Roger Scruton to visit Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton
(photograph: Pete Helme)

All Composer’s Session
Thursday20th March 2014 2-4pm, Theatre Studio

Tonality Now

This event is open to all Trinity Laban staff and students.

One of my duties in the library is to occasionally attend Composition Department meetings to highlight recent developments in the library that might be relevant to them, and to get their feedback on our service. It was at such a meeting that I heard the department was looking for interesting external speakers to come and present at their regular Thursday afternoon seminars. I have long been an admirer of the work of Roger Scruton and, with the support of the department, I offered to invite him to speak at a future seminar. I was delighted that he accepted the invitation, and it was arranged that he should come on Thursday 20th March.

Professor Scruton is one of Britain’s most important philosophers and cultural commentators. His work includes politics, philosophy, aesthetics of music, general aesthetics, animal rights, hunting, environmentalism, the West’s relationship with Islam, neuroscience, wine criticism and much more. He is also a composer and author.

The Jerwood Library is very pleased to present this exhibition in support of his visit, and to highlight the relevant materials from the library’s collection. We also have scores and materials relating to Professor Scruton’s two operas lent by him for the display.

Roger Scruton can be considered a staunch defender of beauty in art, not only in the aesthetic, sense but in a moral sense too (I think he would argue these ideas are closely linked),  and in music he sees tonality as the carrier of real meaning – whilst acknowledging the difficulty of such a concept:

“The possibility remains that tonal music is the only music that will ever really mean anything to us, and that, if atonal music sometimes gains a hearing, it is because we can elicit within it a latent tonal order. . . Such thoughts return us, however, to the question . . . what do we mean by ‘meaning’, when we refer to the meaning of music? And how can musical organisation be a vehicle for meaning things?” (The Aesthetics of Music p.308)

In his two major works on music, The Aesthetics of Music (OUP 1999) and Understanding Music (Continuum 2009) he lays down the gauntlet for the composer and musical audience:

“Nobody who understands the experiences of melody, harmony, and rhythm will doubt their value. Not only are they the distillation of centuries of social life: they are also forms of knowledge, providing the competence to reach out of ourselves through music. Through melody, harmony, and rhythm, we enter a world where others exist beside the self, a world that is full of feeling but also ordered, disciplined but free. This is why music is a character-forming force, and the decline of musical taste a decline in morals. . . To withhold all judgement, as though a taste in music were on a par with a taste in ice-cream, is precisely not to understand music.” (The Aesthetics of Music p. 502)

But Professor Scruton’s interest in music is not only academic: he is also a composer of music, including two operas, The Minister and Violet, both of which have been produced. He has kindly lent us the scores for the operas for our exhibition, and a recording of Violet can be heard at the Clarion Review website (NB: scroll down for the recording and if the page doesn’t appear to display correctly try a different browser). There are also recordings of a set of songs at Roger Scruton’s website.

I personally look forward very much to welcoming Roger Scruton to Trinity Laban, and hope his visit will prove a stimulating experience for our students.

Further links:
Roger Scruton’s website is a useful resource, gathering together many sources of information; particularly his articles and television appearances.

Roger Scruton books in the Jerwood Library collection:
The Aesthetics of music (Oxford: Clarendon Presss, 1997)
shelfmark: 787.1 SCR

Beauty : a very short introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)            shelfmark: 100 SCR

Death-devoted heart : sex and the sacred in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
shelfmark: 789 WAG

The meaning of conservatism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001)
shelfmark: 100 SCR

A Short history of modern philosophy from Descartes to Wittgenstein (London: Routledge, 1995)
shelfmark: 190 SCR

Understanding music : philosophy and interpretation (London: Continuum, 2009)
shelfmark: 787.1 SCR

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