Sounding Desire – An Evening of Music and Philosophy

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Sydney Opera House & Simmons, Critchley

Start with ‘An Amble (along the River Lea)’ with visuals as individuals take their seats and settle down. Music fades, stage quiet, to black. Subsequently stage lit with one spot. SC locates the area comes on stage and talks:

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. I’m Simon Critchley. Lurks John Simmons. Collectively, we’re Critchley & Simmons, not a firm of solicitors, however a stunning, throbbing, living experiment in pictures, sounds and words.

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Music subjects. It matters profoundly. For many people it matters more than anything else. The why and the how of its mattering remains an enigma for us, a black riddle. Why does music matter? Does it talk to us so potently? This really is where a small doctrine might help. The job of this evening’s amusement would be to peer into the enigma of music, to read its riddle not in order to solve it once and for all, but to lose a little light in the darkness.

When it regards the philosophy of music where else should one first turn but to the sage counsel of Albert Freiherr von Thimus, 1806-1878, author of the compendious Die harmonikale Symbolik des Alterthums (The Harmonic Symbolism of the Primeval World). He was a Prussian politician, an attorney, a judge as well as an intriguing guy, a obsessionally committed hobbyist whose work on music is discerned by the truth that it was completely ignored in his life. He was a private friend of Baron Teufelsdrockh of Weissnichtwo, hero of Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. Albert Freiherr von Thimus believed the music of antiquity, music, looked like this,

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What von Thimus is dressing-up in fairly tight fitting 19th Century britches is the early Pythagorean theory of music, the so called ‘harmony of the worlds’. This really is an early, unwritten, highly powerful and esoteric tradition that starts in the mists of antiquity but whose first textual support is a passage from Plato’s Timeaus on the creation of the world soul written about 2,500 years past. The Timaeus was the only of Plato’s texts to be accessible throughout the mediaeval period as well as antiquity. Unfortunately, the passage in question is virtually entirely unintelligible. Here’s a flavor,

‘From an essence impartible, and constantly subsisting according to sameness of being, and from a nature divisible about bodies, he (the Demiurge) mingled from both a third kind of essence, having a middle subsistence between them both. And between that which is divisible about bodies and that which is impartible, he put the nature of different and same.’