c o u r s e s

t h e   s i g n i f i c a n c e   o f   a r t   a n d   m u s i c


Course Description
Why do we create and seek art / music? What is art’s / music’s purpose and significance in our life?
Questions along these lines have occupied thinkers from the time of the Pre-Socratics to the present and will continue to confront us. Our fascination with such questions stems (among other reasons) from a) the observation that art in general and music in particular have been and continue to be defining aspects of every culture, era, and even our individual identity and b) the inability of existing answers to adequately account for our experience of art and music or place it convincingly within experience in general.
Historically, the significance of artistic works and experience has been understood in terms of entertainment, consumption, abstract beauty, mental exercise, power (whether at a sociological, political, or interpersonal level), emotion, and/or self-understanding. The course familiarizes students with some of the important intellectual contributions throughout history to the discourse on art’s and music’s significance, and motivates them to actively and intelligently participate in and contribute to the discourse. After a critical review of the literature, the course explores the possibility that artistic experiences may be our most potent means of re-configuring/enlarging our conception of ‘reality’ and ‘truth,’ opening up possibilities for productive imagination, action, and innovation.
We conclude by tackling questions related specifically to music’s contribution to knowing:
a) What kind of ‘reality,’ ‘truth,’ or ‘beauty’ does music stake a claim at?
b) How does music help expand our understanding of this ‘reality?’
c) How does such an understanding of music relate to our strong emotional response to it and to its potential to set, reinforce, or alter our mood?
d) What links can be forged among music’s temporal dimension, our experience of time, and individual and cultural identity?