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Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts

Author(s): Herman Parret


Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Summer, 1998), pp.
251-264
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/432365
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HERMAN PARRET

Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts

Within the immense Kantian cathedral one can In full awareness that Kant's life does not ex-
find a rarely visited little chapel-music, it is plain his philosophy, I would nonetheless like to
clear, was not the primary interest of the phil- provide, by way of introduction, some biograph-
osopher from Konigsberg. Everything he says ical accounts about the development of Kant's
about it is marginal compared to the central the- attitude with respect to music. In his texts, one
ses of his oeuvre; it is situated at the edge of his finds precious little about his musical taste.
concerns. Kant does indeed speak of music in Kant kept to the "principle of austerity" in his
the Critique of Judgment, but we must not forget
philosophical work: he offers little in the way of
that, for him, aesthetics is not the philosophy of clarification or example, and what there is
art as it will be practiced after the time of Schiller seems badly chosen and disputable. But when
and Goethe: Kant's aesthetics presents a "criti- we listen to what his biographers have to say, we
cal" conception of aisthesis and of the faculties are served up an explicitly antimusical Kant.
responsible for a certain kind of judgment Jachmann writes:
which will be called the "reflective judgment"
(Beurteilung) of the beautiful and the sublime Although he had no particular taste for music and
(das Erhabene). The considerations that Kant played no instrument, he did attend concerts from
devotes to the fine arts, its division and evalua- time to time. He believed that music was incapable of
tion-and to music a fortiori-are marginal expressing any idea, only sentiments. Apart from his
within the framework of his aesthetics, and they actual sense for art, Kant was a man with good taste.2
must be read as such. Kant himself asserts, con-
trary to his custom, that his division of the fine
arts is not intended to be a deliberate theory (be- Borowski has little else to add, and agrees com-
absichtigte Theorie): "It is only one of a variety pletely with Jachmann:
of attempts that can and should still be made"
(?51, p. 190).'
Kant often hesitates in passages on the fine A word here on Kant's artistic tastes would be in
arts, and we will have occasion to indicate some order.... Kant considered music to be an inoffensive
places where he might have worked out his own pleasure of the senses, but when I was sixteen he dis-
suggestions in a more consistent and penetrat- couraged me, and many others among his students,
ing way. I do not think it necessary to derive from devoting myself to its study, since so much time
from Kant a truly coherent and fully musicolog- is taken up before arriving at any degree of profi-
ical paradigm, as some over-enthusiastic musi- ciency, and that to the detriment of more serious stud-
cologists did immediately following the appear- ies. ... In his youth he went often to the theatre, but
ance of the Critique of Judgment and in the course later he gave that up. Of dance, hunting, etc., I have
of the nineteenth century. For I believe the Kant- little to say here, as one can well imagine.3
ian conception of music has limited intrinsic im-
portance. Rather, it serves a heuristic goal in al- Wasianski, the most detailed-and, it is said,
lowing us to better understand the lines of force the most trustworthy-of the biographers, pro-
and accents of Kant's aesthetics in its totality. vides some enlightening anecdotes:

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56:3 Summer 1998

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252 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

During that summer, the music of the changing of the On the contrary, just as Kant loved popular po-
guard delighted him more than before. When they etry and melodies, his favorite song was the
passed in front of his house, he would open the door Rheinweinlied (with a text by Matthias Claudius,
to the room in the back, listening to the fanfare atten- 1775, and music by Johann Andre, 1776), about
tively and with pleasure. One might have thought that which he said, according to Vorlander, that it
the profound metaphysician would only have derived was "the pinnacle of musical composition in
pleasure from music expressing a pure harmony, res- that genre."5 Kant's students and colleagues al-
olute modulations, elegantly resolved dissonances, or ways associated the great master with the
from the music of a learned composer such as Haydn. Rheinweinlied, bearer of Gemfitlichkeit (and this
But this was not at all the case, and here is the proof. is not without significance, as will be estab-
In 1795 he paid me a visit, accompanied by von Hip- lished further below): in 1824, the centenary of
pel, to hear my piano-orchestra. The adagio with a Kant's birth (twenty years after his death), the
passage on the flageolet, whose sound resembled a Rheinweinlied was even sung during the com-
harmonica's, seemed rather disagreeable to him, but memoration ceremony, with the addition of the
the instrument gave him much greater pleasure when following verse:
the cover was opened, unleashing its full force, and
especially when it reproduced the sound of a large Er schlumm're sanft im Hugel der Zypressen
symphonic orchestra. Kant always recalled with dis- Hier an des Pregels Rand.
pleasure the funeral music he had once heard in hon- Singt, Freunde, singt, soil keine Zeit vergessen
our of Moses Mendelssohn: this music, by his own Den teuren Namen Kant!
account, dragged on in a monotonous and constant
moaning. "I would have thought," he observed, "that Of course, one would be wrong to overestimate
other sentiments could have been expressed, such as Kant's antimusicality and his apparent taste for
the sense of victory over death (hence heroic music) banal and sentimental music. If one were to add
or the sense of the completion of a work." After this to this the appalling sketch 6f Kant given by the
cantata, he never went to another concert, in order not psychoanalyst Edelman in his "conte moral" La
to suffer the same impressions again. Above all else, maison de Kant, then one would indeed obtain a
he preferred boisterous martial music.4 coherent, but fundamentally unjust portrayal.6
Without wanting to "save" Kant, I would still like
Karl Vorlknder, in Kant: Der Mann und das Werk, to make a proposal that can console me: Kant
has little to add to the remarks of the first biog- did not love music because the music which he
raphers. He emphasizes that, for Kant, artistic could have loved did not yet exist!
beauty is embodied above all in the art of poetry The same thing holds for the plastic arts: one
(especially the poetry of Wieland and King often reads that Kant, relying on his theses con-
Friedrich, whom he quotes and discusses cerning the fine arts, would have liked nonfigu-
Klopstock had already fallen out of his favor rative, abstract art, and that Mondrian would
"due to his Polish, broken style") and that, as far have been his hero. To be sure, Kant did not like
as music was concerned, his preference was for baroque and classical music: he discusses nei-
military music, heroic fanfares, large orches- ther Haydn nor Mozart, to name only the greats,
tras; he did not care for solo instruments in the but he might possibly have liked a more con-
least. If Kant ever attended concerts, it was- temporary sort of music. His preference for
according to Jachmann-in his youth, and Vor- heroic, loud, orchestral, emotionally uplifting
lander has discovered that Kant seems to have music has already been indicated above. On the
been particularly taken by a comic operetta en- basis of the 'Analytic of the Sublime" privi-
titled Der lustige Schuster. Without a doubt, the leged by "postmodern" interpretations (a la Ly-
musical life of Kdnigsberg did not amount to otard) of the third Critique-it will become
much, but it is known that Mozart was some- clearer how a taste for the heroic, the monumen-
times performed-among other works, the tal, the colossal (think of the examples which
Magic Flute was performed in 1798 (Mozart Kant gives: the Egyptian pyramids and St.
died in 1791, one year following the publication Peter's Basilica in Rome) is reconcilable with
of the third Critique), a performance which the the very intensified aesthetics which makes the
elderly Kant would definitely not have attended! striving for infinite totality the core of aesthetic

