Edward Green
Composer, Musicologist & Aesthetic realism Associate

Aesthetic Realism Foundation,


Manhattan School of Music

Aesthetic Realism: A New Foundation
for Interdisciplinary Musicology
by Edward Green and Arnold Perey

Proceedings of the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM04)
Edited by R. Parncutt, A. Kessler & F. Zimmer
Graz/Austria, 15-18 April, 2004

For the COMMENTARY on each of the 35 musical examples click here.
For the DISCOGRAPHY documenting the source of each musical example, click here.

Background in Musicology. The fundamental texts of musicology from Grosseteste to the Prakempa to Schopenhauer to Zuckerkandl imply that there is a philosophic basis to music. It was Eli Siegel in the 20th century who explained what that basis is: "All beauty is a making one of opposites," he showed, "and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves" (1949). Opposites which are in every reality—a leaf, a person, physics itself—such as oneness and manyness, motion and rest are in the music of every region. The opposites make for beauty—for isn't every good song, for example a unity with rich diversity? Exciting and also composing?

We show in our presentation how the Siegel Theory of Opposites meets the hope of musicology for a method at once general enough and particular enough to provide new insight into every instance of music.

Background in Anthropology. Also in this presentation we use findings of anthropology to illustrate how every culture has an aesthetic structure which is based on the same opposites that are made one in music. In her Patterns of Culture Ruth Benedict gives evidence for this, as did every accurate observer including Boas and Malinowski.

For example, looking at cultures of Native North America, the opposites we discuss include superiority and inferiority, self-assertion and self-abnegation—opposites every human being knows are in him- or herself. With musical examples we illustrate the poignant rising and falling, leaps and cascades so redolent of Native American melodies. We ask, when these melodies are powerful, beautiful, is it because they make sense of the opposites in self that are so confusing in life? Do they put together opposites in a way that shows, for example, the painful rising and falling of self—one’s arrogance and guilt—can be resolved? Our answer is, emphatically, Yes.

Main Contribution. The opposites provide the means musicology has hoped for to see the common basis of its three main branches: 1) the aesthetic state of mind from which music arises; 2) the music itself—what makes it beautiful or not; and 3) the reception of music—what good music appeals to in the human self.

Implications. Aesthetic Realism, in showing that there is an aesthetic motive in people of every culture, which can be universally respected, has enabled music more than ever to oppose prejudice and bring out good will among peoples.

From its outset musicology has been looking for a comprehensive way to seewhat music is and why it moves people so deeply. At the heart of this search is the question: What does all music have in common?

Aesthetic Realism, founded in 1941 by the great American philosopher Eli Siegel, provides the answer. “All beauty,” he explained, “is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves” (1949).

This principle relates art and life with unprecedented accuracy and depth; it also enables our field to avoid what has become its greatest danger: speaking about world music as if the differences between individual musical cultures, or even the differences between epochs in a single culture, are larger than the kinships. This is a scientific matter; it is equally an ethical one. At the extreme, some have argued that no person outside a particular culture group can authentically appreciate the music of another region of the world. This, we intend to show, is not true. Moreover, musicology, informed by the principles of Aesthetic Realism, can be a force in this world for kindness because it shows a purpose in common in all humanity which can be respected. The desire to put opposites together is what we see across the centuries, across the continents, as men and women and children are impelled towards music.

Music arises from an emotion about the world. As Aesthetic Realism explains, people everywhere are trying to see conflicting aspects or qualities of reality, and conflicting emotions within themselves, as having coherence. When that coherence is found, is sincerely felt, and truly expressed, art happens; we meet beauty; and if that beauty comes in the form of sound organized in time, it is music. All successful music shows the world as having a structure we can authentically like.

