Monthly Archives: October 2015

In his seminal meditation on Renaissance and 20th Century music The Gesualdo Hex, musicologist Glenn Watkins recounts a conversation with Igor Stravinsky:

“Which of the two (heart or brain), in his opinion, did he deem more important [in music]? I will never forget his answer.

‘Neither, my dear,’ he countered with a broad smile.

The ear,’ he corrected, pointing with his index finger to a location mid-way between the two proposed options”.

Stravinsky’s declaration adds another layer to the question of the heart and brain in music. This answer brings to light the ending of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, where it is declared: “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart”.

If rephrased in a musical context using Stravinsky’s answer: “The mediator between heart and brain must be the ear”.

What if we treated music like our dogs?

Nina Simon, in her book The Participatory Museumwrites in one chapter about social objects in museums. A social object for her is “one that connects the people who create, own, use, critique, [and] or consume it”.

A terrific example she uses is her dog…

“…one of the most reliable social objects is my dog. When I walk around town with my dog, lots of people talk to me, or, more precisely, talk through the dog to me…It’s much less threatening to engage someone by approaching and interacting with her dog, which will inevitably lead to interaction with its owner”.

Music is a social object in this way. When you think about it, one of music’s main functions is to act as a social object. It makes things a lot easier to socialize with others when music serves as the mediant. Not only that, it makes people connect through what music, and all art, tackles: what it means to be human.

Music being a dog is not too extreme a notion. And yet sometimes music can be presented as antisocial, done for its own sake or creating inward cliques. But in these examples, music still brings people together, even if its to a select group of people who get it.

So perhaps no matter what we do, music is inherently a social object. How does that affect the way we present, perform, listen, discuss, and think about it?