Parallels

“In life outside music, ambiguity is not necessarily a positive attribute—it is often a sign of indecision and, in politics, a lack of firm direction—but in the world of sound, ambiguity becomes a virtue in that it offers many different possibilities from which to proceed. Sound has the ability to make a link between all elements, so that no element is exclusively negative or positive… Feeling is an expression of the struggle for balance, and it cannot be allowed independence from thought. As Spinoza shows us, joy and its variants lead to a greater functional perfection; sorrow and its related affects are unhealthy and should therefore be avoided. In music, though, joy and sorrow exist simultaneously and therefore allow us to feel a sense of harmony. Music is always contrapuntal, involving an interplay of independent voices, in the philosophical sense of the word. Even when it is linear, there are always opposing elements coexisting, occasionally even in conflict with each other. Music accepts comments from one voice to the other at all times and tolerates subversive accompaniments as a necessary antipode to leading voices. Conflict, denial and commitment coexist at all times in music.”

-Daniel Barenboim, “Music Quickens Time”

Photograph: Frederick Sommer

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