The battle rages on in the Classical music world. Can music express anything or can it only express itself? This post is in response to this:
I agree with her questioning of the truth of this statement. Music is too abstract to communicate "values" in the sense of knowing good from bad, right from wrong.
There are two ways in which music can express values. The first, the most obvious, is by association. Ever since Hitler used late Romantic German music, specifically Wagner, the music has been tainted, most significantly for the Jewish and German communities. It was a big deal when Daniel Barenboim played Wagner in Israel, while German composers still avoid anything remotely tonal lest they sound "fascist".
But that's too easy. What if there's a way for music to intrinsically embody the values of a society?
First we must ask: what are values? I think, too often, we assume values are morals, which then often get made into law, which then impose the values on everyone equally. But values, like music, can be much more abstract. I'm not going to argue that music can instill morals, such as "thou shall not murder" but instead that music is the expression of this deeper level of values.
I discovered a Framework for Assessing Culture
by Geert Hofstede, which lists several values that I posit music can espouse and transmit. They are as follows:
1) Power distance: (What is the gap that separates the powerless of a society from the powerful?)
4) Uncertainty avoidance
5) Time orientation - short term / long term
I would bet there are countless more we could add, but let's start with these. I may add a few when all is said and done; feel free to suggest some. In following posts, I'll talk specifically about how music can express each of these.