Heidegger and Music

PDF Heidegger and Music 2022-06-21

Book author
  1. Casey Rentmeester
  2. Jeff R. Warren

Although philosophers have examined and commented on music for centuries, Martin Heidegger, one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, had frustratingly little to say about music—directly, at least. This volume, the first to tackle Heidegger and music, features contributions from philosophers, musicians, educators, and musicologists from many countries throughout the world, aims to utilize Heidegger’s philosophy to shed light on the place of music in different contexts and fields of practice. Heidegger’s thought is applied to a wide range of musical spheres, including improvisation, classical music, electronic music, African music, ancient Chinese music, jazz, rock n’ roll, composition, and musical performance. The volume also features a wide range of philosophical insights on the essence of music, music’s place in society, and the promise of music’s ability to open up new ways of understanding the world with the onset of the technological and digital musical age. Heidegger and Music breaks new philosophical ground by showcasing creative vignettes that not only push Heidegger’s concepts in new directions, but also get us to question the meaning of music in various contexts.

I thank the late Charles Guignon for showing me how to read Heidegger and my parents, Handel and Diane Rentmeester, for inspiring a love of music. Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mark Bake for granting me the flexibility in terms of my duties at Bellin College to accomplish my portion of this volume and especially to my wife, Cassie, for taking on more than her fair share of family responsibilities during the late stages of the editing process. Finally, I thank Amelia, Bennett, and Cash, who are traversing their own philosophical and musical journeys and serve as steady inspirations in my life.

Casey Rentmeester

I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) peoples. I am grateful to the professors, colleagues, and students who have read and re-read Heidegger alongside me. Each of you helped me learn something new. I am also thankful to the musicians I have played with who—even if they have never read Heidegger—helped my philosophical inquiry more than they know. Thanks to my wife Melissa for being an incredible partner, and my daughters Ella and Ara for allowing me to learn alongside their inquisitive minds.

Jeff R. Warren​

Perhaps the most famous quote from a philosopher on music comes from Friedrich Nietzsche, who states, “Without music, life would be an error.”1 Martin Heidegger, it seems, didn’t exactly feel that way, as he directed very little explicit philosophical attention to music. Thus, one might think that those interested in both philosophy and music should look to philosophers other than Heidegger—canonical figures like Plato or Nietzsche, perhaps— for a philosophical analysis of music. However, even though Heidegger did not have much to say about music proper, the breadth and richness of his thought have inspired philosophical thinking in various fields that go beyond the ideas that commonly garnered his attention. Indeed, the range of topics that have been covered thus far in the New Heidegger Research series is a testament to this, as the series has showcased highly original and creative engagements with Heidegger’s thought in the realms of politics, ethics, environmentalism, health, psychopathology, globalism, and others, many of which were not explicit targets of philosophical analysis on the part of Heidegger. This volume seeks to continue this tradition by showcasing a wide range of thinkers from various backgrounds who think through the relationship between Heidegger’s philosophy and music.

One of the great strengths in this volume lies in the variety of its contributors, which comes in many forms. Regarding geographical location, the authors stem from ten different countries and the diversity of their interpretations of Heidegger reflects this variance. In terms of intellectual background, the authors span across disciplines including philosophy, musical performance, music education, musicology, sociology, psychology, and information science. Thus, it is safe to say that this volume is truly interdisciplinary in nature. Moreover, some of the contributors are musicians and composers themselves, which adds a practical element to the volume. Finally, the chapter content is wide-ranging not only in terms of engagements with various musical traditions of the world, musical styles, or specific musicians and composers, but also in terms of the overarching topics covered in the volume, including the relationship between music and what it means to be human, the creation and performance of music, the role of hearing, and the threats that accompany our current digital age of music, among others.

This volume was conceived by Josh Spier, a pianist and composer who was formerly a research associate at Flinders University in Australia. Spier found Heidegger’s philosophy to be insightful in attempting to understand how Heidegger’s thoughts on the age of modern technology could help to explain the changes that have occurred in the work of piano composers in the contemporary era. He had an intuition that much could be learned from a philosophical analysis of music from a Heideggerian lens, and thus put together the initial workings of this volume. In editing the volume, we are indebted to Spier’s initial work.
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