Listening to History: The Testimony of Music
Here we are not so much concerned with what this or that performance conveys, but with what music as such tells us. And according to Zuckerkandl, music transmits fundamental truths about time, space, and motion, which are only the fabric of reality. As I said somewhere in my book -- here it is, p. 44, quoting the Z man:
"The knowledge of space that hand and eye possess is exactly matched by their ignorance of time.... A true image of time must be an image for the ear, an audible image, an image made of tones.... Thanks to music, we are able to behold time."
That right there is an earful: behold time. Everyone knows how difficult it is to say what time "is," because as soon as we begin to look at it, it slips through our grubby fingers. Indeed, it is one of those fundamentals, like consciousness, that defy verbal description. We cannot describe time or consciousness because we are "in" them, and could never be outside of them. It would be like a fish trying to describe the ocean, or a member of the MSM trying to look at liberalism.
But if Zuckerkandl is correct, music is a way to stand "above" time while still being in it. That is, music is a meaningful organization of time, an "ordered motion" which serially reveals its meaning as we listen, like a kind of rotating object.
Hold it right there -- "ordered motion?" Surely music doesn't "move" in the conventional sense of the term. We don't have to follow it around the room in order to keep up with it. In this regard, it "moves" and "flows" in the same way the mind does, like a con-versation (literally, "flowing together") that wends its way to its nonlocal "point." What are we talking about right now? Frankly, we don't yet know. All we know is that we're in the process of arriving there. Don't you feel the cool breeze blowing along your neocortex?
This very much reminds me of the "fundamental rule" in psychoanalysis, which is free association. The purpose of free association is to liberate the right brain from the tyranny of the left, so that we can stop making sense for a while -- superficial sense, that is. The left brain always has a ready store of excuses, cover stories, alibis, personal myths, and other "time binding" structures. It is the spinmeister extraordinaire.
And that's what any narrative is, a time binder, a way to contain and organize time. Consider that idea for a moment: just as we require structures to bind space -- for example, our home -- we also need structures to enclose us in time. Think of all the shoddy and substandard temporal shacks people live in to keep the hostile elements out of their little myths!
The Islamist myth is quintessential in this regard. By the way, I read The Looming Tower last week, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is the best book of which I am aware of the whole history of Islamism, which is even more bizarre and bloodthirsty than you may think. It is interesting that the Islamists especially detest any form of western music. But the Islamist myth is like a kind of insane opera that binds all of history into one dramatic arc.
This kind of insane monomythology also afflicts the left. In his Our Culture, What's Left of It, Dalrymple writes of the "various branches (feminist, gay, and so on) of academic resentment studies, in which history is nothing but the backward projection of current grievances, real or imagined, used to justify and inflame resentment."
Such individuals are not living in time; rather, they are living in an "eternal now" of resentment which is then widened out to encompass the past and future. This is the basis of Obama's never-ending World Apology Tour, as if his personal shame is a reliable source of information about America.
Note that "the object of such historiography is to disconnect everyone from a real sense of a living past and a living culture." The point of these leftist monomyths is to oust us from the deep vertical narrative that unites us, so that "people find themselves cut off from the past as a matter of deliberate policy." As the cultural left has made its long march through the institutions, it has waged a brazen campaign against our past, enforced by the dehumanizing newspeak of political correctness. In the end, "nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."
To bring this back around to the original point, any enforced political dystopia must be rooted in a kind of existential amusia, in which one has lost (or is prevented from exercising) the ability to detect the rhythm, melody, and harmony of history.
In his outstanding Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Jourdain talks about how the greatest works of music parallel the greatest scientific achievements: "In all branches of cognitive endeavor, our highest praise is reserved for works that build the deepest hierarchies. When these works are scientific theories, they explain the world more comprehensively than lesser ones." They aren't like, say, metaphysical Darwinism, which simplistically and fanatically eliminates so many other vital truths of man -- without which man is no longer even man, so that the theory cannot be said to actually explain him as he truly is. Man must be eliminated in order to save the theory.
The kind of cognitive synthesis we are describing is very much analogous to the uniquely horizontal basis of western music, through which many different instruments and musical lines are harmonized and brought together in a moment of listening. It takes a capacious musical mind to compose a work capable of unifying so many diverse strands, both in time and space. Such works "show us relations far deeper than we are normally able to perceive," and reach far "across time to encompass the deepest relations." And interestingly, "harmony became elaborate in Western music at about the same time that perspective was introduced into painting during the Renaissance."
And wouldn't you know it, "it turns out that the left ear, which channels primarily to the right brain, displays clear superiority" in "making sense of melodies." Which is why the harmelody of the cosmos can only be heard through a great imaginative synthesis of its many voices, passages, and movements.