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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Music Gives Us Pleasure, According To The Reverend Gilbert White

The Reverend Gilbert White (about whom I wrote before) explains in Letter XLVI to the honourable Daines Barrington (not dated, but written somewhere at the end of the 18th century) quite precisely why "the shrilling of the field-cricket, though sharp and stridulous, yet marvelously delights some hearers". I think his argument is extendable to music, so read along with me:

"Sounds do not always give us pleasure according to their melody and sweetness; nor do harsh sounds always displease. We are more apt to be captivated or disgusted with the associations which they promote, than with the notes themselves."

Short, precise, and true. Who needs a musicologist when a Reverend is available?

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