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This is how we became musicologists

How does Philosophy relate to music? Diego A. Manrique Mattos, student of the double Degree in Law and Philosophy, of the School of Philosophy and Letters, shares his experience in the first concert of Musicosofía UNAV 2021.


When Professor Ignacio Garay told me about what became Musicosofía UNAV 2021, we were talking about music. We both like heavy metal and, to a large extent, this has given rise to a great and rocking friendship. Without thinking too much about it, I told him that I would love to participate. 

I had never played live or been part - even for a limited time - of a band. As life would have it, it was something of a childhood dream for me. Something I only thought about in my time as a famous guitarist playing in front of an imaginary audience in my bedroom or perhaps in the company of friends with whom I sometimes met in Venezuela to play. In this way, being a real project , I felt the illusion of update what for me was only possible, but very remotely probable. However, once on board and the hatches closed, I had to take flight.

It is curious, but one does not usually know a priori - at least with certainty - what the things one learns will be useful for in the end. Perhaps it would be better to say that one does not know in advance all the things one will do as a result of one's training or knowledge, much less what opportunities will arise along the way.

Fortunately, during a philosophy degree, one is confronted with a variety of authors and ways of understanding reality throughout history, which teaches one to be perceptive. Perhaps that's why the idea of applying philosophical reasoning - with the limitations of a young aspirant - to something as everyday as music was so appealing. The catch was that we didn't just have to philosophise about the songs: we had to learn them as a team.

This can be difficult at the beginning because there are many elements at play: the skill with the instrument, the demands of the song, the familiarity with the genre, the timbre of the voice... Obviously, when you listen to a song recorded in a studio, everything sounds perfect. It is a result. What one is not aware of while doing it is the work behind it: the hours of essay at group, the work staff , the reconciliation with the day-to-day chores...

Seen in perspective, one can understand the necessary adaptation of the means to the ends. However, it's not about "having a hard time" during rehearsals, because it's great fun to imagine ourselves as artists, to laugh at our mistakes, to have to ask for an explanation and for it to seem as obscure as Heraclitus himself - what does it mean to "touch something above"? In the end, we were all learning and it made for a great atmosphere meeting.

On the other hand, there was something challenging about preparing a text, because in a way one is forced to dialogue with the song. By having lyrics, the song tells me something. Listening to it, I understand something. If I understand, then I could say something about it. However, that is not what we usually do. 

We often listen to songs, we sing them, we learn them, but we don't dwell on the care with which certain words are used, on the context of their composition, on the intention of the melody. So writing was an interesting occasion to think. At the same time, the fact that we all belonged to different careers made the exchange richer.

The result: the wonder there is in understanding, in participating in that astonishment with which "the ancients began to philosophise" and being able to share it. Indeed, this is how we became music philosophers.

The weeks go by and as the rehearsals progress, we gain fluency and project begins to take shape and make sense. Perhaps because of repetition, but it's almost certain that more than one of us dreamt of Material Girl or What a Wonderful World. Even going to a cafeteria and having one of the songs we would play in the background: if you can't rehearse, you can rehearse.

Finally, the day arrives. The test sound three hours before the show and the final arrangements. It's time to close a chapter and go out on stage to give it all. There is a kind of enchantment - themagic of live performance -in this subject event. While the audience is waiting in anticipation, one is gripped by nerves. 

Worries increase and doubts arise - will it go well, what if I get it wrong, I forgot the score! -But as he takes the stage, he realises something that Billie Joel expressed so well in his first big hit, Piano Man. In the last verse, the author of Uptown Girl tells how, about to start a performance, the owner of the bar where he worked spoke to him only with a smile:

It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday, And the manager gives me a smile.
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see To forget about life for a while

'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see To forget about life for a while.

They are not sitting with a rubric to judge the quality of the performance or a basket full of tomatoes waiting for the right moment to pounce. None of that. You go up on stage and see in the audience your classmates, a family member, your teachers with whom you may have a class that week.

They come to give their support, their applause, to forget for a while about their daily chores and enjoy the show. They come because they want to be there. And with that fall in the account that is like an awakening, the nerves dissipate, the complicity on stage is manifest and everything goes as well as possible. The mood that is experienced is expressed well in the chorus of the song itself:

Well we're all in the mood for a melody, And you've got us feelin' alright!

The concert ends. We go out to the front, thank the applause and leave with the satisfaction of having done our duty. We look forward to the continuation of Musicosofia in the agora that is the University.

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