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 253

experience. The experience of the "sublime" is tonal. May the reader forgive my Gedankenex-
that which upsets the balance between the facul- periment and my strategy for giving some order
ties (essentially reason and the imagination), to Kant's musical conception on the basis of a
that which is supported by "extreme values" music which, in his time, did not yet exist!
(Extremwerte). Indeed, it is music which, since Here is the path I propose to follow. In the
Longinus-author of the first treatise on the first part I would like to sketch Kant's explicit
sublime-and in the course of a long tradition, conception of music (by summarizing the main
was believed to provoke the vertigo of the sub- lines of his argument in ?51 -on the division of
lime: Longinus gives a wonderful description of the fine arts-and ?53-on the evaluation of
how the sound of the flute and the kithara brings the fine arts). From this it will become evident
about a rapture which is close to the Zurack- that the rarely quoted or discussed ?52, on the
sinken which Kant himself constantly mentions combined arts, and especially ?54, contain ele-
in his description of the experience of the sub- ments which disturbed Kant's own "official doc-
lime. For the moment, we leave aside the "ideo- trine," and which can explain the surprising
logical" critique formulated by Adorno in con- absence of certain aspects such as musical tem-
nection with the "bourgeois pathos" of the porality, rhythm, and the relation between mel-
sublime which he claims is present both in Kant- ody and harmony. I would like to elaborate on
ian aesthetics and in Strauss's emphatic music. this idea by harking back to the musicological
Adorno's suggestion makes it possible for me treatise of Michaelis, an orthodox Kantian, pub-
to say that Kant would undoubtedly have liked lished five years after the appearance of the Cri-
Richard Strauss's Alpensymphonie (1915), in tique of Judgment. Michaelis professes himself
which the extreme tonal volume of sixteen to be a great admirer of Kant and he proposes
horns "evokes" the power of the Alps through some technical improvements which enrich
the sheer intensity of sound. Not only is the horn Kant's rather fragmentary ideas on music in an
the most appropriate instrument for such an interesting way. I will not mention the clearly
evocation-because of its intrinsic connection more substantial interpretations of Kant's con-
with the alpine landscape-but its monumental- ception of music given by Schiller and Schopen-
ity surely causes us to fantasize: it throws the hauer (taken up again and changed by Nietz-
imagination out of balance with the faculties, sche), in the belief that the work of Michaelis,
thus bringing about the experience of the sub- almost entirely neglected today, merits some se-
lime. All music with a "programmatic" content rious study.
(such as Beethoven's Pastoral), as mise-en-scene The second part of this paper calls for more
of the Stimmung, would have moved Kant. Espe- originality on my part. I would like to show how
cially Strauss would have gripped him: the and to what extent a deliberate focus on music
heroic theme of Ein Heldenleben, as well as Tod among the fine arts (and in this I certainly go
und Verkldrung, that musical treatment of a poem further than Kant himself ) can assist us in better
by Ritter which comes so close to the Kantian understanding the essence of Kant's aesthetics.
sublime: One could do the same for a great many of the
central themes of the third Critique (such as Af-
Aber machtigt tonet ihm fekt and sensus communis), but I will restrict my-
Aus dem Himmelraum entgegen self to reformulating the concept of Genie, and
Was er sehnend hier gesucht: hence of creativity, on the basis of the privileges
Welterlosung, Weltverklarung! of music within the hierarchy of the arts.
The third part of this text is founded on the
Richard Strauss, then, and surely also Mahler, idea that one can find in Kant not only a con-
who said that his music is situated at the limits ception of music, but also "music in Kant" on
of the imagination, but not beyond them. The the level of his writing. For this one must take
atonality of the second Vienna school, begin- seriously the pertinence of textual characteris-
ning with Schonberg, would have been com- tics: instead of digging into the text in search of
pletely unacceptable for Kant, since the purity philosophy, I will linger over the text itself-its
of the sound, as we shall see, presupposes its rhetoric, its metaphors, and especially its tonal-
naturalness, and a natural sound can only be ity. It has often been said, quite mistakenly, that

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254 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Kant's text has no style, no signifier, no body, no (on the one hand, oratory, and on the other, po-
flesh. On the contrary, the Kantian texture has a etry, which brings about the ideal connection
very specific tonality; moreover, the text is dom- and harmony among the faculties), the visual
inated by a musical isotopy whose structure I arts (the plastic arts such as sculpture and ar-
shall examine. I will have to conclude with a hy- chitecture, and painting, as the expression of
pothesis: what Kant suppresses in his explicit aesthetic ideas through spatial Gestalten) and
conception of music reappears on the level of his the arts of the play of sensations (Spiel der Emp-
writing. In order to know what kind of music findungen) (especially painting considered as an
there is in Kant, we must not only decipher his art of color, and music). Landscape gardening
conceptualization, but also-and I would say (Lustgdrtnerei) is placed in the second category,
especially-listen to the tone and the music in together with painting considered as graphic
his manner of speaking. (Kant seems to have specifically the French gar-
den in mind, which is somewhat surprising con-
I. MUSIC ACCORDING TO KANT sidering his admiration for Rousseau, himself
a great proponent of the English garden!); it
?51 of the Critique of Judgment, on the division seems that, for Kant, a garden concerns only the
of the fine arts, and ?53, on their evaluation, dis- sense of sight, and not smell or hearing as is the
pense the "official" doctrine regarding the deter- case in Anglo-Chinese garden theory.8 As a re-
mination of music, while ?52, on the combined sult, music finds itself in the same category as
arts, and particularly ?54 (which bears the mod- painting considered as an art of color. It would
est title of "Anmerkung" and was apparently a also seem to have synaesthetic effects, since
later addition) contain the "suppressed remains" Kant says that an art of "the beautiful play of
which will appear to be of great importance. sensations," such as music, is nothing other than
Music-Tonkunst-occupies a confusing place "the ratio in the varying degrees of attunement
in the division leading Kant to an ambiguous (tension) of the sense to which the sensations
evaluation. In a similar way, hearing "disturbs" belong, i.e., with the sense's tone" (?5 1, p. 193).
the division of the five senses in the Anthro- In the comparison with the art of color (Far-
pologie.7 This fifth sense clearly renders impos- benkunst), the contrast of colors is judged by
sible the dichotomization into pairs of senses: analogy with the ratio of sound vibrations: col-
there are two subjective senses-taste and ors differ inasmuch as they "vibrate" like tones.
smell-and three objective senses, where the Here we note that what distinguishes the beauty
sense of touch and sight have a pure place, while of the tones and colors from their agreeableness
hearing, lying in between, links the immediacy (Annehmlichkeit) is indeed a judgment: auditory
of touch with the distantiation of sight. The and visual sensations are agreeable if they in-
same problem arises with music-"the art of volve mere sense impressions-they only be-
hearing"-which also occupies an undecidable come beautiful as the effect of a judgment con-
place: in Kant's evaluation, it continually oscil- cerning the form in the play of sensations. And
lates between the beautiful and the agreeable, yet, as already mentioned, music continually os-
problematizing the opposition between nature cillates back and forth between the agreeable
and art (human song lies between that of the and the beautiful in the course of Kant's ref lec-
nightingale and the artificial "voice" of the in- tions on music in the Critique of Judgment, and
strument). it is certainly this undecidability which brings
Interestingly enough, Kant's division of the about its devaluation. Let me just mention one
fine arts is established on the grounds of an characteristic of this judgment concerning the
analogy with language and the communicative form in the play of sensations: temporal division
process. It is often stated that Kant never devel- is not taken into account in aesthetic judgment.
oped a philosophy of language, yet language It seems as if musical experience automatically
turns up here as the schema which makes the spatializes musical time, and that, from the very
classification of the arts possible. On the basis beginning, Kant equates the form in the play of
of the triad articulation (words), gesticulation sensations with spatial form-we will have to
(gestures), and modulation (tones), Kant will return to this point, which represents a great
draw a distinction between the arts of speech weakness in Kant's conception of music.

