Music As Communicative Medium

While listening to an audiobook on music history I was exposed to the idea that the Romantic artists believed that music was the highest form of aesthetic expression because it acted directly on the mind without the intermediary steps of words or images.

This was an idea I have been struggling to formulate, and I think it could use a little fleshing out.

Here’s where I’m at:

(1) Considered within the space of possible general communicative media (think: language, mathematics, the visual arts[1]) music is  very high BANDWIDTH. It can download emotions like despair or exultation, which are surely many gigabytes in size, directly into your consciousness.

(2) But music is a very low RESOLUTION medium for all that[1]. It can only make large transfers as complete wholes. It can’t do things like proofs[2], and even something like ‘symphonie fantastique’, which tells a story, can only do so in broad strokes and only with the help of words to communicate the narrative.

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[1] I took pains to point out that my analysis is of music compared to all other information-transfer media. A friend pointed out that if it is considered solely as an emotional medium then it is both high bandwidth and high resolution.

[2] Though there is actually at least one attempt to do that; See: David Stutz.

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