The irresistible charm of music (a repost)

There is just one thing that philosophers from various schools of thought and inclinations agree upon. It is the questions that they collectively ask, questions that arise from philosophical ruminations. The topic of these questions range from life, universe, God, existence, behavior, dreams and cover just about everything a human mind is capable of inquiring about. The nature of such questions are universal in nature, in the sense that they don’t discriminate between instances. Questions about existence, for example, applies to all individuals equally. The same goes for enquiry into the metaphysical aspects of an emotion, say love between two individuals, the same question applies to both the parties involved, or the whole population.

This plethora of questions has kept on piling up, forcing mankind, starving for answers to take refuge in science, faith, religion and such systems of well structured beliefs. The reason why we have failed to address these questions in a satisfactory way lies in the conflicting premises of these questions and their probable answers. The questions may be universal, but the answers as it is more or less established are existential in nature. Philosophers who have attempted to create an universal model have usually failed. This unique combination, however; brings to the arena the human endeavor of art. Art fits so well in this situation that the lines between art and philosophy have been flimsy since the earliest known civilizations.

Art, in its various forms attempts to answer the philosophical questions but it does that by taking a path that is not straightforward. The artist tenders the answers for mass consumption but stops short from getting down to the details, the intention and thesis is neither defined nor defended. This indirect approach makes art susceptible to attack from the philistines and fundamentalists, alike. On the other hand, this circuitous nature of the presentation allows the individual to investigate further without external aid, it acts as a guidance on the path to discovery of the answers to the posed questions, paradoxes and dilemma. The individualistic aspect of art might explain our fascination for it, a fascination that has pervaded time and space. To further elaborate on the idea, let’s take a painting and its import on the individual. It might evoke a feeling of longing, act as an exposition of love for one, while another person may derive a sense of peace, or an answer to the question on the apparent futility of existence.

Comprehension is essentially a sensory phenomenon, or at least it is stimulated by the senses. The wise men and seers may advocate detachment from senses and urge us to inculcate a method of understanding that comes from insulated meditation. What they also say, which is usually found in subtext is you need to envisage the world with enough lucidity as presented to you through the senses to appreciate the inadequacy of the sensory perception.

Art in its attempt to come up with answers to the eternal questions appeals to the senses, at least at the first glance. The purpose is half fulfilled in this appeal, as it triggers the latent sensibilities and inchoate profundity present in every human. What follows then is the path taken by the individual beyond the realms of physiological limitations of the senses and psychological limitations of a cognitive mind. This realm is visceral, a personal space that obliterates the existence of everything else, one that transcends the conditioning received over ages, it is that world within that defines the essence of the individual or soul as the romantics and poets would prefer to call.

Most forms of art are about visualization, they are meant for the eyes and even if it is not the case, they would require one to keep the eyes open. The intended transport to the surreal world happens with intermittent closing of the external eyes and opening of inner ones. But it is still intermittent, one can’t get away without the visuals and in this process one is inadvertently aware of the external world thereby impeding one in the unobstructed flight, the dive into the soul.

Music may be the only art that doesn’t rely on eyes for perception, it actually demands the listener to close the eyes and feel the art. As soon as we do that, we are cutting off the rest of the world, people around us, emotions we struggle with and the questions that confound us. The quest is expedited by the prerequisite. It’s easy to critique or discuss a painting, a book, a poem, dance, sculpture and almost about every possible form of art, because the critic visualizes the piece in juxtaposition to the external or peripheral reality. Thus the criticism is understood by masses since they also perceive it in similar circumstances, similarly a discussion on a piece of art remains pertinent. When it comes to music, and here we might leave out the lyrics which might require a rephrase. So, when it comes to pure music it’s almost impossible to critique, discuss, analyze or do anything that might require others to be in the same plane as you, or having the same perception as yours. At the best, one may only give the verdict, that the piece of music is good or it is not. Equally impossible it is to find a person who doesn’t enjoy music.