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 255

The brief ?52 contains a rather interesting cability of the affects is appreciated by Kant.
clue as well as one of the most beautiful formu- Music is thus the expression of "an unspeakable
lations in the third Critique: the more that music wealth of thought" (unnennbaren Gedanken-
is combined with other arts (opera and oratorios fiulle) and thereby communicates the inexpress-
are syncretic arts because they combine music ible. So for Kant, music is not only the language
with language, dance, and drama), and hence of the affects but equally the language of the un-
the more it moves away from a certain original speakable. It is even the "coherent" whole of this
purity, the more it will be directed by pleasure "unspeakable wealth of thought" which forms
alone, the agreeable distraction which causes in the "theme" (Thema) of the dominant affect in a
our soul (Gemiith) a somber feeling of aversion piece of music. But since music's "content" is
(Ekel) and dissatisfaction. We will have occa- the incommunicability of the affects, the other
sion to return to this directionality in Kant's side of the coin is that music has no value on the
conception of art: the point of origin and uplift- cultural ladder. The "wealth of thought" cannot
ing purity is poetry, and the combining of arts be grasped within propositions: this "unspeak-
into syncretic forms (sharply condemned by able wealth" is the aesthetic Idea itself which, in
Kant) is at the other end of the axis. After this principle, cannot be grasped in concepts. As a
clue, the elegant formulation, endlessly quoted, consequence, music provokes "a continuous agi-
and the key to a precise interpretation of the tation and quickening (Belebung) of the mind"
rather delicate problem (which I will not be by means of affects consonant (damit conson-
dealing with here) concerning the relation be- ierende Affekte) with the sensations of the lis-
tween natural and artificial beauty, which I re- tener. One detail must be added to this appraisal
produce solely for the pleasure of it: "it is gen- which will be of importance for a more pro-
erally the beauties of nature that are most found reading of the Kantian text: it appears that
beneficial, if we are habituated early to observe, music's attraction (Reiz), so universally com-
judge, and admire them" (?52, p. 196). municable, is grounded on inflection (Ton)-it
Kant's assessment of the value of music is is inflection, says Kant, which attests the pres-
mutable, fragmented, and contradictory: he dis- ence of an affect in the music and induces the
penses the marks, giving high and low grades. same affect in the listener. The importance of
He praises music as an art of form, and he con- inflection will be continually reaffirmed (music,
demns it as a mere play of sensations. He values for Kant, is Tonkunst), and we shall see that the
it highly from the standpoint of "charm" (Reiz) focus on inflection gives a certain privilege to
and "mental agitation" (Bewegung des Gemfiths), vocal music, to the detriment of instrumental
but rejects it from the point of view of culture music (whose importance, as we shall see, is
and reason. From that point of view, music "is suppressed by Kant): more than any other in-
really not serious": it has even less value than strument, it is the voice in a song which is the
any other art because it provokes no reflection bearer of inflection, so that singing appears to
(Nachdenken) whatsoever. Pride of place is, in be the privileged language of the affects.
any case, reserved for poetry, which enlarges But why, after such high praise, is music not
the soul both by liberating the imagination and first among the arts? Because music is only
provoking reflection (Nachdenken). Let us note "playing with sensations" (bloji mit Empfindun-
that this hypostasis of poetry in Kant corre- gen spielt). This "ludic" aspect drains music of
sponds with a most categorical condemnation of any seriousness. According to Kant, this "play"
oratory: he says that he has no respect whatso- manifests itself in a double volatility, and culture
ever for ars oratoria, and a fortiori for rhetoric is obviously too serious to accommodate this
which exploits human weaknesses in a spirit of volatility in its two aspects: a lack of durability
persuasion and seduction.9 and a lack of "urbanity" (Urbanitit) by which
Apart from poetry, however, music scores music can vanish in two different ways-it is
highly on the scale of "charm" and "mental agi- transitory and it extends itself uncontrolledly. In
tation." Music is the language of the affects contrast to the "arts of image and form" (plastic
(Sprache der Affekte) and it communicates to arts, painting as graphic), which have an endur-
everyone the aesthetic Ideas, more than any ing vehicle (dauerhaften Vehikel), musical im-
other form of art. This spontaneous communi- pressions are transitory (transitorisch): it is ex-

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256 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

tremely difficult for the imagination to recall a It would appear that Kant, in his rather intu-
musical sequence in its totality, and this evanes- itive "musicology," makes some choices in de-
cence of notes and sounds leaves no durable im- termining the nature of music which are not at
print. This first aspect of musical volatility goes all innocent.
together with a second, which Kant formulates First option: music is above all a question of
in a rather idiosyncratic way. The effects of mu- sonority. And, from the outset, a second option
sic, like those of any noise, transgress determined is added to this one: it is the inflection of the
limits and impose themselves on the neighbor- sounds that gives them their unique quality, for
hood: with this, Kant suggests that music in- it is the tone that expresses the affect and is uni-
volves a certain "contamination"-even pollu- versally communicable. In order to measure mu-
tion-with its noise, which he deeply regrets sic's quality, Kant introduces the idea of purity
and accuses of a "lack of urbanity" (Urbanitdt). of sound, just as with color: it is the purity of the
Music spreads out like a perfume, without the sound that induces the experience of beauty.
agreement of any possible listeners. Wasianski This argument unfolds in ? 14, where he dis-
reports that Kant was obsessively sensitive to cusses Euler's physical theory and writes that
noise pollution: he once asked the mayor of Kon- "sensations of color as well as of tone claim to
igsberg to intervene when the inmates of a prison deserve being considered beautiful only insofar
near his house spent the entire day singing, as they are pure. And that is an attribute that al-
something the austere, studious Kant could not ready concerns form, and it is moreover all that
stand! This lack of urbanity, combined with the can be universally communicated with certainty
lack of durability, accounts for music's low score about these presentations" (? 14, p. 70). Not all
on the cultural ladder: music does not invite re- sounds are pure, only the beautiful ones, and a
flection (Nachdenken), which is the essence of pure sound has nothing to do with an agreeable
culture. Hence music is demoted to the low end one. To be sure, one can add "charms" or orna-
of the division of the fine arts, utterly unjustly! ments (parerga) to the purity of the sounds to
That completes the "official doctrine," but make them more agreeable. These ornaments
there still remains ?54, which concludes the are added as an external "supplement" to "com-
'Analytic of the Beautiful and the Sublime," mend to us taste and its cultivation" (? 14, p. 71),
bearing the simple title of "Comment" (Anmer- but what is agreeable is only agreeable for me
kung)-a long note composed in a more lei- and hence uncommunicable. One will recall
surely and direct style, containing some less or- how Kant's theory of parerga attracted the at-
ganized but fundamental thoughts for whoever tention of Derrida in La ve'rite' en peinture, where
is interested in the Kantian texture, in the unex- he subjects Kant's examples from the plastic
pressed and repressed. This comment is a defense arts to a minute analysis: the frames of the paint-
of what one might call an Epicurean perspective: ings, the drapery of the statues. The parerga
Kant speaks highly of Epicurus, although he ob- bring us into the domain of psycho-sociology: to
viously rejects hedonism as a moral attitude. each his own taste! And it is precisely here that
Kant claims that musical experience has a agreeable music, i.e., music with an impure
cathartic effect (in the classical Aristotelian sound, gets its evaluation. It is of importance-
sense), but especially that it has a direct relation and this is the point at which we had to arrive-
with corporeality. Kant correlates his analysis that Kant's example of this psycho-sociological
of music with his analysis of laughter, and it is principle of taste is the preference which one
by way of this connection that he seems to im- can have for one or another instrument: "one
plant the pleasure of musical experience in a cer- person loves the sound of wind instruments, an-
tain bodily enjoyment. I will come back to this other that of string instruments. It would be
rather surprising point (and to this "subversive" foolish if we disputed about such differences
paragraph), for it seems to me that it is primarily with the intention of censuring another's judg-
in this "Epicurean" context that Kant evokes ment" (?7, p. 55). One can deduce from this ex-
what is repressed in his official doctrine. By dig- ample that Kant indeed feels that the sounds of
ging a bit deeper, one can even succeed in re- instruments, insofar as they are merely agree-
constructing the unexpressed in the tone/voice- able, must therefore be impure. Instrumental
instrument/body/pleasure constellation. sound is but a supplement, an ornament subject

