Music as life-affirmation. The value of music in life-philosophy

© Manos Perrakis

Project Leader: Dr. Manos Perrakis - FWF - Lise-Meitner-Position M 2072-G26 / Host Institution: Institute 14: Aesthetics of Music

in association with Univ. Prof. Dr. Andreas Dorschel / International Partner: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Maria João Neves

During the last two decades life-philosophy [‘Lebensphilosophie’] has attracted keen interest in philosophical discussions. And yet, its music aesthetics still remain an unexamined area. The project Music as life-affirmation. The value of music in life-philosophy aims to fill this gap by investigating the music aesthetics of life-philosophy as a distinct movement in the history of philosophy, covering a period from the end of the 18th until the middle of the 20th century.

The project proposes and will examine the hypothesis that life-philosophy is pervaded by a notion of music as life-paradigm, based on an isomorphism between instrumental music and life. This isomorphism leads to the assumption that music functions as life-affirmation. Τhus, it is important to reconstruct the music aesthetics of life-philosophy by (a) examining the view of exemplary life philosophers on music and extracting the life-philosophical element out of them, and (b) relating music to the philosophical category of life.

To achieve this goal, the methodological focus will be set on the issue of musical expressiveness and life-philosophy’s contemporaneous paradigm of pure instrumental, so-called absolute music, which has been the bone of contention between romantic or literary aesthetics of music and musical formalism since the 19th century. In a further strand of inquiry, we will examine the meaning of music as life-affirmation and see how this notion corresponds to compositions and programs of 19th and 20th century music by taking as examples three compositions: Wagner’s Tristan, Nielsen’s 4th Symphony and Delius’ Mass of Life. For this purpose, (a) contemporary notions of affirmation and (b) the focus on life as an ‘aesthetic idea’ of music will be used as a guide. Ultimately, the project will try to reassess the status of the category of ‘absolute music’ and, hence, contribute to the current discussion about the future of classical music.


International Symposium: Music as a Metaphor for Life: Allure and Hazard 2-4.11.2017, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG), Florentinersaal, Palais Meran, Graz

Organisation: Manos Perrakis and Andreas Dorschel (Graz, AT)

In many ways, it is tempting to understand music, specifically instrumental music, as a metaphor for life. Both traverse time; both feature beginnings and endings; both can vary in intensity; both may reach climaxes or, conversely, break down. Similarities such as these easily catch our attention. But might they, at the same time, also misguide our thinking? To tear out one particular trace: We never know of our lives, as long as we live them, how they are going to end. In a composition, by way of contrast, the end has been fixed long before the first tone sounds. Life, then, may be like a musical improvisation rather than a composition. Yet improvisation, as a metaphor for life, again, could lead astray in other ways. And is metaphor the right word anyway, or should we speak of analogy or isomorphism or something else? Clearly, here is much to reflect upon – as well as to listen to with care.

With: Pauline Fairclough (Bristol, UK); Julian Johnson (London, UK); Kathrin Kirsch (Kiel, DE); Maria João Neves (Lisbon, PT); Nanette Nielsen (Oslo, NO); Michael Spitzer (Liverpool, UK); Benedict Taylor (Edinburgh, UK), Markos Tsetsos (Athens, GR); Laura Tunbridge (Oxford, UK)





International Symposium (in German - and English): Musik und Lebensphilosophie 24-26.05.2018, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG), Florentinersaal, Palais Meran, Graz

Organisation: Manos Perrakis and Andreas Dorschel (Graz, AT)

Philosophische Zugänge zur Musik im 19. Jahrhundert werden seit langem immer wieder thematisiert. Bevorzugte Themen sind dabei für den Beginn des Jahrhunderts der Deutsche Idealismus, insbesondere Hegel, sowie die (frühe) Romantik, sofern ihr eine Philosophie zugeschrieben werden kann, für die Mitte des Jahrhunderts der sogenannte Formalismus Robert Zimmermanns und Eduard Hanslicks, und für das Ende des Jahrhunderts insbesondere Nietzsche. Vernachlässigt wird dabei häufig, daß es seit Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts und mit Ausläufern bis in die Gegenwart eine lebensphilosophische Bewegung gibt, in der gerade Musik eine paradigmatische Rolle spielt.
In welchem Verhältnis steht Musik zur philosophischen Kategorie des Lebens? Gibt es Analogien zwischen Instrumentalmusik und Leben? Ist Rhythmus das zentrale Phänomen, das Musik und Leben aufeinander bezieht? Kann von einer einheitlichen Musikästhetik innerhalb einer so vielfältigen Bewegung überhaupt die Rede sein? Bildet die Musikästhetik der Lebensphilosophie eine Alternative zu den sonst identifizierten Grundpositionen des 19. Jahrhunderts? Das Grazer Symposion widmet sich diesen und verwandten Fragen anhand maßgeblicher Autoren der Lebensphilosophie von Friedrich Schlegel bis Peter Sloterdijk.

Mit: Maria Goeth (München, DE); Olivier Hanse (Lorraine, FR); Markus Kleinert (Erfurt, DE); Beate Kutschke (Salzburg, AT); Christoph Landerer (Wien/Salzburg, AT); Maria João Neves (Lissabon, PT); Frithjof Rodi (Bochum, DE); Holly Watkins (Rochester, USA)

Programm 2018






Music as life-affirmation. The value of music in life-philosophy