Tuning the Mind: Connecting Aesthetics to Cognitive Science
Ruth Katz, Ruth HaCohen
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Starting from the late Renaissance, efforts to make vocal music more expressive heightened the power of words, which, in turn, gave birth to the modern semantics of musical expression. As the skepticism of seventeenth-century science divorced the acoustic properties from the metaphysical qualities of music, the door was opened to dicern the rich links between musical perception and varied mental faculties. In Tuning the Mind, Ruth Katz and Ruth HaCohen trace how eighteenth century theoreticians of music examined anew the role of the arts within a general theory of knowledge.
As the authors note, the differences between the physical and emotional dimensions of music stimulated novel conceptions and empirical inquiries into the old aesthetic queries. Tracing this development, their opening chapter deals with seventeenth-century epistemological issues concerning the artistic qualities of music. Katz and HaCohen show that painting and literature displayed a comparable tendency toward "musicalization," whereby the dynamic of forms-the modalities specific to each artistic medium-rather than subject matter was believed to determine expression. Katz and HaCohen explore the ambiguities inherent in idealization of an art form whose mimetic function has always been problematic. They discuss the major outlines of this development, from Descartes to Vico through Condillac. Particular emphasis is placed on eighteenth-century British thinkers, from Shaftesbury to Adam Smith, who perceived these problems in their full complexity. They also explore how the French and the Germans dealt differently with questions that preoccupied the British, each nation in accordance with their own past tradition and tendencies. The concluding chapter summarizes the parallel development of abstract art and basic hypotheses concerning the mind and explores basic theoretical questions pertaining to the relationship between perception and cognition.
In addressing some of the most complex problems in musical aesthetics, Katz and HaCohen provide a unique historical perspective on the ways their art creates and develops coherent worlds, and, in so doing, contribute to our understanding of the workings of the mind.
stylistic procedures different from those which were used for rendering objects. It is this trend in the visual arts (as noted in chapter 1), that most clearly “aspired to the condition of music,” that is, to the achievement of a “perfect identification of matter and form.” In the seventeenth century, this trend wandered northward, finding new embodiments in the painting of La Tour, in France, Rembrandt and his school, in Amsterdam, and many others. According to Spitzer (1963), the set of beliefs
spectator to shift his position continuously in order to see the work in constantly new aspects, as if it were in a state of perpetual transformation.” For the first time, he argues, “man opts out of the canon of authorized responses and finds that he is faced (both in art and in science) by a world in a fluid state which requires corresponding creativity on his part” (ibid. 52). Whether or not this new “outlook” was shared by all, it seemed to contradict the belief in “ideal nature” that
that music is experienced as unfolding and developing in time. The basic Pythagorean conception, however, remained entrenched during most of the Renaissance, despite the Aristoxenian challenge, because Christian thought reinforced a harmonistic conception of the world, finding it compatible with its needs.5 Infused with Christianity, an important change did take place in this tradition, with repercussions not only for music, but for poetry and painting as well. Already in Plato’s cosmology,
1961). Abbate (1991) is most explicit on this point, but her argument does not take into consideration the complex metaphorical status and qualities of musical narrativity, stemming from the medium and its basic constrains, as explicated in the following paragraph. Kepler was the first to understand the metaphysical potential implied in a musical narrative. He writes: “By the artificial symphony of several voices he [modern man] plays out in a brief portion of an hour the perpetuity of the whole
similar to a modern one, exemplified, for example, in Black’s (1962) theory discussed in chapter 2 above. Signs as Cognitive Tools 26. 181 Vico’s type of knowing, which is founded on memory and imagination is a knowledge resting on sympathetic insights. As such it influenced the trend in historical writing which emphasized a kind of identification (Einfühlung) with the historical moment investigated (Berlin 1981: 117). His social theory, which recognizes stages in the development of society