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 257

to the evaluation of psycho-sociological taste. judgment ofform, and form is the first quality of
Pure sound on the other hand is, for Kant, nat- the work of art. According to the general deter-
ural sound, the sound of the voice, not the sound mination of aesthetic judgment, it is clearly the
of an artifact or an instrument which only dis- formal scale, and hence harmony, which has
plays a derived sonority. It appears, then, that precedence; but an analysis of Kant's explicit
song is closest to this natural source. The singing statements concerning the essence of music
of birds (especially the nightingale), frequently shows rather that the scale of naturalness, and
mentioned by Kant, is even considered to be the hence melody, must have precedence.
most natural song possible. From this we must And what of rhythm in this "balance" of har-
conclude that music, for Kant, is thought on the mony and melody? Kant mentions nothing of
basis of birdsong, which exemplifies natural- this: just as with tempo, rhythm seems to be
ness and purity. The tonality of pure sounds, or completely repressed. Rousseau however, whom
the "color" of pure sounds, places this original Kant greatly admired, argues in his Diction-
naturalness of the aesthetic object in a privileged naire musical that melody and rhythm depend
relation with the affect of the mind (Gemlit). on each other: a change in the rhythm of a series
Nonetheless, these Kantian options-never ex- of sounds, called a melody, results in the cre-
plicit yet clearly present in the "official doc- ation of a new melody. In fact, according to
trine"-generate a repression which will turn up Rousseau, one would have to say that rhythm
again on the level of the Kantian texture: we shall and sound together form melody. Rhythm then
see how the musical imagery that controls this becomes an essential component of the musical
texture is developed as if the mind (Gemlith) itselfphenomenon. Kant says only that sounds orga-
were a stringed instrument, an artifact, that sup- nized into a melody can be beautiful (i.e., the
plement so plainly marginalized by Kant himself. "mise en forme" or the putting into relation of
Since Kant only takes into account the inflec- sounds is a condition of possibility for aesthetic
tion of sounds, one finds in his conception appreciation). Yet Kant never thinks of this or-
of music an uncertainty regarding the integra- ganization or mise en forme as a rhythmization,
tion of melody, harmony, and rhythm. Harmony whereas for Rousseau such a rhythmization is
and melody are used interchangeably (e.g., ?53, the conditio sine qua non for melodic form. Here,
p. 199) without any hierarchy being proposed. once more, we rediscover the presence of the re-
No organizational principle for melodic and pressed rhythm on the level of the texture: the
harmonic elements is provided by Kant (as it is musical isotopy which dominates Kant's writing
by Schopenhauer, that great "melodifier," who is constructed on a "tension" (Spannung) which
claims to have based his musical aesthetics on is clearly not unrelated to the rhythm and the
Kant's). And when one bears in mind his general tempo inherent in the very way in which one
contentions, one is undoubtedly forced to con- "feels" the body-an Epicurean perspective en-
clude that Kant is torn between two positions. thusiastically presented by Kant himself.
From the point of view of the scale of natural- Let us add to this another worry, one which
ness and its valuation of natural sonority, he concerns another absence in the Kantian con-
would have had to accord certain privileges to ception of music. It is temporality; never men-
melody (birdsong is specifically characterized tioned by Kant as essential and constitutive for
as a collection of melodic sequences). Neverthe- music. Kant insists on the transitory character
less, from the point of view of the scale of for- of music which, as we have seen, has no "endur-
mality, it is rather harmony that should dominate ing vehicle." It would seem then that Kant is
the concept of what is musical. Of course, Kant completely ignorant (or unconscious) of the
could have subsumed the melodic component quite empirical phenomenon of musical Gestalt:
under "charm" (Reiz) and the agreeable. But be- that musical experience would not even exist
cause every form has a mathematical basis, and without the retentions and protentions neces-
because harmony is above all mathematical sary for "melodification." Music is said to be a
(Kant's fascination for the Newtonian idea of mere "play of sensations" (according to the def-
the "mathematical harmony of the universe" is inition in ?51) in which temporalization seems
well known), it is clear that harmony should take to play no constitutive role. One might have ex-
precedence. Aesthetic judgment is, indeed, a pected that time, as a fundamental mode of

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258 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

