John Dewey Speaks

Music, having sound as its medium, thus necessarily expresses in a concentrated way the shocks and instabilities, the conflicts and resolutions, that are the dramatic changes enacted upon the more enduring background of nature and human life. The tension and the struggle has its gatherings of energy, its discharges, its attacks and defenses, its mighty warrings and its peaceful meetings, its resistances and resolutions, and out of these things music weaves its web. It is thus at the opposite pole from the sculptural. As one expresses the enduring, the stable and universal, so the other expresses stir, agitations, movement, the particulars and contingencies of existences—which, nevertheless, are as ingrained in nature and as typical in experience as are its structural permanences. With only a background there would be monotony and death; with only change and movement there would be chaos, not even recognized as disturbed or disturbing. The structure of things yields and alters, but it does so in rhythms that are secular [in the sense of “existing or continuing through ages or centuries”], while the things that catch the ear are the sudden, abrupt, and speedy in change.

–Art as Experience, p. 236

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