Some of the finest musicological thought has pointed to this. For example, Arthur Schopenhauer thrilled the 19th century as he wrote about the works of Beethoven in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. A Beethoven symphony, he said:

…presents us with the greatest confusion which yet has the most perfect order as its foundation; with the most vehement conflict which is transformed the next moment into the most beautiful harmony. It is rerum concordia discors, a true and complete picture of the nature of the world (1966, Vol. II, p. 450). [Track 1]

Schopenhauer was preceded by Boethius and Grosseteste—to mention two other Western thinkers who insisted there must be a correspondence between what happens in music and what reality itself is like. This has not been only—or even primarily—a European concern. Every world culture that has produced a theory of its own music has related that music to philosophic and cosmological matters. Consider, for instance, the Javanese text Prakempa. “Right from the outset,” writes Michael Tenzer (2000), “…music is linked to the origins of the universe” (p. 34). And he continues:

A mandala-like schema called the pangider bhuwana…portrays a vibrant macrocosm seen as an interconnected network of spiritual sound, color, and thought (p. 36).

And Tenzer cites the contemporary Indonesian scholar, Mande Bandem, observing “that Prakempa’s value lies in its delineation of four basic aspects of music: philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and technique” (p. 38).

“What must the world be like, what must I be like,” asked the noted 20th-century theorist Victor Zuckerkandl (1973), “if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur? How must I consider the world, how must I consider myself, if I am to understand the reality of music?” (p. 7). These are exactly the questions Aesthetic Realism answers.

Let us consider the opposites of Being and Change. They are ontological; they correspond to the deepest scientific and philosophic structure of the world; they are in every instance of reality one can think of: a leaf rustling in the wind; an embryo developing; the conservation jointly of matter and energy. At the same time, they are present in the hopes and feelings of every man and woman. Has there ever lived a human being who did not want both stability and adventure? Both security and surprise? No. And that desire, to see opposites as one, impels all music.

Rest and Motion; Being and Change; Stability and Surprise; Continuity and Discontinuity—these opposites can be heard in music as diverse as Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony, the modulating, yet strophic Mongolian song “Naoligerma,” and the buzzingly microtonal String Trio of Giacinto Scelsi with its presentation of a world of diversity within a single pitch. In each instance, the opposites are central to the musical effect.

We hear them in the beautiful versicle structure of the medieval sequence Dilecte deo Galli by Notker of St. Gall. They are also at the heart of New Guinean Jaw’s-harp music with its twanging drone, and its constantly varying pattern of overtones above.

Being and Change, Stability and Surprise are implicit in the two central theoretical concepts of Indian music: raga and tala. Improvisation on a fixed chord sequence—the heart of classic jazz—likewise depends on them. And when, in a musical experience, opposites are felt by an individual listener sincerely as one, that person feels beauty. [Tracks 2 - 8]

Music and like of the world. Aesthetic Realism itself has this tripartite basis, as explained by Eli Siegel (1997):

One, Man’s greatest, deepest desire is to like the world honestly. Two, The one way to like the world honestly, not as a conquest of one’s own, is to see the world as the aesthetic oneness of opposites. Three, The greatest danger or temptation of man is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not himself; which lessening is Contempt (p. 7).

It is contempt which makes persons see themselves, and their music, as fundamentally different from other people, and the sounds they respond to.

We quote now, at some length, an important passage from Eli Siegel’s philosophic essay, “The Aesthetic Center” (1962). It goes to the heart of the matter: Does music tell us what reality is? And does music show us reality is honestly likable in its enduring, philosophic structure?

Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism

Eli Siegel (1902-1978),
founder of Aesthetic Realism

In this great essay, he writes:

Reality is that which is and changes. According to Aesthetic Realism, that aspect of reality which does not change, but just is, is the absolute; that which changes is the relative. All reality has the absolute in it. This, according to Aristotle, was felt by Parmenides:

For what is different from being does not exist, so that it necessarily follows, according to the argument of Parmenides, that all things that are, are one, and this is being. [Metaphysics III]

And surely, Aristotle tells us how Heraclitus accented the flux of things, or the changing of things. Reality can please both Parmenides and Heraclitus. It can be said that when reality is seen as pleasing both the Parmenidean in us and the Heraclitean it has become art.

