Joy! A Well-Tempered Lesson in Good Living

President’s Endowed Plenary Lecture

Feeling miserable? The global misery of the last few years has almost convinced me that Schopenhauer’s thesis is right: we live in ‘the worst of all possible worlds’. So, to lighten the mood and counteract such gloom, in this lecture I would like to borrow the words of Beethoven and say ‘Friends! Not these tones! Let’s talk about joy instead’. The plan in this lecture is to explore the relationship between music and joy; or, more fundamentally, whether music is joy. It will be an intellectual history tour that will take us back in time to China and Africa as we engage with Confucius and Augustine on the subject, and (if we have time), pop over to Europe to discuss the question with Leibniz and Deleuze. Along the way we will take in a good dose of music theory (a pleasure that you should never leave home without), and pick up some odd souvenirs – cheesecake, a bamboo pipe, a hammer, a paperweight, Bruce Willis, and a shatter-proof ruler. And my pet poodle will accompany us for a short detour on the moral- and neuropsychology of joy. But the point of the journey is to lead to one big question: as musicologists we teach music as a living, but has music taught us how to live?



Daniel KL Chua

Daniel KL Chua

Daniel KL Chua is the Mr and Mrs Hung Hing-Ying Professor in the Arts and Chair Professor of music at the University of Hong Kong. Before joining Hong Kong University to head the School of Humanities, he was a Fellow and the Director of Studies at St John’s College, Cambridge, and later Professor of Music Theory and Analysis at King’s College London. He is the recipient of the 2004 Royal Musical Association’s Dent Medal, and a Corresponding Member of the American Musicological Society. He served as the President of the International Musicological Society (2017-2022).
He has written widely on music, from Monteverdi to Stravinsky, but is particularly known for his work on Beethoven, the history of absolute music, and the
intersection between music, philosophy and theology. His publications include The ‘Galitzin’ Quartets of Beethoven (Princeton, 1994), Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge, 1999), Beethoven and Freedom (Oxford, 2017), Alien Listening: Voyager’s Golden Record and Music From Earth (Zone Books, 2021), ‘Rioting With Stravinsky: A Particular Analysis of the Rite of Spring’ (2007), and ‘Listening to the Self: The Shawshank Redemption and the Technology of Music’ (2011).