buzz aesthetic and Mandé music: Acoustic masks and the technology of enchantment” by Merlyn Driver (African music X/3  pp. 95–118).
Above and below, kora playing with nyenyemo (metal rattle attached to the bridge).
François Couperin’s first attempts to reconcile French and Italian musical tastes came shortly after 1700, at the height of a prolonged conflict between the two musical nationalities. Despite Couperin’s authority, this contention was not to abate until the close of the 18th century, when both Italians and French were confronted with the rise of German music.
Already in the last decades of the 17th century, an Italianizing tendency had appeared under the tyranny of Lully and his followers in both Paris and the provinces. When Couperin intervened as a mediator in the resulting polemic he was not the first to do so—others less eminent had preceded him.
While his celebrated trio sonatas (1691–92) were strongly influenced by Corelli, the greater part of his output was purely French in character. But toward the end of his career, Couperin’s Les gouts rénuis (1724) and Le Parnasse ou l’apothéose de Corelli (1725), provided eloquent testimony to his desire to appropriate without partiality the best features of the different styles.
This according to “François Couperin et la conciliation des goûts français et italien” by Marc Pincherle (Chigiana XXV/5  pp. 69–80).
Today is Couperin’s 350th birthday! Below, Gli Incogniti plays l’Apothéose de Corelli.
In 2016 Prešovská Univerzita launched the series Opera theoriae artis with Súčasné hudobnoestetické myslenie na Slovensku v kontexte metodologických problémov estetiky a muzikológie, edited by Slávka Kopčáková.
Slovak music is a living river of new problems for theoretical thinking and the search for methodological innovations whose divergent solutions enrich the quality of the reception of musical art in the time of globalization and changing listening habits. This volume is an essential contribution to the field of musical aesthetics, applying historical and contemporary theoretical music-aesthetic concepts to the study of Slovak music in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The second volume of the series, 25 rokov študijného odboru estetika v Prešove, edited by Slávka Kopčáková and Lukáš Makky, presents the history and current activities of the aesthetics program at the Prešovská Univerzita in both Slovak and broader European contexts.
Below, a work by Ladislav Kupkovič, one of the composers discussed in the book.
In 2016 Peter Lang launched the series Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking with The power and value of music: Its effect and ethos in classical authors and contemporary music theory by Andreas Kramarz.
The series publishes innovative studies on medieval culture broadly conceived—works espousing, for example, new research protocols, especially those involving digitized resources; revisionist approaches to codicology and paleography; reflections on medieval ideologies; fresh pedagogical practices; digital humanities; advances in gender studies; and fresh thinking on animal, environmental, geospatial, and nature studies. In short, the series will seek to set rather than follow agendas in the study of medieval culture.
Since medieval intellectual and artistic practices were naturally interdisciplinary, the series welcomes studies from across the humanities and social sciences. Recognizing also the vigor that marks the field worldwide, the series endeavors to publish work in translation from non-Anglophone medievalists.
Below, Dr. Kramarz engagingly introduces himself and his subject matter.
BONUS: In an example of Apollonian aesthetics cited in the book, Tamino controls the elements with his magic flute in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Some artworks—works of music, theatre, dance, and the like—are works for performance. Some works for performance are unperformable.
Some such works are unperformable by beings like us; others are unperformable given our laws of nature; still others are unperformable given considerations of basic logic.
Musical works that fit into each of these categories really are genuine works, musical works, and works for performance, and the very possibility of such works is ontologically significant. In particular, the possibility of these works raises serious problems for type-theoretic accounts of the ontology of music as well as certain mereological or constitution-based accounts.
This according to “Unperformable works and the ontology of music” by Wesley D. Cray (British Journal of Aesthetics LVI/1 [January 2016] pp. 67–81.
Many thanks to Improbable Research for bringing this to our attention! Above and below, György Ligeti’s Étude No. 14A: Coloana fara sfârşit (Column without end), one of the works discussed in the article.