…Music, changing in time, insists more and more as it goes on, on the stability, justification, permanence of what it began with. Harmony is that which imposes on the differing and transitory that which will make them coherent and permanent. The pleasure from music can be put in this exclamation: “As those notes go on, and change, how something I looked for is being heard by me!” Rhythm is any instance of change and sameness seen as one.

…Things are and change in art. They do so because reality is that which is all the time and becomes different all the time. This essential of reality, as shown by art, is that which is the Aesthetic Center, the essential thing in art. This it is which delights us when, in a detail or in a large work, we see it (p. 3).

Because Aesthetic Realism is based on permanent ontological principles, it is an honestly universal point-of-view. And through its methodology, one can appreciate what is valuable in all other methodologies—where they, too, reveal something of music and “The Aesthetic Center.” [Track 9]

Schenkerian analysis and the opposites. Consider one of the most valuable tools of modern musicology: Schenkerian analysis. Carl Schachter has these sentences in his 1999 collection of essays, Unfoldings:

To say that the note A (or D) moves to F is to employ a useful metaphor; to say that the key D (or A) moves to the key of F is not. A key is a network of relationships that stretches through all of musical “space” and that can hardly be said to “move.” …What Schenker was eventually to discover was that key successions might very well result from linear activity within a harmony (or a progression of harmonies), and that a governing diatonic structure, ultimately derived from the tonic triad, could unify even such heterogeneous elements (pp. 142, 146).

This is quite technical language, yet one can see Schenkerian analysis is grounded in the ontological matters Eli Siegel was presenting. Its core technique—relating foreground and background tonal structures—depends on the opposites of Being and Change; Part and Whole.

The oneness of emotion and structure. “Everywhere in the world,” Eli Siegel has said, “a person is trying to have an emotion which the sound-structure of the world, the reality-as-sound aspect of the world, would justify” (1969). A thrilling implication of this idea is that what has satisfied human feeling—what has had people feel they were in the presence of beauty—has always deeply been the same. Every musical language arises from the constant, lovely, honorable desire in people to put opposites together. This is an approach to the arts completely free of cultural bias—what musicology has always yearned for.

Schenker can be a useful beginning point for seeing this. Certainly his lack of interest in non-Western music can be regretted. Yet opposites he saw as so critical in the works of, say, Bach and Brahms—the opposites of Part and Whole—are universal matters. An Ewe drum ensemble makes very different music from that of these German masters, yet Ghanaian village drummers are also looking to do a beautiful job with Part and Whole. In our full presentation to the conference in Graz, we discussed this in detail in relation to the piece Agbekor. [ Track 10] To summarize: interlocking rhythms are central to the musical language of the Ewe. Anytime one drummer fails to “mesh” his part with the others in his ensemble, the Ewe are critical; they feel the music is hurt. We know from his sketches, that Brahms would add or subtract contrapuntal voices from his compositions when he felt the relation of Part and Whole was not yet as beautiful as it could be.

In my work as a member of the Board of Advisors of two very different organizations in New York—one giving concerts of traditional Chinese music, the other of traditional Indian—I have seen the same principle at work that we have just considered among the Ewe, and seen in the work of Brahms. Everywhere in the world musicians are trying to assert their individual parts, and yet fit in gracefully with other parts. And everywhere people are critical if they don’t. Does this mean, what people are looking for in music is, in essence, the same thing they are looking for in life? It does. Whether in Vienna, New York, Beijing, Bombay, or an Ewe village, people are trying to relate, as deeply as they can, their desire for self-assertion and their hope to be affected by other people; to be unmistakably individual and yet gracefully, usefully part of a larger whole. [Tracks 11-15]

The opposites of the individual and the collective are critical in all Sociological and Anthropological theory; they are also critical everywhere in world music—whether we are hearing Agbekor or Mozart’s Concerto in G for Flute and Orchestra. [Track 16]

