Music & Eros
The text below is the excerpt from the book Music and Eros, written by Hans-Jürgen Döpp, published by Parkstone International.
Cunning Odysseus had to protect his shipmates from the alluring song of the Sirens by plugging up their ears with wax. However, Odysseus himself did not want to forego the beauty and voices of these dangerous creatures. As a precaution, he had himself bound to the ship’s mast so as not to fall victim to the dangerous singing.
How can something as simple as sound transform into a powerful love spell? How is it possible through singing alone to inspire sensuality? Why does music play such a major role in love? We want to ascertain the origin of the strong erotic effect of song, dance, and music. What explains the magic of musical sounds and rhythms?
Arnold Schönberg once spoke of the “instinctive life of sounds”. What is the relationship between this and the instinctive life of man?
Ovid’s Metamorphoses describes the origin and meaning of music. Already in its mythological origin, music and Eros are intertwined; the sound of the pan flute is intended to reach the lost lover. Ernst Bloch, whose description we cite because of his beautiful style of writing, calls this myth one of the most beautiful fairy tales of antiquity.
“Engaged in a chase with nymphs, Pan stalked one of them, the wood nymph Syrinx. She flees from him and when her flight is hindered by a river, she pleads with the waves, her “liquidas sorores”, to transform her. When Pan grabs her, his hands grab hold of nothing but reeds. While he is lamenting his lost love, a breath of wind and the reeds create sounds whose melody touches the god. Pan breaks the reeds, some long and some shorter pipes, connects the carefully gradated ones with wax and plays the first few notes like the breath of wind had, but instead with living breath and as a song of lamentation. This is how the pan flute was created. The music comforts Pan as he is not able to unite with the nymph who has vanished but not vanished and lives on in his hands in the form of the sounds of a flute.”
At the origin of music stands a longing for the unattainable. During flute play, the absent becomes present; the instrument, Syrinx and the nymph become one. The nymph has vanished but Pan holds her in his hands in form of Syrinx.
The first few chapters sketch the close connection between music and lust by referring to the example of artistic “prostitution” showcased in different cultures. The sensual-physical relationship is emphasised in particular through dance and its rhythms.
That music exercises enormous power shows when one tries to regulate it and to limit its influence. We attempt to sketch the roots of music that reach into a world different from ours by referencing philosophers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard…
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