About Questions

One of the small, but interesting, books by Aristotle is called Questions, consisting only of questions but with no answers provided by Aristotle. In this spirit, here is a series of questions about music and, like Aristotle, I shall leave to the reader the answers.

Question Nr. 1

In responding to a question about the value of the new metronome, Beethoven replied,

It is valuable, but only for the first couple of measures, for after that Feeling has its own Tempo.

Was Feeling discussed in your music education?

Question Nr. 2

The principle purpose of all music, even functional music such as circus music, military music, church music, etc., is to communicate feeling and/or emotion. Why are there no symbols for feeling in the score—only symbols for musical grammar?

Question Nr. 4

Alma Mahler in her book on Memories and Letters of her husband mentions that in May 1902, Mahler arranged a portion of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for wind orchestra and chorus for a ceremony honoring Max Klinger. When performed, with Mahler conducting, she describes tears running down Klinger’s face.

Where is this score?

Question Nr. 6

Plutarch wrote of the ancient Greeks:

They deemed it requisite by the assistance of music to form and compose the minds of youth to what was decent, sober and virtuous; believing the use of music beneficially efficacious to incite all serious actions.

Plutarch, Concerning Music

Does the musical literature we give our students in school today create decent, sober and virtuous young people?

Question Nr. 7

Aristophanes, in his play The Clouds, recalls the good old days:

Those were the days when students were quiet and had discipline. They studied only the best music and the student who showed disrespect for the music by improvising was repaid for his efforts with lashes from the whip!

Aristophanes, The Clouds

Do you know any school conductors today whose only goal seems to be for the students to be happy?

Question Nr. 8

Pratinas, in 500 BC, reminded his listeners that the Muse had ordained that the song should be the mistress and the aulos the servant, and not the other way around.

But there is no music on paper, just music grammar. The music is in the player and the listener.

Is there a middle ground?

Question Nr. 10

Xenophon of Athens (c. 434-355 BC), in his Anabasis, writes:

Niceratus. My father was anxious to see me develop into a good man and as a means to this end he compelled me to memorize all of Homer; and so even now I can repeat the whole of the Iliad and the Odyssey by heart.

Xenophon, Anabasis

Why are conductors so afraid of memorization?