human reason, would as a rule be crystallized in tik der dsthetischen Urtheilskraft.10 This text
musical experience and, consequently, in the de- shows that the Critique of Judgment had an im-
termination of the nature of music itself which mediate impact amongst musicologists. Michaelis
would in this way be distinguished from all seems to be in perfect symbiosis with Kant, and
other fine arts. But there is nothing of this in it is sometimes irritating how he tries to outdo
Kant. The temporality specific to music, namely Kant himself with his stiff, plodding lan-
its lack of durability, is purely phenomenal: this guage.11 He repeats the most important con-
temporality belongs to the "kingdom of appear- cepts Kant employed in determining the nature
ances." Kant could have developed the idea that of music, but without integrating them into a
time is constitutive of music, just as space is con- general philosophical framework, which natu-
stitutive of painting. He does not even contrast rally produces a considerable impoverishment of
these two arts, since he places in the same class Kant's intuitions. Nevertheless, Michaelis places
painting considered as color and music, the some accents here and there, sometimes adding
color of a painting having the same function as technical elaborations and examples. I repro-
the tone of a musical sequence (in this sense, duce here a few of these details, if only for the
music is always "picturesque"). This strategy be- pleasure of having discovered this enthusiastic
trays a certain tendency to spatialize musical but still largely ignored author.
time. If that is indeed the case, then there is no Michaelis seems to have understood very well
longer even any criterion to distinguish between that Kant considered music to be the expression
the musical sequence and the musical score of aesthetic Ideas which are "representations of
which, as a spatial diagram of that sequence, can the faculty of imagination" (Vorstellungen der
only be a poor substitute, never in a position to Einbildungskraft),'2 and especially that imagi-
provoke musical experience. This absence of the nation proceeds by analogy, not by demonstra-
temporal dimension in Kant's determination of tion. 13 There is a clear naturalistic tendency pres-
music arouses a great deal of worry, especially ent in the work of Michaelis: he affirms that
when one recalls that Lessing, already in 1766, music is "audible nature" (horbare Natur) and
had introduced in his Laoko5n an unambiguous that musical amateurs are actually "friends of
distinction between the arts of time, to which nature" (Naturfreunde).'4 Such nature is pic-
music belonged, and the arts of space. Kant turesque (sch5nen landschaftliche Natur) and
takes no account of Lessing's suggestion that Michaelis constantly draws a correlation be-
music effects, and even accomplishes, virtual tween the composer (Tonsetzer) and the land-
time. Time is necessary for receiving the suc- scape painter (Landschaftmaler); he defines
cession of sounds in perception: memory and "music" (Tonkunst) as "musical painting" (mu-
expectation are necessary for there to even be a sikalische Malerei) and refers to Rousseau who,
musical experience as sensation. But, as Lessingit appears, loved melancholic melodies because
says, more is needed than this "phenomenal "all of nature seems to want to accompany the
time." In order that this sensation may be appre- plaintive tones of a poignant voice."''5 Michaelis
ciated (Beurteilung) and, consequently, that there seems to have understood equally well the Kant-
may be aesthetic experience (i.e., that the music ian 'Analytic of the Sublime" which, in ortho-
be perceived as beautiful), the fundamental (or dox fashion, he places in relation with the ma-
constitutive) temporality must not simply be jestic, the colossal, and the wild (energischen
wi/den Musik), invoking Handel, Mozart, and
added to the inflection; rather, it must be re-
ceived by the mind (Gemlith) as the very princi-
Haydn as examples.'6 An entire chapter is de-
ple of the mise enforme. Kant remains unsympa-voted to genius as "the language of nature"
thetic to this idea, which confirms the intuition (Sprache der Natur), or as a "gift of nature"
one has when reading his text that he did not which manifests itself in the animation (Begeis-
fully appreciate the essence of the musical phe- terung) of the artist. 17 The changes of emphasis
nomenon. which Michaelis proposes are illuminating. He
In 1795, five years following the appearance is obviously aware of Kant's idea of music as a
of the Critique of Judgment, Christian Friedrich "language of the affects" and an "agitation of
Michaelis published a book entitled Uber den the mind" (Gemfithsbewegung), but he goes into
Geist der Tonkunst mit Rficksicht auf Kants Kri-more detail about "pathemics," or a theory of

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 259

the passions, which Kant did not discuss in the II. KANT ACCORDING TO MUSIC

third Critique, relegating it to his Anthropologie.


In this way, Michaelis describes how certain The suggestion has already been made that if
musical sequences are able to generate very spe- Kant had consistently applied his aesthetic the-
cific aesthetic passions such as enthusiasm, de- ory to music, he would have placed music at the
spair, anger, and sympathy,18 without, however, top of the hierarchy of the arts.23 Indeed, his
arriving at a coherent and exhaustive classifica- conception of music seems to have been too
tion. This same sense of concrete application much under the influence of anthropological
can be seen in his descriptions of the "tension" and psycho-sociological points of view (recall,
(Spannung and Stimmung) of "inexpressible" for instance, Kant's statement concerning mu-
(unnenbar) sentiments produced or revealed by sic's lack of "urbanity") which, clearly, should
pieces of music (Tonstficke). 19 It is as if Michaelis not have any impact on a properly aesthetic
took the unexpressed "official doctrine" more viewpoint. Looked at dialectically, this possibil-
seriously than Kant himself. The same could be ity of re-evaluating music in the classification of
said when he emphasizes the cathartic function the fine arts allows us to speak of a radical re-
of music, the feeling of health which it provokes, versal of perspective: an aesthetics based on the
and the bodily enjoyment which it induces- nature of music and its properties. Such a rever-
in short, the entire so-called "Epicurean" com- sal would mean that beauty and sublimity in
ponent.20 music, like the intensity of musical experience,
The technical additions could have been more would function as an excellent approach to aes-
extensive, considering this is the work of a true thetics as a whole (primarily the determination
musicologist, particularly where the relations of the analytic and dialectic moments of aes-
between melody, harmony, and rhythm are con- thetic judgment), making it possible to enrich
cerned. Some definitions are formulated,2' and the theory of Affektibilitdt (affekt and aisthesis),
tempo (completely neglected by Kant) is taken of the "agitation" of the mind (Gemfithsbewe-
into consideration without becoming really op- gung), as well as the theory concerning the com-
erative.22 Undoubtedly more significant is a cer- munication of sentiments by sensus communis
tain awareness in Michaelis of the importance and the necessity, in judgments of taste, for uni-
of musical temporality. He is not in any position versal agreement. This would be a reconstruc-
to show precisely how time is constitutive of tion of "Kant according to music," a further
music, but he does succeed in nuancing the "thought experiment" (Gedankenexperiment)
Kantian thesis concerning the volatility of mu- which I shall carry out for only one of Kant's
sic. Michaelis seems to recognize a certain aesthetic categories, that of "genius."
"Gestalt"-ist temporality: there would be, in each It is a common idea in contemporary aesthet-
piece of music, a dominant and enduring char- ics that the artist "creates" new worlds, new "ob-
acter (herrschende Character; etwas Bleiben- jects" which are added to the assortment of
des) resting on a structure of retention and pro- things and states of affairs in the existing world.
tention of which Kant seems to have no notion. The artist, we believe, is a "creator" because he
Finally, Michaelis presents the composers of his produces culture, not because he "transforms"
time, with comment and evaluation. Apart from nature. In general, Kant is not very sympathetic
Gr6try (for his operas), Clementi, and Handel, to this idea of a new reality which is added to ex-
he often mentions Bach, Haydn, and the "im- isting nature. As a result, artistic beauty and nat-
mortal" (unsterbliche) Mozart, whom he put in ural beauty cannot be separated, on Kant's view,
the following order of increasing appreciation: because it is a matter of one and the same
Bach, for his formality and capacity to embody beauty: there is only a single type of aesthetic
mathematico-relational structures in music; judgment whether the beautiful or the sublime is
Haydn, for his fantasy; and Mozart, the best of natural or artistic. Culture, for Kant, is highly
all, for the richness of his Gemlith. Without cognitive and scientific, and he is oblivious to
claiming that Michaelis offers a substantive and the fact that it might be "worldly" and "mate-
original philosophy, I would still say that his rial." That a sculpture or a building "modifies"
Kantian musicology, in its fidelity, provides us the phenomenal world by adding to it a new re-
with some not insignificant clarifications. ality is already a new, undoubtedly post-Kantian,

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260 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

