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?