Formalism, Gestalt Theory, Aristoxenus, Descartes, Meyer, Music Philosophy, Esthetics
In every age, philosophers deal with inquiries concerning musical meaning and the effect of music on the listener. Instead of answering the formidable question of musical meaning, this essay demonstrates the parallel aspects of three musical theories from ancient, Enlightenment, and modern times. Using the two criteria of musical formalism and Gestalt Theory, this essay systematically connects the philosophies of Aristoxenus of Tarentum, René Descartes, and Leonard Meyer. Musical formalism holds that music’s nature is innate, self-evident, able to be systematically deduced, and rational. According to formalism, musical meaning is defined by things objectively ‘there’ in the music, musical experience relies on cognition, and music is less a matter of sense than of mind. Gestalt Theory asserts that music is a unified totality—the whole gives meaning to the parts. This project demonstrates that three seemingly dissimilar musical philosophies include and prefigure the same foundational principles, although the theories reach different conclusions about musical meaning. In the research process, this essay utilizes documentary evidence. This essay concludes that the philosophies of Aristoxenus, Descartes, and Meyer are united by tendencies toward musical formalism and strands of the Gestalt view of music.
Staufer, Amanda N.
"The Unifying Strands: Formalism and Gestalt Theory in the Musical Philosophies of Aristoxenus, Descartes, and Meyer,"
Musical Offerings: Vol. 9
, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/musicalofferings/vol9/iss1/3
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
DigitalCommons@Cedarville provides a publication platform for fully open access journals, which means that all articles are available on the Internet to all users immediately upon publication. However, the opinions and sentiments expressed by the authors of articles published in our journals do not necessarily indicate the endorsement or reflect the views of DigitalCommons@Cedarville, the Centennial Library, or Cedarville University and its employees. The authors are solely responsible for the content of their work. Please address questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.