In my last two blog posts on music, I demonstrated that music, like all aesthetics, has an objective meaning. Why then do different people sometimes react to the same piece of music differently? Essentially because our interpretation of music's objective meaning can be subjectively changed. Sort of like the way cataracts affect our eyesight. The world itself does not change color but the way our eyes see it does.
There are two main ways our perception of music is altered from its "objective" meaning. The first is through experiences that become associated with a particular piece or style of music. As an extreme example, check out the following two videos.
The first video is "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken", a song rejoicing in God's goodness to the people He redeems from the curse of sin.
This one? Well, you're in for a surprise!
Yes, that's right! The same tune put to two very different purposes. This tune has been used as the German anthem both before and after Hitler, so it is not an exclusively Nazi song. However, my point is that if you were to play the Christian hymn "Glorious Things" to this tune in some regions of the world even today, it would conjure up memories of Nazi occupation. For example, I wouldn't suggest using this hymn in Israel!
So, the subjective meaning of the music can be different to different people. To me, the tune turns my mind to worship of God. But to others, the tune might awaken terror or anger or nationalistic pride.
But that doesn't mean that there is no objective meaning to this tune. Musical meaning is not simply the combination of our individual experiences. There is always an objective meaning as well, a starting point from which our subjective experiences shape our own perception of it. The very fact that this tune was picked both by the Germans to carry their anthem and by Christians to carry their worship hints at its objective meaning.
This tune unquestionably conveys majesty and glory. It is a good tune to use for worshiping. The only question is who or what is the object of the worship.
But does experience alone account for the differences in musical taste that exist among us? I think not. There is another more fundamental reason, and that is what I will discuss in my next post about music.