David Whitwell’s 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, I present to you a series of ques­tions about music and like Aris­to­tle I shall leave to the read­er the answers.

Question Nr. 27

And those who seek for the best kind of song and music ought not to seek for that which is pleas­ant, but for that which is True.

Question Nr. 26

Pla­to presents ques­tions about the arts which are only answered lat­er when Aris­to­tle founds the new branch of phi­los­o­phy, Aesthetics.

Question Nr. 25

Why is Amer­i­can music edu­ca­tion based large­ly on gram­mar and not on music itself?

Question Nr. 24

It both­ered Pla­to that not every­one agrees when it comes to describ­ing the beau­ty. In the end he com­plains, “All that is beau­ti­ful is difficult.”

Question Nr. 23

Beethoven said that music is a more lofty rev­e­la­tion than all wis­dom and phi­los­o­phy. What high­er wis­dom do you expe­ri­ence in music?

Question Nr. 22

With 500 TV chan­nels, movies and sport­ing events beyond count­ing, should it be the school sys­tem’s job to pro­vide the pub­lic with more entertainment?

Question Nr. 21

Move to the tune of tears that flow:
For tears are music too, and keep
A song unheard in hearts that weep.

Question Nr. 20

Every musi­cian knows that the pur­pose of music is to com­mu­ni­cate feel­ings to the lis­ten­er. But this is first com­mu­ni­cat­ed in the choice of repertoire. 

Question Nr. 19

Pythago­ras (580–500 BC) as a teacher is still remem­bered for a num­ber of sym­bol­ic utter­ances. One was “Abstain from beans.”

Question Nr. 18

Por­phyry recalled that Pythago­ras (580–500 BC) allowed no one to become a friend or asso­ciate with­out first being exam­ined in facial expres­sion and disposition.

Question Nr. 17

Pythago­ras (580–500 BC) has been judged by Walther Kirch­n­er (1960) as “one of the most out­stand­ing math­e­mati­cians of all times,” but by Her­a­cli­tus (c. 500 BC) as “the chief cap­tain of swindlers.”

Question Nr. 16

Her­a­cli­tus (c. 513 BC) was one of the first philoso­phers to ques­tion the con­sid­er­a­tion giv­en by musi­cians to their audience.

Question Nr. 15

Thales (640–546 BC) famous­ly observed, “A lack of cul­ture is a seri­ous thing.” Would he be uncom­fort­able today in America?

Question Nr. 14

Gor­gias (c. 425 BC) wrote: How can lan­guage even express what we per­ceive through our senses?

Question Nr. 13

Xenophon of Athens (c. 434–355 BC) wrote that the best choirs were char­ac­ter­ized by a high degree of dis­ci­pline, long peri­ods of train­ing and expert conductors.

Question Nr. 11

Plutarch “Lives, Per­i­cles”: The Odeum, or con­cert hall, which in its inte­ri­or was full of seats and ranges of pil­lars, and out­side had its roof made to slope and descend from one sin­gle point at the top, was con­struct­ed, we are told, in imi­ta­tion of the king of Per­si­a’s Pavil­ion. Were you aware that Con­cert… Read More »Ques­tion Nr. 11

Question Nr. 12

An aulos play­er who saw some fish in the sea played his instru­ment in the hope that they would come ashore …

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. Why… Read More »Ques­tion Nr. 10

Question Nr. 9

Pen­dar, c. 518 BC, sang: Sing, O Muse, sing high and clear O poly­ton­al many voiced Muse, Make a new song for girls to sing. Is this timely?

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. 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!” Do you know any school con­duc­tors today whose… Read More »Ques­tion Nr. 7

Question Nr. 6

Plutarch (Con­cern­ing Music) 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.” Does the musi­cal lit­er­a­ture we give our stu­dents in school today… Read More »Ques­tion Nr. 6

Question Nr. 5

The orig­i­nal ver­sion of the first move­ment of Mahler’s Third Sym­pho­ny was scored for large wind orches­tra. Where is that score?

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 Ninth Sym­pho­ny 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?