concept of culture. The idea that art contributes these virtues, then it is possible that this can il-
to culture, and the future of art to the future of luminate aesthetics itself. On the one hand, then,
culture, is not very explicit in Kant's aesthetics. we have asserted the immateriality of music, its
Art has its finality, but this finality is not its fu- extra-worldliness, and on the other hand, its
ture in the historico-cultural sense. The creative nonpropositional status and the absence of any
genius does not create ex nihilo. he does not add semantics or message. These two characteristics
to nature; he is, rather, the voice of nature. Cre- make music the true prototype of art: it presents
ating objects out of sensible and palpable mate- (darstellen), in an "ideal" way, aesthetic Ideas
rials is not really, for Kant, a move in the direc- (which, we know, are distinguished from ratio-
tion of cultural enrichment: the prototypical nal Ideas and concepts). The manifestation of
cultural activity is one that provokes reflection; aesthetic ideas requires taste, which creates aes-
nature, via the genius, has certain prerogatives thetic experiences through its judgments (Beur-
in this area. New objects are quickly identified teilungen). There are no rules for the production
by Kant with "finery" (sch5nen Kleinigkeiten) of aesthetic Ideas, since rules are the products of
which is added to the world: they are parerga, a comprehension resulting from determined
"ornaments" such as rococo. Any art opposed to concepts of the understanding. A true work of
nature is "ornament," agreeable perhaps but cer- art is "exemplary" (exemplarisch), not a copy
tainly not beautiful. In the absence of art's trans- (nachgetan, nachgeahmt): it is the unique reali-
forming and modifying function in Kant's aes- zation (Darstellung) of an aesthetic Idea. I
thetics, we fall back on its subtle cognitive would say, then, that the exemplarity of the art-
function: art incites reflection, not, of course, on work is easier to realize for music than for other
the basis of the semantic content of a message, arts precisely because of its immateriality and
but rather on the basis of form, a criterion which
its a-semantism (thus avoiding a conception
belongs to nature. which would abolish the aesthetic Idea). Taking
The question now is whether music should be seriously the opposition between Darstellung
considered from this point of view, or if it is and Vorstellung, I would say that, among all the
even more lofty. It seems to me that it is pre- arts, it is music that most easily escapes the
cisely the immateriality of music, its relative in- domination of "representation" (Vorstellung):
dependence with respect to worldly materials, lacking any conceptualizable and representable
its abstraction, its mathematical base, its extra- semantic content, it "presents" (darstellt) the
worldly character, which should have led Kant aesthetic Idea even more easily.
to accept music as eminently cultural, in the One more component of Kant's conception of
sense he gives this term. It is clear that music re- genius must be added here. The genius is the
quires no activity of thought, since it has no se- creator who testifies to his capacity for realizing
mantic component: a musical sequence has no the "happy relation" among the faculties (mainly
propositional content such as is found in lan- the understanding and the imagination) and for
guage (including the most "beautiful" language finding a universally communicable way of ex-
possible, namely poetry). Music does not make pressing this relation. Consequently, the creativ-
us think; rather, it causes us to reflect and to ity of the genius is characterized by an optimal
dream more than any other art: to bring about taste and a maximal (in fact universal) commu-
this "dream-like thought," which is reflection, nicability. The genius "presents" (darstellt) the
is precisely what culture does. Moreover, music aesthetic Idea, in an ideal manner, by expressing
is cultural in that it proposes to human beings the free conformity of the imagination with the
new orders of perception. The composer is not understanding, and this in such a way that a uni-
the creator of new semantics but of new organi- versal communicability is created. Could we not
zations of sounds, which demand an adaptation say, then, that the musical genius himself serves
or transformation of our modes of perception. as a prototype of genius? There would be two
The musician, more than any other artist, "pro- reasons for this affirmation. In the first place,
vokes perception" and, in so doing, he provokes given the specificity of "musical language"
"dreaming/reflecting." Therein lies the creativ- (a-semantic), the musical creator must ideally be
ity of the musical artist. in a position to bring about the free conformity
If it is true that music is the culmination of all between the imagination and the understanding;

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 261

secondly, given this same specificity (music as derstanding and reason. There is indeed a musi-
"language of the affects"), the musical creator cal economy at work in Kant's composition, an
would even more easily be in a position to bring attempt at harmonization and even rhythmiza-
about the universal communicability of his ar- tion of the sounds and silences, the consonances
tistic products. and dissonances within Kant's text itself. I would
These analyses remain rather schematic, and like to illustrate this musical economy in Kant
I have only been able to suggest how Kantian from four complementary points of view: mu-
aesthetics might be (re)thought on the basis of sical introjection, musical exemplification, musi-
the focus on musical experience. To conclude cal metaphorization, and the creation of a musi-
this section, three points are worth mentioning. cal isotopy-rather barbaric terminology which
First of all, a musical work is (prototypically) a will become progressively more clear.
cultural work even if Kant was not impressed We have seen how Kant, in ?53 on the com-
by the fact that music modifies the phenomenal parison of the aesthetic value of the fine arts,
world, it still remains true that music transforms places poetry above music, even on the scale of
and enriches our modes of perception, and pro- "charm" (Reiz) and "agitation of the mind"
vokes our "dreaming/reflecting" better than any (Gemhthsbewegung). If one looks deeper into the
other art. Secondly, a musical work is (proto- texture of this argumentation, it soon becomes
typically) a work of art-its exemplarity and its clear that poetry owes this primacy to music it-
capacity for "presentation" (Darstellung) is max- self (?53, pp. 196-197). Music is introjected in
imal, given its immateriality and "a-semantism." poetry, which is then said to surpass and outrank
Finally, a musical work is (prototypically) a music. Poetry, Kant says, depends on certain
work of genius-it optimally realizes the free pre-established accords; furthermore, it cannot
play of the faculties, and ideally establishes the transgress the rules of "euphony of speech"
communicability of the sentiments by inviting, (Wohllaut); and again, as a play of the imagina-
with an irresistible power, universal agreement. tion, its form must harmonize (einstimmig) with
Kant himself did not go so far in the "glorifi- the laws of the understanding. Paradoxically, po-
cation" of music. He did not do so, as has been etry reaches the summit by obeying the very
suggested already, for "anthropological" rea- rules of the art which it transcends! Even when
sons. Nonetheless, an enthusiastic conception of Kant speaks more generally about language, he
musical experience could have served very well maintains that every linguistic expression has a
as a heuristic for Kantian aesthetics as a whole: tone, not as decorative accompaniment, but as a
to think of aesthetics on the basis of music, not condition of possibility for the exteriorization of
on the basis of poetry, would clearly have pro- its semantic content. So, in a certain sense, this
duced a different Kant, one who would have ac- tonality which musicalizes language confers a
cepted the unexpressed and repressed elements transcendental status on music.
of his "official doctrine" with greater courage Although Kant usually keeps to the "principle
and grace. of austerity," which states that conceptual argu-
ment does not increase in value through the ad-
111. THE MUSIC OF KANT'S TEXT dition of examples, there does arise in the third
Critique-where it is a question of analyzing the
In terms of its construction, the philosophical beautiful and the sublime-a need to develop
text is generally presented as the work of an ar- some examples.24 It is particularly worthy of
chitect. I like to speak of Kant's thought as being note that the musical examples have the very
a "cathedral," and Kant himself often used ar- specific function-clearly not recognized by
chitectural vocabulary, for instance when he Kant himself-of falsifying or neutralizing the
refers to the "gulfs and bridges" (Klufte und argument! To demonstrate this curiosity re-
Brficke) between the various parts of his system. quires bringing together often far-flung textual
But he also says that these "bridges" must bring fragments, but this exercise rewards the effort.
about a harmony among the parts or among the My first example, the songs of birds, shows
various faculties or types of conceptualization: how the example of music falsifies the argument
there must be a harmonization of the discord be- developed by Kant. The 'Analytic of the Beau-
tween matter and mind, nature and freedom, un- tiful" concludes with a lovely coda (end of ?22)