Music criticism. We believe that a careful study of the critical judgments people in any society have about their own music will reveal that their criterion for the goodness of a composition, or a performance, is what Aesthetic Realism presents: the oneness of opposites. A lively presentation of this can be found in Paul F. Berliner’s (1993) account of how his teacher—of the Shona people of South Africa—criticized him as he was learning the mbira:

When I first began to study the mbira, I listened “too carefully” to the resultant parts arising from my instrument and was often thrown off by the discrepancy between what my fingers were playing and what I heard. I often lost my place in the music after repeating a basic pattern a number of time. My teacher, Sumisani Maraire, would say to me at such times, “You are taking too much from the mbira, you must give more” (that is, “Do not listen so carefully to the voice of the mbira, but concentrate on what your fingers are doing”). As I developed more control of the mbira I was confronted with the opposite problem. Sometimes I changed too quickly from one variation to another or played a variation that represented too abrupt a departure from the one before it. At such times Maraire said “You are giving too much to the mbira, you must take more from the mbira” (that is, “Listen more to the mbira’s voice; allow yourself to be affected and moved by its mood and what it is saying”). Once a student understands this principle of sharing ideas with the mbira, he begins to develop the sought-after rapport between himself and his instrument (p.145).

Among the opposites here are spontaneity and control; repetition and variation; assertion of self, and the yielding to an outside object. Maraire, though he doesn’t use outwardly philosophic terms, is critical of his student on that basis. [Tracks 17, 18]

Music education. Every musician will recognize something of their own education in the Berliner account. Where Aesthetic Realism adds something profoundly new and essential to music education is that it says there is no difference between the criteria we use, unconsciously, to judge ourselves in life, and the criteria we use, with varying degrees of consciousness, to judge art: we are not satisfied until opposites are made one. I first wrote about the value of Aesthetic Realism for integrating art and life in 1974 for School Music News (reprinted in Composer Magazine) and have since given many papers relating music and the self on a technical basis, some of which are posted at the website www.edgreenmusic.org.

To give a beginning sense of this, I quote a passage from a consultation I had with faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York in l972. At the time, I was an undergraduate composition student and was enduring something many students of music do—a loss of belief in myself. I was unable to compose, and feared I had lost the ability to express myself forever.

I had no idea my technical, musical difficulties had anything to do with how I saw people and the world itself; but, I was to learn, music and life are interconnected: one’s attitude towards the world shows itself in everything we do. I learned that my contemptuous attitude towards people—hoping to feel superior and distinguished— hurt me as a musician. That attitude was present, as it is in many college age persons, in how I thought about my parents. “Do you think,” my consultants asked me, “in seeing where you and your mother are the same and different, you will come out more of an individual or less?” I said, “Less; I think I would really feel like a satellite.” “That means you’re seeing yourself as too much the same or too different. There has to be an accurate relation between the two.” I am ashamed to have answered, “I don’t want accuracy there; I just want distance!” And my consultants, critically, and so kindly, then asked: “And what do you want as a musician? You have to ask, is it the same as what you deeply want in life?”

It is a musical necessity to bring sounds accurately together, to create a sensible structure of nearness and distance, separation and continuity. This was just what I was not doing in life, and it was weakening me as an artist. My gratitude for learning from Aesthetic Realism that art and life deeply explain each other is a boundless gratitude; and an exact one. There is nothing humanity needs more than to see that good ethics is the same as true aesthetics. That seeing will make for more art in this world; and it will make for more kindness.

What ethnomusicology is calling for now. The most obviously inter-disciplinary aspect of musicology is Ethnomusicology, and it is a field in which scholars are very consciously calling out for a new foundation. John Blacking, in a critical 1971 article called upon his colleagues to seek “a unitary method of musical analysis which can…be applied to all music” (p. 93).

Other eminent scholars have likewise questioned the tendency of our time to accent the differences between musical cultures rather than to search for their deep kinship. It is—all things considered—not unlike the contemptuous state of mind I had as a young musician vis-à-vis my family. And it needs equally to be criticized.

