Scruton: The Aesthetics of Music, "Expression, Expressing and Expressiveness"


Szu-Hsien Lee


1. Expression could be both intransitive and transitive.

Expression could be pure intransitively, without implying state of mind. It could be also transitive. When we try to describe that a piece of music expresses a 'quite peculiar' emotion, we seem to incline to believe that an emotion cannot be put into other words (intransitive). However, in fact, we use both intransitive and transitive concepts in describing works of art (music). We might attribute to a passage of music a certain atmosphere without implying that it is really articulating anything; we may also have the sense that an emotion, a character, a conception is being articulated through the musical argument.

If we find no words to describe the music, this does not destroy our sense that there is a meaning to this music, which relates it to things other than itself.



2. Music is ineffable.

The author refers Croce and Schopenhauer's sayings to explain that there is something, say, content, in music that is to be expressed, but is ineffable.

1) Croce's theory of intuition: the content of a work of art is real but ineffable.

2) Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation: Music is a direct presentation of the will. The will, as thing-in-itself, is unknowable through concepts,and nothing therefore can be said about it. We can speak only of its 'representations' in the world of appearance, in which the will is portrayed indirectly, and through a resisting medium. Music, a non-conceptual art, is able to present to us, in objective form, a direct picture of the will itself. Yet what it presents to us

cannot be described, nor presented in any other medium. The content of music is again real but ineffable.


Schopenhauer and Croce seek to explain the ineffability of musical meaning by refereeing to that which cannot be conceptualized, wither because it lies beyond the empirical world (Schopenhauer) or because it is bound up with the form of non-conceptual awareness (Croce) These are Kantian ways to explain

our intuitions.


3. The expression of music is the tertiary quality of music

There are three levels of qualities we use to describe or know music. The primary is the vibration in the air, which could be perceived without being 'heart'. The secondary is sounds. Sounds are really there, but their nature is given by our way of hearing them. The "sadness" or "happiness" can be described as the tertiary quality of music, since to hear such quality requires sensory, intellect, imagination (or even self-consciousness). We can choose what to hear, and it

maybe subject to "will."

A work of music is a tertiary object. Only a being with imaginative and intellectual capacities can hear it. When we talk about the expression of music, we are in a face talk about the tertiary quality of music. It's upon the primary and the secondary qualities. However, similarity in the primary and secondary quality levels does not mean it expresses the same thing. Conversely, a smallest difference may lead to a complete transformation or destroy the expression.



4. The expression is going along with the context.

It's impossible to proving rules of expression, it is tied to the particular work, and the sharing of expression is a creative outcome that cannot be foreseen. The context includes everything else that might be heard as part f the musical Gestalt.



5. Comparison to Hanslick

Compared to Hanslick's claim that music cannot 'represent,' in Croce's word, express, emotions because the feeling cannot be identified without object, the author claims that music could express, but intransitive or ineffable. He claims that object can be 'represented.'

1) Object can be "represented" by context like text of a song, the action of an opera, by a title, and so on.

2) Object can be "represented" off-stage, because the emotions are not identified only through this object, but also through their subject, and the behavior whereby the subject express them.