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262 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

where Kant argues as follows: beauty arises by more positively about table music (Tafelmusik):
contrast, since the wild becomes beautiful in a "a strange thing which is meant to be only
regular context, while the regular becomes beau- an agreeable noise serving to keep the minds in
tiful in a wild context. On this point, Kant cites a cheerful mood, and which fosters the free
the description of Sumatra given by Marsden, flow of conversation between each person and
who noticed this phenomenon during his visit to his neighbor, without anyone's paying the
that island. So it is with the singing of birds and slightest attention to the music's composition"
with human singing, the former apparently (?44, p. 173). In this context, music seems to
without regularity and the latter constrained by rather encourage "reflection," thus functioning
the rules of music. The beauty, therefore, of to promote culture. Thus the example of table
these two types of song depends on their con- music neutralizes Kant's intense engagement
trasting position: the "free" song of the birds against music's "barbarity" (lack of "urbanity")
will be considered beautiful in a regular context, and also, happily, neutralizes to some extent
human song in a "wild" context. Nevertheless, Kant's passionate resistance to music. Just like
this contrast between human and bird song the first example (although the first is much
(Kant's preferred reference being the nightin- stronger since itfalsifies the thesis, while the sec-
gale) has an entirely different function in the ond simply neutralizes it), this second example
rest of the Critique of Judgment: it is to demon- shows that music, for Kant, occupies an undecid-
strate that birdsong is original,free, and natural able place, provoking ambivalent evaluations.
(Kant speaks in lyrical terms about "the nightin- The Kantian text cries out for a complete
gale's enchantingly beautiful song" [?42, p. metaphorology. I can only refer here to a single
169]), while human song always runs the risk of function of musical metaphor in Kant: the rec-
being artificial and imitative. The example of onciliation of opposites or the conjunction of
the roguish youngster who imitated the nightin- poles. In a remarkable but forgotten essay,26
gale's song demonstrates, according to Kant, Leo Spitzer has noted that this association runs
that in order to be able to take an immediate in- through the whole history of aesthetics, begin-
terest in the beautiful as such, that beauty must ning with Baumgarten. Kant's text overflows
be natural, or pass for natural. Beauty arises not with Harmonisierung, with Spiel, and especially
from contrast, but from its natural origin, a the- with Stimmung in all of its derivations: Zusam-
sis which explicitly attempts to dismantle Mars- menstimmung, Einstimmung, Uebereinstimmung,
den's description (?22). and even Beistimmung. A large group of prob-
A further musical example-that of table lems find their conceptual solutions in the use of
music (Tafelmusik)-neutralizes another of this metaphorics of euphony (Wohllaut) and
Kant's theses. We have seen that music's lack symphony. But it is Stimmung which dominates.
of urbanity (Urbanitdt) and volatility are pejo- One must bear in mind the dual sense of the
rative testimony to a lack of culture: like a term: Stimme-voice (of a human being, a choir,
perfume, music forces others to participate.25 a score)-and Stimmung, agreement and tuning
The insistence on this problem, formulated in (as of a piano). Kant's musical aesthetics is
strongly pathemic terms, cannot be overlooked. dominated by this duality: voice and song on the
Music imposes itself on others, thus doing vio- one hand, agreement and balance of poles on
lence to their freedom. ?48, extensively ana- the other.
lyzed by Derrida in La verite en peinture, shows When one takes account of the materiality of
that music repeats the formal structure of dis- Kant's text, it is evident that for one of the most
gust (Ekel): insistence (aufdrdngen) describes complicated elements of his terminology, Gem-
both the action of disgust and the perception of uith, musical imagery is omnipresent: the mind
music. Derrida even goes as far as to say that, (Gemfith) is presented to us as itself a musical
for Kant, music makes one feel like vomiting, instrument, more specifically a stringed instru-
just like the perfumed handkerchief which ment. The same thing could be said of the An-
"gives all those next to and around him a treat thropologie, where sensibility, as the first prop-
whether they want it or not" (?53, p. 200). An al- erty of the mind, is presented as a bodily organ
together different sound-it can indeed be on which something like music is played. But it
said-is heard in ?44 where Kant speaks much is in ?54 that Kant enters, in the most innocent

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Parret Kant on Music and the Hierarchy of the Arts 263

way, the musical isotopy. It is well known that themselves in a kind of abyss. Without a vibra-
in this section he describes the psychological tion of the faculties, there is no aesthetic judg-
mechanism of laughter and places it in relation ment of the beautiful or the sublime. The mind
to musical experience. Both laughter and musi- functions as a stringed instrument whose inter-
cal experience are based on corporeal activity. nal voices are in tune. Along with this internal
In the first place, both experiences have a tuning, there is also an agreement of the mind
cathartic effect (they "agitate the intestines and with the body, with which it must be "harmoni-
the diaphragm," having directly beneficial con- cally related" (harmonisch verbunden) accord-
sequences for our health!). Moreover, Kant ac- ing to the Epicurean perspective which Kant de-
cepts the "Epicurean perspective" according to fends in ?54.28 A final "harmonization" must be
which these experiences cause pleasure at the added to this: the mind (Gemfith) vibrates like
bodily level. As far as laughter is concerned (but and with the body, but also like nature. Nature
the same could be said of music, by extension), itself vibrates in tune with the mind. According
these sensations are explained as the release of a to Kant, "nature should at least show a trace or
state of tension: "Laughter is an affect that arises give a hint that it contains some basis or other
if a tense expectation is transformed into noth- for us to assume in its products a lawful har-
ing (Verwandlung einer gespannten Erwartung)" mony with that liking of ours which is indepen-
(?54, p. 203). So musical experience can also be dent of all interest" (?42, p. 167). The whole of
described in terms of tenseness (expectation, ?42 consists precisely in refuting the idea that
tension, release). In further pursuing his analy- natural beauty would be objective and not "in
sis of laughter, Kant suddenly rediscovers the tune" with the "vibrations" of the mind. Is
musical isotopy in its entirety. This text seems toKant's aesthetics not an aesthetics of vibrations,
me of such importance that I quote it verbatim: and is not the mind, as the faculty responsible for
aesthetic experience, the seat of original tension?
the mind looks ... once more in order to give it another My two conclusions will take the form of cau-
try, and so by a rapid succession of tension and relax- tious and provisional aphorisms. The first con-
ation [Anspannung und Abspannung] the mind is clusion we are forced to draw is that Kant's ex-
bounced back and forth and made to sway [hin und plicit conception of music contains a number of
zurfick geschnellt und in Schwankung gesetzt wird]; internal uncertainties, but that it attempts to re-
and such swaying, since whatever was stretching the store its balance by repressing such necessary
string, as it were, snapped suddenly [weil der Ab- and essential components as artifact/instrument,
the body, passion, rhythm, and time. These ele-
sprung von dem, was gleichsam die Saite anzog, plotz-
lich ... geschah] ..., must cause a mental agitation ments reappear at the level of Kant's writing it-
self: as the introjection of these repressed ele-
[Gemiithsbewegung] and an inner bodily agitation in
harmony with it [mit ihr harmonierende inwendige ments in certain conceptual constellations, as
kOrperliche Bewegung]. (?54, p. 204) examples, as an obsessive metaphorics, and es-
pecially as a musical isotopy which dominates
There can no longer be any doubt that the mind the "affective inflection" of Kant's text. My sec-
is a stringed instrument, one which vibrates. ond conclusion should provide some justifica-
We propose an understanding of the Kantian tion for my "method" of textual deconstruction.
conception of music on the basis of this musical I would concede that it is deliberately "frivo-
isotopy. The agitation of the mind (Gemiithsbe- lous" since it (slightly) displaces the classical
wegung) is an agreement of voices: the mind orientation of interest: instead of a direct re-
harmonizes, bringing certain mental tonalities course to philosophical theses by reading through
in tune (Gemiitzustdnde zusammenstimmen).27 the text, I accept the dominance of the material-
Or even: this harmonization is a matter of tuning ity of the text, of the textual body, since this ac-
the "string" of the understanding and the imag- ceptance generates new discoveries. Such a
ination. In contrast to the beautiful, the sublime reading, whose frivolity I recognize, is intended
resonates with a sort of dissonance on the "harp as tribute to a monument. It sees the text of the
of the soul": indeed the 'Analytic of the Sub- Critique of Judgment as the monumental mani-
lime" says that the "vibrations" of the imagina- festation of a true aesthetic Idea, like a sublime
tion, when they reach the supersensible, lose symphony of the immortal Mozart.29

