Measure for Measure: Wittgenstein's Critique of the Augustinian Picture of Music

In Hanne Appelqvist (ed.), Wittgenstein and the Limits of Language. London: Routledge. pp. 245-269 (2019)
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This article concerns the distinction between memory-time and information-time, which appeared in Wittgenstein’s middle-period lectures and writings, and its relation to Wittgenstein’s career-long reflection about musical understanding. While the idea of “information-time” entails a public frame of reference typically pertaining to objects which persist in physical time, the idea of pure “memory-time” involves the totality of one’s present memories and expectations that do now provide any way of measuring time-spans. I argue that Wittgenstein’s critique of Augustine notion of pure memory-time entails ipso facto a critique of an influential idea of musical motion, which has been recurring in the work of some major philosophers of music up until the present day. The article connects Wittgenstein’s critical remarks on the confused foundations of such “Augustinian Picture of Music” with his emphasis on the notion of phrasing or characterization in language and music. Wittgenstein’s reversal of Augustinian priorities regarding musical time brings to surface the particularity of expression and the aesthetically “right” in music, evoked by Wittgenstein’s remarks on simultaneity and tempo in music and language. Wittgenstein renders musical simultaneity as enabled by a “protocol” which inheres in musizieren, in the aptly collaborative quest for drawing in significance by means of the phrasing and re-phrasing of a passage in order to characterize it, enabling by means of such comparative investigation meaningful distinctions between right and wrong.

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Eran Guter
Max Stern Yezreel Valley College


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