Distinguished Professor, Fordham University
Lawrence Kramer is a composer and a professor of music and English at Fordham University in New York City. His most recent book is The Thought of Music (2015).
Language and linguistics
Can talking about music add to our understanding of it?
Thanks, everyone, for these stimulating comments. If one believes that music is unique in fostering experiences beyond words, then I think that Sam’s and Peter’s comments strike just the right balance: words won’t get you to the same place, but they can enrich your experience. But there’s a stronger position available, which is actually the position I wanted to advance. The idea that musical expression is beyond words, or that its highest value is to be found in that “beyond,” is a historical idea, specifically a legacy of the Romantic aesthetics of the early 19th century. Music was appointed to make the elevated condition of being beyond words freely available. I’m sure it still does tha...