Views of Immanuel Kant and Eduard Hanslick on Formalist and Modernist Approach Art and Music Term Paper

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Kant, Hanslick and Music

Kant and Hanslick on Music and the Beauty Thereof

Several theories have been formulated regarding how art should be evaluated aesthetically and how this aesthetic evaluation can be applied to music. While some contend that aesthetics and music should be evaluated from a Marxist perspective in which socio-historic factors are taken into consideration, others contend that a work of art should be judged based upon its form or structure. In order to better understand what can and is considered beautiful, one can look to Immanuel Kant's The Critique of Judgment; likewise, Eduard Hanslick in Vom Musikalisch-Schonen: Ein Betrag Zur Revision der Asthetik der Tonkunst (On the Musically Beautiful: A Contribution Towards the Revision of the Aesthetics of Music) is able to build upon Kant's arguments regarding beauty and attempt to define what makes music aesthetically pleasing.

Music is a special kind of art because it is considered to be a uniquely human process. Due to music's uniqueness, it is believed that certain values can be expressed through the medium and that music has the potential to be a vehicle for the expression of values. Furthermore, music is a subdivision of sound with the other category being comprised of noise. While noise does not have a formal structure of any sort, "music is the sole source of organized sound" (Graham, 95). Moreover, music has the capacity of being used to convey ideas that "relate to audible changes in strength, motion, and proportion…consequently [including]…ideas of increasing and diminishing, acceleration and deceleration, clever interweavings simple progressions [of ideas] and the like" (Robinson, 296).

Music is also unlike all other forms of art since it requires an audience to be willing to partake or participate in the art. Since no one forces an individual to listen to music then it is the listener that makes the determination as to what he or she will listen to. Eduard Hanslick contends that,

The servile dependence of the various special aesthetics upon a supreme metaphysical principle of general aesthetics is steadily yielding ground to the conviction that each particular art demands to be understood only of itself, through knowledge of its unique technical characteristics.
(Hanslick, 2)

Hanslick argues that differing forms of art must be criticized based upon standards and characteristics that are specific to that art form. Furthermore, Hanslick argues that the intent of art is to "externalize an idea actively emerging in the artist's imagination" (31). In the case of musical expression, the artist is trying to convey a tonal idea that they have conceived and must express through a musical composition. However, in order to fully enjoy music as an art form, the listener must determine if they enjoy what they are hearing or if dissonance is being created, either cognitive or aural, and if what they are listening to can be considered to be musically acceptable.

According to Hanslick, the definition of what is musically beautiful does not consider what should be, but rather takes into account what is. Musical beauty relies upon musical form, or the way in which melodies and harmonies are structured within a musical piece. Despite the fact that music can be arranged or structured in a specific way, the structure does not imply that the artist has any emotional feelings that they have attached to the composition (Robinson, 295).

Immanuel Kant contends that beauty is variable and subjective stating that "the judgment of taste…is not a cognitive judgment, and so not logical, but is aesthetic -- which means that it is one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective" (Kant, 51). Kant continues to argue that scientific markers cannot be used to calculate beauty, "for a science of the beautiful would have to determine scientifically…whether a thing was to be considered beautiful or not" and would therefore eliminate subjectivity (58).

Kant also believed that aesthetics transcended personal preferences and also relied on a specific set of rules that determined how art and aesthetics were judged.….....

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