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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music: "Chess drenched in perfume."

Plenty of genuine ideas exist in music, of course; they're just not what we mean by "ideas" in any non-musical sense. They express musical techniques and music's root mathematical structure, and exactly what they have to do with what we experience while listening is something no one has ever satisfactorily explained... . But these [techniques and mathematical structures] are ideas like the ideas in chess or math. They don't mean anything and have no purpose in and of themselves. It's no accident that child prodigies—with the skill of adults and the experience of children—appear in music, chess and math but never in poetry or philosophy... . What we experience in music is something else. Music stands, at last, as "evocative" — a word whose only other use is in advertisements for expensive perfume. Music is chess drenched with perfume. J. Bottum, "The Soundtracking of America," Atlantic Monthly, March 2000.

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