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264 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

HERMAN PARRET serung oder Verringerung und manchfaltige Abdrnderung


Institute of Philosophy der wirkliche Natur" (ibid., p. 11).
14. Ibid., pp. 55 and 41.
University of Leuven
15. Ibid., pp. 47-48 and II, 84.
K. Mercierplein, 2 - 3000 Leuven 16. Ibid., p. 45.
Belgium 17. "Genie ist das Talent, die Naturgabe, welche der sch6-
nen Kunst die nicht mechanischen, durch keine Begriffe,
sondern durch blosse Gefuhle bestimmten Regeln der
Schonheit giebt.... Das musikalische Genie, wie jedes andre
INTERNET: HERMAN.PARRET@ HIW.KULEUVEN.AC.BE
Kunstgenie, verfdhrt nach Regeln, ohne sich ihrer selbst bes-
timmt bewusst zu sein. Ein unbekannter Drang des Geistes,
ein hinreissendes Feuer der Fantasie, bringt Werke hervor,
1. The Critique of Judgment is cited in the English trans- welche allgemeine Bewunderung erwacken, aber ihrer
lation by Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987). eigentlichen Entstehung nach dem Kunstler even so unbe-
Parenthetical references in this text will be to Kant's section greiflich, als seinem Publikum, sind. ... Das Genie ist die
numbers and the corresponding pagination of the Pluhar Sp)ache der- Natui; von der es gleichsam beseelt wird.
edition. Begeister-ung ist der rechte Ausdruck fur den Zustand des
2. The biographies of Jachmann, as well as those of Tonkunstlers, als hervorbringenden Genies" (ibid., pp. 73-74).
Borowski and Wasianski, can be found in a book published 18. Ibid., pp. 17, 22, and 25.
on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Kant's birth: Wer- 19. Ibid., pp. 12 and 14.
war- Kant? Drei 7eitgenissischen Biogr-aphien von Ludwig 20. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
Er-nst Borowski, Reinhold Ber-nhar-d Jachmann und E. A. Ch. 21. Ibid., pp. 22, 52, and 59, among others.
Wasianski, ed. Siegfried Drescher (Pfullingen: Neske, 22. "Das Unbesstimmte der musikalischen Darstellung
1974). The texts collected here, written immediately follow- liegt zum Theil in den Gefuihlen und Gemiitshewegungen
ing Kant's death in 1804 (and a large part of Borowski's text selbst, welche die Musik ausdruckt. Denn diese vermischen
was already written in 1792, and revised and ammended by sich mannichfaltig, sind dunkel, und lassen sich nicht eher
Kant himself), are reprinted in Immanuel Kant: sein Lehen unterscheiden, als bis sie auf einen sehr hohen Grad
in Dar-stellungen von Zeitgenossen, edited by Felix GroB gestiegen sind. Zwischen dem Traurigen und Frohlichen
(Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek, 1912). For the quote from giegt es unzahlige Grade des Zunehmens oder Abnehmens.
Jachmann, cf. Wer war- Kant?, pp. 171-172. Das Erheben oder Niedersencken des Tons, die Schnelligkeit
3. Borowski, in Wer- war- Kant?, pp. 96-97. oder Langsamkeit in der Auseinanderfolge der Tone, und die
4. Wasianski, in Wer- war Kant?, p. 268. Allmahliche oder plotzliche Abwechslung derselben, alles
5. For these amusing details, see K. Vorldrnder, Immanuel diess dient zum Ausdrucker eines Gemutszustandes, den
Kant: Der Mann and das Weik, 2nd ed. (Hamburg: Felix keine Worte zu schildern in Stande sind" (ibid., pp. 52-53).
Meiner, 1977), pp. 388-392. 23. Cf. H. Schueller, "Immanuel Kant and the Aesthetics
6. Bernard Edelman, La maison de Kant: Conte Moral of Music," The Jou-nal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 14
(Paris: Payot, 1982). Here Edelman comments upon Kant's (1955-1956): 218-247. This article raises some interesting
ideas in the Anthr-opologie: misogyny, Prussian child-rearing,
problems, as does the text of G. Schubert, "Zur Musikas-
suppression of the body. "I loved Kant," recounts Edelman, thetik in Kants 'Kritik der Urteilskraft,'" A-chii'ffir Musik-
"not for the austere grandeur of his thought, but for his being wissenschaft 32 (1975): 12-25.
driven by the despair of not being loved" (p. 7). 24. Cf. the title of ?14: "Elucidation by Examples" (Er-
7. Cf. ??15-23. Iduter-ung dut-ch Beispiele).
8. Cf. the chapter on gardens in my Le sublime du quoti- 25. I cite the rather amusing footnote to ?53, where there is
dien (Paris/Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1988). a clear intrusion of anecdote into Kant's conceptualization:
9. Cf. my article "La rhetorique: heuristique et methode "Those who have recommended that the singing of hymns be
chez Kant," in Rhitorique et argumentation, ed. A. Lem- included at family prayer have failed to consider that by such
pereur (Bruxelles: Presses de I'ULB, 1990), pp. 103-114. a noisy (and precisely because of this usually pharisaical)
10. Christian Friedrich Michaelis, Uher- den Geist der worship they impose great hardship on the public, since they
Tonkunst mit Ricksi cht auf Kants Kritik der dsthetischen Ul--
compel their neighbors to either join in the singing or put
theilskr-aft (Leipzig: in den Schdferischen Buchhandlung, aside whatever they were thinking about" (?53, p. 200).
1795). A photostatic reproduction can be found in Aetas 26. Leo Spitzer, Pr-olegomena to an Interpr-etation of the
Kantiana (Bruxelles: Culture et Civilisation, 1970). Wor-d 'Stimmung' (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963).
1 1. "Wir verdanken der Kritik der- dsthetischen Ur-theil- 27. Cf. ?16 as well as ?51.
skr-aft von Kant auch die scharfsinnigsten Untersuchungen28. "It seems to me, therefore, that Epicurus may cer-
und feinsten Bemerkungen uber das Wesen der Tonkunst, tainly be granted that all gratification, even if it is prompted
uber ihr Verhaltnis zu andern Kiinsten, und uber die Stelle, by concepts that arouse aesthetic ideas, is animal (i.e., bod-
welche sie unter diesen nach ihrem 5sthetischen oder in- ily) sensation. For granting this does not in the least impair
tellektuellen Werthe verdient. Meine Absicht ist, mit der the intellectual feeling of respect for moral ideas" (?54, pp.
Darstellung der Kantischen Grundsatze meine eignen 205-206).
Gedanken uber Musik zu verbinden" (pp. 5-6). 29. This essay has been translated from versions in French
12. Michaelis, pp. 10-11, 19, and 28. and Dutch by Dale Kidd. I wish to thank Rudolf Makkreel
13. "Die Einbildungskraft schafft sich gleichsam eine for his advice and help as well as anonymous referees for
neue Welt durch analogische Zusammensetzung, Vergros- their profound and severe reading.

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