7. Towards a definition of tonality. A new aesthetic.

Who but the composer knows better what aesthetic discoveries and insights have gone into the creative impulse of his own compositions? Uniquely among the Arts, it seems that music has more than one aesthetic standpoint from which it may be approached by any who would fully understand its working and its origin.

Three of our seven 20th century composers have given us their own personal and invaluable clues as to its nature, by quoting their common source which lies in the enquiring minds of the classical Greek scientists and philosophers of the 5th/4th centuries BC. It was Aristotle who invented the word “aesthesis”, the underlying idea behind our use of “aesthestics”. Busoni referred to it as “the empyrean of the eternal harmony”; Stravinsky called it “the creative impulse”; I call it “absolute tonality”, or, more simply, “tonality”. Each description defines one of the fundamental principles or standards summed up in Aristotle’s original word “aesthesis”, which was the spiritual source from which music itself springs. The other fundamental principle or standard, which was complementary to “aesthesis”, was called by the Greeks “poesis”, and was the practical source of the actual sounds of music. The first, the spiritual source of music, has come to be associated with the evolution and growth of musical cultures over the years, and the discovery by creative composers of different musical structures and art-forms. The second, the practical source of music, has come to be associated with the performance of music and the invention of musical instruments which make musical sounds. In our day the word “poesis” has come to mean “poetry”.

What discipline but aesthetics, the science of music, can better explain the composer’s artistic principles to the listener, who is hearing new musical sounds for the first time? “Philosophy begins in wonder,” said Aristotle in his “Poetics”. So the creative purpose underlying a composer’s idiom is explained by informed contributors to what was a new label for British Music in the 20th Century, British Musical Heritage.

Under this title a collection of 21 CDs were produced as an adjunct to Redcliffe Concerts under the title of Redcliffe Recordings. These are listed at Appendix A, together with the original programme notes (which can be accessed by clicking on the CD image). These programme notes are intended to introduce a fresh generation of listeners to a new aesthetic in respect of each composer’s uniqueness.

Illustration 9
British Musical Heritage
Redcliffe Recordings
RR 001 – RR 021

Appendix A