What is it about music that gives it such universal appeal?
Just as a flickering flame has captivated humans and other animals since our
beginnings, music draws our attention and charms us. Both fire and music seem
to bear the stamp of divinity, pointing to something beyond the mundane circle
of life. Philosophers, poets, artists, musicians and others have considered the
nature of music, and some of their reflections can be found in letters
being offered in our November 26 auction.
In a collection that began as early as 1933 and ran as late
as 1974, NBC music consultant Walter E. Koons collected the responses of
various important personages to the question, “What is music?” In 1976, Koons
published his The Mystery of Music: A
Tuneful Adventure in Three Movements (Vantage), drawing on the insight of
the more than 170 thinkers whose letters Koons added to his collection, many of
which can be found in the November auction. In lot 136, we find that Eleanor
Roosevelt wrote in 1933 words that resemble strikingly remarks made by John
Cage decades later, when he stated that “Music is everywhere”: “Music to me . .
. is sound in many forms. There is music played by instruments--there is music
made by birds--there is music of the sea and of the wind . . . .”
Lot 289 reveals that Albert Schweitzer saw music as “the
unfathomable, mysterious language given to human beings to varying extents.
Those who have it at their command are able by means of it to bring to expression
states of soul and soul visions . . . in a direct manner. . . .” Indeed, the
musicians often identify mystery as central to the notion. In his letter, Edward Elgar gives his answer to the question by writing, “in the
marvelous and soul-searching words of the Philosopher, Arthur Troyte-Griffith:
'Music is the last mystery of modern life.' I would like it to remain so."
Labels: Albert Schweitzer, Aldous Huxley, autographs, Edward Elgar, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Cage, Marco Tomaschett, music, rockwell kent, Walter E. Koons