In his contribution to Clayton, Herbert and Middleton’s 2003 anthology, The Cultural Study of Music, Kofi Agawu shows an awareness of the danger to musicology of making cultures too different from each other in our thought. He argues against the use of neat “binarisms” that cast one culture as “communal rather than individualistic; spontaneous rather than calculated; rhythmically complex rather than simple; melodically unsophisticated rather than ornate” etc. (p. 232). He concludes his essay by declaring:

Restoring a notional sameness to the work of ethnomusicology will go a long way towards achieving something that has hitherto remained only a theoretical possibility, namely, an ethical study of African music (p. 236). [Track 19]

The use of the word “ethical” is critical: Agawu implies we are unjust when we act as if other people are fundamentally different from ourselves: different and inferior.

There are an increasing number of scholars who are making the effort to become, as Mantel Hood put it, honestly “bimusical”—so deeply knowledgeable about a musical culture other than the one they were born into, that persons of this second culture would see them as skilled at and respectful of their music. The very existence of bimusicality is a criticism of the contempt that lies within the non-universal approach, where it is denied that any real common denominator joins world music. Among the musicologists who are bimusical is Michael Tenzer, and in his text Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of Twentieth-Century Balinese Music (2000), he boldly, and very sensibly relates Kebyar to music by Mozart, Jaki Byard, Lutoslawki and Ives. “My hope,” he wrote, “is to create optimal conditions for these musics to ... illuminate one another” (p. 419). Like Agawu, Tenzer is aware of the danger of not seeking the universal; left uncriticized, he writes, ”the politics of irreducible difference” will continue “to color our perspectives” (p. 435).

Yet what that universal is, has not been clearly described until Aesthetic Realism which explains: no matter how different any two human cultures may be, they inevitably share ontology, the permanent structure of the world, in common.

And that structure—the opposites—is also the structure of the human mind, and of human emotion.

Consider these sentences by Tenzer as he writes of the universal import of neliti melody (structural “background” melody) in Gamelan music. [Track 20] Can we not see here why a person of any culture might have a musical frisson listening to well-played Balinese music?

Neliti behave according to a Balinese grammar, but the grammar reflects a need to balance motion and stasis, cadence and progression, symmetry and asymmetry, and the other factors I have identified, a phenomenon that is not culturally unique (p. 435). [Tracks 21 - 25]

Tenzer is completely right, and is pointing to a larger truth: what satisfies a person musically, in any culture, is his or her individual feeling—perhaps not yet fully conscious—that in the sounds being heard, sounds created by fellow human beings, there is an answer, a beautiful, stirring answer, to the problems of life! “The resolution of conflict in self,” Eli Siegel explained, “is like the making one of opposites in art” (1981, p. 83).

The purpose of anthropology as a science is to understand what a human being is. This means understanding what all cultures—and all people—have in common, with respect for difference, individuality, idiosyncrasy.

Art and music are part of what all humans have in common. No culture is without them. And the worldwide distribution of cave paintings and bone flutes—some older than 30,000 years—is evidence of their antiquity.

Through the critical method of Aesthetic Realism, one sees why the arts are necessary to every human population. And as Edward Green points out, Aesthetic Realism opposes the contempt that makes one numb to the inner lives of other people and to their cultures.

Dr. Arnold Perey, anthropologist
Dr. Arnold Perey
Faculty, Aesthetic Realism Foundation www.perey-anthropology.net

The search for cultural universals. The search for cultural universals, including what music has in common across cultures, began with the earliest of modern anthropologists. Bronislaw Malinowski, for example, sought to describe universal human needs, including for food and procreation and for art. However, when he was in the Trobriand Islands in the early 1900s, it was not possible to differentiate which customs and beliefs belonged essentially to local culture and which to humanity as such. Too few cultures had been studied. As field data accumulated over the decades, the attempt to find universals continued. The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) originated by G.P. Murdock gathered and classified thousands of traits, for hundreds of cultures. Eventually a complete cross-correlation of these traits was completed, only to yield results that weren't deep enough—such as how many meals a day humans everywhere are likely to eat.

