The desire for the ineffable: on the myth of music as absolute
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Keywords

Absolute Music
Ineffability
Plotinus
Romanticism

Abstract

This article proposes to establish and critique connections between religious and musico-aesthetic conceptions of in-effability by exploring the link between neoplatonic thought and romantic aesthetics. The central thesis is that recourse to the ineffable is often made by resorting to theological tenets and, consequently, that romantic aesthetics, although desperately trying to disengage itself from theological thinking, can in fact be interpreted as being inextricably bound up with it. Taking Plotinus’ conception of the relationship between the “One” and “Intellect” as model, the romantic conception of the absolute is revealed to be a fallacy. It is shown that claims of the ineffability of music not only locate music as a false absolute, but also confer on music a quasi-religious authority. This results in an ungrounded secular faith in the power of music and the mastery of its composer-god to lead mankind to the truth. Untangling the myths of ineffability leads the way to a detranscendentalised conception of music with performance at its centre.
https://doi.org/10.4102/koers.v74i1/2.114
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