“The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)
Or, to put it a little more bluntly like Friedrich Nietzsche did, “Without music life would be a mistake.”
I’d like to say I love Schopenhauer’s quote so much I bought the company, but the truth is much more prosaic: I merely included it in A Father’s Son.
Schopenhauer was a titan of philosophy, probably best remembered today for his work The World as Will and Representation. Although not as commonly known as other big names like Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, for example, here are a few (relatively unknown) people he had a significant impact on with their own work: Joseph Campbell, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy.
Yeah, I guess Schopenhauer was sort of important in the grand scheme of things.
Anyway, the above quote comes from a longer segment that I’m including here because (1) I agree with it; and (2) Schopenhauer explains it better than I ever could.
“Music…stands quite apart from all the [other arts]. In it we do not recognize the copy, the repetition, of any Idea of the inner nature of the world. Yet it is such a great and exceedingly fine art, its effect on man’s innermost nature is so powerful, and it is so completely and profoundly understood by him in his innermost being as an entirely universal language, whose distinctness surpasses even that of the world of perception itself, that in it we certainly have to look for more than that exercitium arithmeticae occultum nescientis se numerare animi [“an unconscious exercise in arithmetic in which the mind does not know it is counting”] which Leibniz took it to be…We must attribute to music a far more serious and profound significance that refers to the innermost being of the world and of our own self…
“Music is as immediate an objectification and copy of the whole will as the world itself is, indeed as the Ideas are, the multiplied phenomenon of which constitutes the world of individual things. Therefore music is by no means like the other arts, namely a copy of the Ideas, but a copy of the will itself, the objectivity of which are the Ideas. For this reason the effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence…
“The inexpressible depth of all music, by virtue of which it floats past us as a paradise quite familiar and yet eternally remote, and is so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain. In the same way, the seriousness essential to it and wholly excluding the ludicrous from its direct and peculiar province is to be explained from the fact that its object is not the representation, in regard to which deception and ridiculousness alone are possible, but that this object is directly the will; and this is essentially the most serious of all things, as being that on which all depends.”