Launched in 2012, Evental aesthetics is an independent, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to philosophical perspectives on art and aesthetics.
Publishing three times each year, the journal invites experimental and traditional philosophical ideas on questions pertaining to every form of art, as well as to aesthetic issues in the non-artworld, such as everyday aesthetics and environmental aesthetics. Each installment of the journal reflects on specific, but broadly defined, aesthetic issues.
This publication is entirely independent and unaffiliated with any institution, and therefore is unimpeded by political or financial agendas. As a non-profit organization, Evental aesthetics operates completely without funding or advertising. The journal is open-access, available for download free of charge.
The first issue includes the music-related article “Hegel’s being-fluid in Corregidora, blues, and (post-) black aesthetics” by Mandy-Suzanne Wong; the full text is here.
Below, John Lee Hooker presents a fine example of blues philosophy.
Earlier treatises placed śṛngāra (love/the erotic) among the aesthetic qualities known as rasas, but the 11th-century Śṛngāraprakāśa, attributed to Bhojarāja, King of Malwa (inset), was the first to assert its supreme importance.
The treatise includes highly detailed typologies of love—for example, chapter 22 alone discusses 64 stages of love, each subdivided into 8 categories, each of which is then subdivided into 8 more categories, with hundreds of illustrations from poetic works in Prakrit and Sanskrit.
This according to “Bhoja’s Sringara prakasa: A landmark in the evolution of rasa theory” by V. Subramaniam (Sruti 190 [July 2000] pp. 37–41). Above, a classic image of Krishna and Radha in the moonlight; below, the legendary T. Balasaraswati’s depiction of Krishna’s childhood provides an embodiment of śṛngāra in bharata nāṭyam (filmed by Satyajit Ray).
Filed under Antiquity, Asia
William Hogarth explicitly positioned his aesthetic theory in opposition to those of his contemporaries.
He disagreed both with philosophical treatments that viewed beauty and taste in moral terms and with art treatises that relied on exemplification and lacked causal explanation; further, he attacked the mystification of the concept of grace in both approaches.
He argued that understanding beauty did not require initiation into a new body of knowledge: It simply involved exercising a natural reflective vision that finds pleasure in the forms of the human body and related designs and ornamentations.
It was natural, therefore, that—unlike other aestheticians of his time—he drew extensively on dance examples in his treatise The analysis of beauty: Dance, particularly in its use in deportment training, belonged to a sphere of relatively everyday polite culture, as opposed to the rarefied and mystifying culture of art appreciation. Anyone open to dance and deportment could learn how to appreciate them, just as anyone open to Hogarth’s theory could apply its illuminations to their everyday lives.
This according to “An aesthetics of performance: Dance in Hogarth’s Analysis of beauty” by Annie Richardson (Dance research: The journal of the Society for Dance Research XX/2 [winter 2002] pp. 38–87. Above, an illustration of a country dance from Hogarth’s treatise (click to enlarge). Below, an English country dance that he might have seen—or participated in!
The Turkish musical scene may be viewed in terms of three categories: alatürka, which refers to Turkish sociocultural practices; alafranga, which refers to Western ones; and arabesk, which denotes the culture of peripheral urban immigrants. The gazino, a type of nightclub, provides a common denominator for alatürka and arabesk music in an alafranga space.
While the gazino owner holds direct power over the content of the show, he may make changes on the basis of audience reaction. The performers also try to supply what the audience wants, and their aesthetics are further shaped among themselves when they perform backstage for each other. Vocal audience reactions also influence performers’ aesthetic decisions. The visual aesthetics of the gazino—the decor and the clothing of performers and audience members—provide the most significant alafranga elements.
This according to “Aesthetics and artistic criticism at the Turkish gazino” by Münir Nurettin Beken (Music & anthropology VII ). Below, musicians and dancers perform at an urban gazino.