With and Without Words: Listening with Understanding Two

An artist . . . must know that to classify is to embalm. Real identity is incompatible with schools and categories, except by mutilation.

(Mark Rothko)

The words are and remain for the music a foreign extra of secondary value, as the effect of the tones is incomparably more powerful, more infallible, and more rapid than that of the words.

(Arthur Schopenhauer)

I. Unschooled Perception

Variants of the same joke about music are attributed to several public figures, but it may have originated with Abraham Lincoln. Some years after the fact, Henry Pearson recalled an 1860 speaking engagement by Lincoln. The evening’s other attractions included songs from a vocal quartet. When the music ...

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