David Whitwell's Songs for Friends

David Whitwell’s Questions

One of the small, but interesting, books by Aristotle is called Questions, consisting only of questions but with no answers provided by Aristotle. In this spirit, I present to you a series of questions about music and like Aristotle I shall leave to the reader the answers.

Question Nr. 27

And those who seek for the best kind of song and music ought not to seek for that which is pleasant, but for that which is True.

Question Nr. 26

Plato presents questions about the arts which are only answered later when Aristotle founds the new branch of philosophy, Aesthetics.

Question Nr. 25

Why is American music education based largely on grammar and not on music itself?

Question Nr. 24

It bothered Plato that not everyone agrees when it comes to describing the beauty. In the end he complains, “All that is beautiful is difficult.”

Question Nr. 23

Beethoven said that music is a more lofty revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. What higher wisdom do you experience in music?

Question Nr. 22

With 500 TV channels, movies and sporting events beyond counting, should it be the school system’s job to provide the public with more entertainment?

Question Nr. 21

Move to the tune of tears that flow:
For tears are music too, and keep
A song unheard in hearts that weep.

Question Nr. 20

Every musician knows that the purpose of music is to communicate feelings to the listener. But this is first communicated in the choice of repertoire.

Question Nr. 19

Pythagoras (580–500 BC) as a teacher is still remembered for a number of symbolic utterances. One was “Abstain from beans.”

Question Nr. 18

Porphyry recalled that Pythagoras (580–500 BC) allowed no one to become a friend or associate without first being examined in facial expression and disposition.

Question Nr. 17

Pythagoras (580-500 BC) has been judged by Walther Kirchner (1960) as “one of the most outstanding mathematicians of all times,” but by Heraclitus (c. 500 BC) as “the chief captain of swindlers.”

Question Nr. 16

Heraclitus (c. 513 BC) was one of the first philosophers to question the consideration given by musicians to their audience.

Question Nr. 15

Thales (640-546 BC) famously observed, “A lack of culture is a serious thing.” Would he be uncomfortable today in America?

Question Nr. 14

Gorgias (c. 425 BC) wrote: How can language even express what we perceive through our senses?

Question Nr. 13

Xenophon of Athens (c. 434–355 BC) wrote that the best choirs were characterized by a high degree of discipline, long periods of training and expert conductors.

Question Nr. 11

Plutarch “Lives, Pericles”: The Odeum, or concert hall, which in its interior was full of seats and ranges of pillars, and outside had its roof made to slope and descend from one single point at the top, was constructed, we are told, in imitation of the king of Persia’s Pavilion. Were you aware that Concert […]

Question Nr. 12

An aulos player who saw some fish in the sea played his instrument in the hope that they would come ashore …

Question Nr. 10

Xenophon of Athens, c. 434-355 BC, in his Anabasis, writes: Niceratus. My father was anxious to see me develop into a good man and as a means to this end he compelled me to memorize all of Homer; and so even now I can repeat the whole of the Iliad and the Odyssey by heart. […]

Question Nr. 9

Pendar, c. 518 BC, sang: Sing, O Muse, sing high and clear O polytonal many voiced Muse, Make a new song for girls to sing. Is this timely?

Question Nr. 8

Pratinas, in 500 BC, reminded his listeners that the Muse had ordained that the song should be the mistress and the aulos the servant, and not the other way around. But there is no music on paper, just music grammar. The music is in the player and the listener. Is there a middle ground?

Question Nr. 7

Aristophanes, in his play The Clouds, recalls the good old days: “Those were the days when students were quiet and had discipline. They studied only the best music and the student who showed disrespect for the music by improvising was repaid for his efforts with lashes from the whip!” Do you know any school conductors […]

Question Nr. 6

Plutarch (Concerning Music) wrote of the ancient Greeks: “They deemed it requisite by the assistance of music to form and compose the minds of youth to what was decent, sober and virtuous; believing the use of music beneficially efficacious to incite all serious actions.” Does the musical literature we give our students in school today […]

Question Nr. 5

The original version of the first movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony was scored for large wind orchestra. Where is that score?

Question Nr. 4

Alma Mahler in her book on Memories and Letters of her husband mentions that in May 1902, Mahler arranged a portion of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for wind orchestra and chorus for a ceremony honoring Max Klinger. When performed, with Mahler conducting, she describes tears running down Klinger’s face. Where is this score?