Lagrenee, Louis Jean Francois - Eros And Psyche

Roman Ingarden: The Work of Music and the Problem of Its Identity

The Work of Music and the Problem of Its Identity by Roman Ingarden

(Click here to read the full text of the book online.)

This is an essential read for the classical musician in the 21st century, considering an inane literalism and fatal reificiation undergirding modernist/historicist notions of the “authentic” musical work. As Richard Taruskin writes: “There are three schools of thought” today about what the “original” musical work is: “One holds that the musical work is the score, another that it is whatever the first performance was, and the third holds the question to be absurd. Anyone who has really thought about the problem will be found in the third camp. Foremost among them is the Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden” (Text & Act 1995: 205-6).


The header image: A scene from the 2nd century Berber writer Apuleius’ novel, The Golden Ass, where Psyche lights a lantern to see who/what visits her bed at night, finding the god Eros (actually manifested as a mortal form of the winged Spite the Romans called Cupid). This mythologem (like Orpheus’ gaze, or the Japanese creation myth of Izanami and Izanagi), allegorically speaking, has much to teach us about the nature of the ‘things’ (or non-things) we call musical works, beyond what Ingarden has argued. But the explanation will have to wait for another day…

(Painting, Eros and Psyche, by Louis Jean Francois Lagrenee)