In years of study I have seen that human culture, and its many aspects, is based on the opposites as Aesthetic Realism describes them. I wrote this in my study (1973) of the aesthetic structure of a New Guinea society:

The opposites recurrent in all phases of Oksapmin [Papua New Guinea] life, and central to explaining its aesthetic basis, are Self and World, For and Against, and Separation and Junction. ... The researcher believes that describing a culture in terms of its aesthetic structure [the opposites] makes for explanation of how such diverse fields as its dance … folklore … economics, and ethics are related. [From the abstract]

Communication across cultures. The fact that the opposites underlie every culture and human emotion as such, is why people of different cultures can and do communicate feelings and meanings to one another. Successful communication between cultures is sometimes so ordinary it isn't noticed. Many an anthropologist has trusted persons in a tribe—whose culture was at first completely unknown to himself—because he understood their nonverbal body language, including sincere smiles, and the sounds of tones of voice. This is what I experienced myself in Papua New Guinea (Perey, 1975).

Descriptions of great value to understanding how emotions are expressed can be found in Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1965 edition). In our presentation we point to the reason why this book, recently being revisited by scholars, is a compendium of strikingly useful information for cross-cultural research in music.

Universals have been felt in music. Just as Noam Chomsky found a single deep structure underlying grammars of different languages, so musicologists have written of their search for a deep structure common to all music. Lovers of music have perceived beauty in music from cultures very different from their own and have written that there is something transcending specific cultures that can move one immeasurably. That is why, for example, the pristine harmonies of the Mbuti pygmies [Track 26] of the central African rainforest have been appreciated by university scholars. Music has crossed cultural boundaries to become popular thousands of miles away—as the sitar music of Ravi Shankar swept America in the 1960s. [Track 27]

In my personal experience as an anthropologist in the field, and in doing research with recorded music, I have come to see that the deep structure of music that moves one—the structure that makes it beautiful and emotionally so stirring—is the opposites.

For example I danced with Paiute-Shoshone people at the Battle Mountain pine-nut dance. There, I experienced a feeling of composition in my emotions—the feeling of self being proud and assertive, and yet modest and joined with many others—as I danced to the loud and muted drum beats, the crescendo and decrescendo, the rising and falling pitches of dance songs. [Track 28]

I experienced something akin, and as exhilarating, in the mountains of New Guinea where I danced with tribal folk while conducting research in human ecology. There, rising pitch, rapid articulation, and vocal tension made for a more warlike effect in one dance, while the music for social dancing was gentler, and the dance step with a straight back and bending knees put together pride and humility—as one circled the central fire in the company of many people, uttering a strong and steady vibrato vocal accompaniment to drums.

Beauty in music and beauty in art. Although the following study was done in the field of the visual arts, it has importance to musicology as well. For in it the anthropologist Irvin L. Child proves that there is a cross-culturally valid criterion of beauty which, unconsciously, working artists are going by.

In "And the Bridge of Judgment that Crosses Every Cultural Gap," Child (1972) shows statistically that artists from ethnographically distinct regions (Fiji, Japan, Africa, the United States) largely agreed on which drawings, etc. were good and which were not good. They were judging art from cultures other than their own and in styles they never saw. The extent of their agreement showed that they had a criterion in common, which was independent of their cultures or backgrounds.

What that criterion is, Child cannot say. In classes given at museums and galleries, Marcia Rackow and I have described how the Siegel Theory of Opposites is that criterion. (See, for example, Perey and Rackow [2003]: www.perey-anthropology.net/insea.pdf.)

To see how beauty in art and in music have a basis in common would advance the understanding, worldwide, of both art and music. In our presentation we do discuss how Aesthetic Realism makes clear that relation (e.g. for tribes of the Northwest Coast, N. America).

