Whether music is a catalyst for virtuous or licentious behavior, decadent or sparse thoughts, there is no doubting its importance to human civilization; but what of the sounds of Nature? For the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi 莊子, the sounds of Nature are the epitome of what humanity calls music. Neither contrived nor laden with predispositions, they reflect the unity of things in Dao 道. Focusing on the xianchi 咸池 story in Chapter 14 of the Zhuangzi, this article argues that the true value of music for Zhuangzi is not to be found in the moral or aesthetic symbolism of its notes but in its ability to return humanity to Dao. For this to happen, one must transcend the particularities of human music so as to recognize the oneness of sounds arising from Nature. Equipped with such awareness, one can then listen for the soundless music of Dao. However, music of this magnitude is so profound that conventional terminology will fail to encapsulate it, thus the xianchi story can be read as an instance of musical apophasis.
Dao – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 10, 2017
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