Brad Mehldau is not only an amazing jazz pianist but he is also a profound thinker about the nature of music. On his website (http://www.bradmehldau.com) are published many of his writings. One article is entitle “Wisdom in Music” (http://www.bradmehldau.com/writing/papers/september_2011.html), an amazing reflection on the “essence” of music in Platonic and Aristotelian terms.
Does the meaning, ideas, and emotions associated with a piece of music pre-exist in the mind and emotions of the composer like an ideal “Form” dwelling in a Platonic ethereal realm of absolute reality? Can we only experience the piece as “wistful,” for example, if we are aware of the composer’s pre-existing intention to consciously express his own “wistfulness“? Or, is their something beyond this simple cause and effect scenario?
There is something boundless about music. Perhaps it could be better said that music has a quality of the eternal because it is ultimately free of any dependency on the limitations of the human mind and feelings. In-other-words, a composer doesn’t need to be emotionally “wistful” as he composes to convey “wistfulness.” None-the-less, music is akin to a language, although not bound by the same laws of language, since it is incredibly expressive and emotive to human beings. But the impact of the music is not solely dependent on the composer’s feelings and thought even though the composer is obviously an integral part of the process of creation. Composing music is a creative process, which transcends any “ideal pre-existent form” of the music in the mind of the composer at the very moment of its creation. In-other-words, the “ideal form,” the “wisdom,” the deepest reality, of the music is in the existential improvisational movement of its creation and performance. This is especially true in the case of chamber Jazz which is a collaborative creative process of improvisational musicians constructing a unique musical dialog. Even beyond the presence of the musicians are the listeners to their expression that lays beyond human language. The audience members encounter the “wisdom” of the music, an often life-informing experience, in the immediate moment of perception.
Such music creates memorial and even miraculous moments of the eternal in this life. It is the touch of the divine. The experience is lifting and healing.