Self and music on the Pacific northwest coast, Canada and the United States. Writes Bruno Nettl (1956):

Among the Salish and Northwest Coast Indians, the melodic movement is pendulum type, leaping in broad intervals from one limit of the range to the other (p. 107). [Track 29]

In her classic Patterns of Culture, Ruth Benedict (1934) writes something remarkably similar to Nettl—only this is about emotion among the same Northwest Coast tribes:

The gamut of the emotions which they recognized, from triumph to shame, was magnified to its utmost proportions (p. 220).

Not only their music but their emotions "leap."

Every person goes from triumph to shame, shame to triumph, regardless of culture of origin. But on the NW Coast these emotions took on extraordinary significance. And since, as Aesthetic Realism states, the purpose of art is to resolve conflict within the self at its deepest, we would expect a correspondence between highs and lows of self, victory and guilt, and the form that music takes. That is precisely what we see.

First, some background: in this culture competition for status was keen. Contempt pervaded social institutions. Boas (1897) and Benedict (pp. 283ff.) describe minutely the hereditary aristocrats, commoners, and slaves. Songs asserted one's contempt, such as:

I am the great chief who makes people ashamed (p. 190).

The Kwakiutl-Nootka "Wolf Song" has the line, "I was first made to say I was made great." In the music we hear falling, then a rising assertion, then falling back. The song begins on a-flat, slides down to g, "leaps" to e and goes to d. It leaps up again, and again descends in increments. At the end of each segment of the song, there is the sound of "unh" that goes deep. There is a feeling of relief as one goes down to the bottom of one's vocal range. There is a kind of earth depth that one wants to get to—not an abyss of shame.

As this song rises and falls, the beauty of the music opposes the contempt in the society from which it came; it resolves an agonizing and frequent conflict in self. Ruth Benedict describes how devastating that conflict between heights and depths in a person’s life really was:

In practice suicide was comparatively common....[T]he individual...had staked everything, in his view of life, upon a grandiose picture of the self, and when the bubble of his self-esteem was pricked, he had no security to fall back upon, and the collapse of his inflated ego left him prostrate (pp. 219-20).

Assertion and yielding: universal in the human self and in world music. Deryk Cooke (1959)—in a discussion of how rising and falling in western music is like the assertion and yielding, the rising and falling of the human self—tells us for example that Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata,

bids 'farewell to the past...' and concludes her aria with 'everything mortal ends in the tomb' (to a variant of the descending 5-3-1 progression) (p. 139). [Track 30]

While every specific of Cooke’s theory cannot be carried over to the particulars of all other musical cultures, it is clear that, in broad outline, this instance from Italian opera is related to the music of other cultures [ Tracks 31, 32] — and certainly to Native America, including the “Wolf Song” and the Dakota Sun Dance, with its thrilling emotional impact of rising and plummeting melody. [Track 33]

In our presentation we show how three different culture areas of North America have music that is alike yet also very different: 1) NW coast seafaring people, 2) nomadic hunters of the plains (e.g., Dakota), and 3) careful farmers living in multi-story dwellings in the arid southwest. [ Tracks 34, 35] The music of each is unique—differing as their cultures differ—yet each deals richly and centrally with rising and falling in a way that characterizes Native American culture.

The self is impelled to make sense of contradictory states of mind. And that, Aesthetic Realism explains, is where music comes in.

We have learned from Aesthetic Realism that music and art represent the strongest thing in a human being: authentic respect for reality and its philosophic structure. And it is that respect which enabled modern humans, who arose in Africa perhaps 200,000 years ago, to populate the globe from the humid tropics to frigid northern glaciers by 30,000 BC. For a respectful—an aesthetic—relation of oneself to the outside world and people is the same as efficiency.

To understand what music comes from in the human mind; to understand how music and its source are to be described in philosophic terms true for all cultures; to show that Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, provides this understanding—this has been the purpose of our presentation. The respect for the human mind which Aesthetic Realism engenders can defeat contempt and have true kindness be among all peoples. Music can be, more than ever before, a conscious means to this.

