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Within the idealist aesthetic, the power of any given artwork lies in its ability to reflect a higher ideal and in the beholder’s ability to perceive that ideal. Idealism did not deny the sensuous power of music. To the contrary: the aesthetics of idealism fostered some of the most soaring descriptions of instrumental music ever written. The object of description, however, had shifted from music’s effect to music’s essence or, more specifically, to the perception of an ideal realm reflected in that music.

French aestheticians had been wrestling with the issue of instrumental music’s “meaning” for decades and had concluded, almost unanimously, that without a verbal text, music alone could convey little of any significance. ”5 But the inability of music to express ideas remained a stumbling block. 6 8 • Chapter One Kant’s German compatriots were equally unwilling to hear instrumental music as a vehicle of ideas. ”7 By the time Beethoven was thirty-nine, Kant’s hierarchy of the arts had been turned on its head.

Like Hanslick, Schiller denied that music itself embodies emotional content; rather, it works through a process of analogical structure, mediated by the listener’s imagination. ” Above all, he must not preempt the imagination of his readers. ”41 The “art of the infinite” and “infinite longing” play an even greater role in Schiller’s essay “On Naı¨ve and Sentimental Poetry” (1795–96). The dichotomy between the naı¨ve (the natural and sensuous) and the sentimental (the reflective and abstract) corresponds roughly to the phenomenal and noumenal.

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An analytical exercise by Euler L.


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