Steve, in a continuation of replies:
>... is that it seems to be a "one-way" function. In other words,
>because we have formed an opinion of the character of the composer or
>because we know certain facts about a composer's life, the music "must"
>show this, despite the (I believe) fundamentally abstract nature of
>music. That is, it's not as though we necessarily have words that give
>us a clue as to meaning.
I think it mostly works that way. Whatever impressions you have of a
person can influence the way you hear the music. Certainly there are
also times when we think we hear something personal or profound in a
piece by an unknown composer, but this is more likely something about
ourselves we are hearing. And in the other direction, sometimes when
we learn something positive or interesting about a composer, maybe one
we weren't disposed to originally, we might return with a more favorable
listen, a more receptive ear, a more open mind.
I think I heard some here hinting that they wouldn't necessarily want
the "facts" intruding on the music itself. I sometimes wish I could
listen with such blinders, but my curioisty about these people prevent
>My question has always been, "If you knew nothing of the composer's
>life, would you be able to discern his character from the music alone?"
>I've never seen anybody do this. I may dislike the music of the bel
>canto school (and, boy, do I dislike it), but I have no idea of the
>character of the composers who wrote it. Furthermore, the music interests
>me so little, I'm probably not going to go to the trouble of researching
>their lives. Stravinsky, by the way, was not the nicest or most politically
>liberal of men. I love his music.
Yes indeed. And also, aren't humans too complicated to have a one-to-one
function from their personas to their musical output? The music that
comes from a person who might be a louse in many respects is surely
coming from a multi-facteted creature. The music could be taken as a
"good side". Maybe the schmuck beat his wife, but he was kind to dogs
and this part also composed music.