Agawu, K. (2003). Contesting difference: A critique of africanist ethnomusicology. The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, ed. Clayton, M., T. Herbert, R. Middleton. New York and London: Routledge.

Berliner, P. (1993). The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Benedict, R. (1934). Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Blacking, J. (1971). The value of music in human experience. Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council.

Boas, F. (1897). The social organization and the secret societies of the Kwakiutl Indians. Report of the U.S. National Museum for 1895. Washington

Child, I. (1972). And the bridge of judgment that crosses every cultural gap. Change: A Collection of Readings for Sociology and Behavioral Science. Del Mar, California: CRM Books.

Darwin, C. (1965 edition). The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Track 1. Beethoven: Symphony #3, 1st mvt. (from the development section)
RCA: RCD1-7197

Track 2. Beethoven: Symphony #6, 2nd mvt.

Track 3. Naoligerma, Mongolian Song
Folkways: FE 4092

Track 4. Scelsi: String Trio, 1st mvt.
Montagne: MO 782156

Track 5. Notker Balbulus: Dilecte deo Galli

Track 6. Igu, Musician of the Darumbere (New Guinea)
Lyrichord: LLST 737

Track 7. Pattabhiramiah: Modi Jesevelara
Nonesuch: H-72040

Track 8. Jelly Roll Morton: Black Bottom Stomp
Victor 20221

Track 9. Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps (Opening of Part II)
from CBS: MK 42433

Track 10. Agbekor
Field Recording by David Locke. Worlds of Music (3rd ed.) Jeff Todd Titon, General Editor. Schirmer Books . New York, 1996

Track 11. Haydn: Quartet in F Major, Op. 74 #2
Naxos: 8.550396

Track 12. Ellington: The Mooche
Columbia: SEG7575

Track 13. Zhou Long: Secluded Orchid
(Private recording)

Track 14. Khyāl in rāg mishra bhairavi
Wergo: LC 06356

Track 15. Agbekor (later section)
Field Recording by David Locke. Included in Worlds of Music (3rd ed.) Jeff Todd Titon, General Editor. Schirmer Books . New York, 1996

Track 16. Mozart: Concerto in G for Flute and Orchestra
MHS: 513970X

Track 17. Gumbukumbu, music of the Shona
Nonesuch: H-72954

Track 18. Mozart: Ein Musikalischer Spass
Deutsche Grammophon: 2531253

Track 19. Makala, music of the BaAka people
Field recording by Michelle Kisliuk. Included in Worlds of Music (3rd ed.) Jeff Todd Titon, General Editor. Schirmer Books . New York, 1996

Track 20. Pengecet Legong Lasem
Included in Tenzer (2000)

Track 21. Driss El Maloumi: Taqsim
(Private recording)

Track 22. Perotin: Alleluya Navitatis
Sony: A 27236

Track 23. Thelonious Monk: Criss Cross
Blue Note: 1590

Track 24. Isaac: Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen
Sony: A 51492

Track 25. Brahms: Rondo alla zingarese
BMG: 5677-2-RG

Track 26. Elephant Hunting Song, Mbuti people, Ituri Forest, People’s Republic of the Congo
Lyrichord: LLST 7157

Track 27. Ravi Shankar: Dádrá
Columbia: CK 9296

Track 28. Paiute-Shoshone Circle Dance: McCloud’s Flag Song

Track 29. Wolf Song of the Kwakiutl-Nootka
Folkways: FE4541

Track 30. Verdi: Addio del passato from La Traviata
London: LDR5 71062

Track 31. Death Lament of a Kurdish Singer
Wergo: LC 06356

Track 32. Tangiboa, Death Lament from German New Guinea, 1928
Wergo: LC 06356

Track 33. Sioux Sun Dance
Folkways: FE 4541

Track 34. Zuñi, Moonlight Song
Folkways: FE 4541

Track 35. Zuñi Lullaby
Field Recording by David Mc Allester. Worlds of Music (3rd ed.) Jeff Todd Titon, General Editor. Schirmer Books . New York, 1996

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