At-tunement/Stimmung

Following Heidegger’s suggestion, Pantelis Polychronidis and I seek to master “with knowledge and will” (Being and Time, tr. Stambaugh, p. 132) and to harmonize our moods, our at-tunements with the world and with each other, as we behold the crescent moon and the evening star (Venus/Aphrodite, the goddess of love), like the two friends in Caspar Friedrich’s “Two Men Contemplating the Moon” (1818, Dresden version).

Two-Men-Contemplating-the-Moon-1819-20

Together we reflect on our attunement, where Dasein “is brought before itself” (132), and become aware of our “there.”  “The expression ‘there’ means this essential disclosedness [Erschlossenheit].  Through disclosedness this being (Dasein) is ‘there’ for itself together with the there-being [Da-sein] of the world” (129).

Mood is essential to the human Geworfenheit/thrownness in the world. Together with Verstehen/understanding and Rede/discourse mood constitutes the three “equiprimordially constitutive ways to be the there” (130) in Da-sein, Being-in-the-world. It brings Da-sein into its Da, it introduces being-there to its there.  «Stimmung, this originary opening to the world which constitutes Dasein, […] is a place which is not itself in a place; it coincides, rather, with the proper place of the being of man, with his Da. Man – Daseinis his own singular opening» ( Agamben, «Vocation and Voice» [1985], Qui Parle 10:2, 1997, p. 93). Stimmung is the very opening of the world. Moods constitute dispositions (Aristotelian diathéseis), how we find ourselves in the world/situatedness/Befindlichkeit, giving us a strong non-experiential sense of belonging to it. They are not feelings, emotions, or perceptions and do not occur in the subject.  They are existential, not psychological. They are forces that bring us and things together, they are atmospheres that envelop us, making us aware of something comprehensive, willing to move in an open realm, capable of encountering other people, and interested in directing ourselves toward something.  The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen created such an enveloping atmosphere in his 75-minute long Stimmung (1968) by tuning six amplified voices which “come to agreement” by intoning onomatopoetically the names of deities from various cultures as well as his own amorous lines:

Stimmungen/moods are at-tunements which put us in tune with the world through immersion in it, not observation of it. They are conditions of possibilities of entities becoming accessible to us, and us directing ourselves towards something. Pursuing possibilities depends upon moods which make us aware of the possibilities that the world can offer us, constituting a range of ways in which things may matter to us. Things begin to matter to us in different ways when we are attuned. As Heidegger’s existential analytic proposes, there are different modes of attunement and there are different kinds of mattering, each with its own direction and intensity, and therefore we find ourselves in the world in different ways.

Like many commentators before him, Agamben notes that Stimmung «belongs originally to the acoustico-musical sphere. It is related semantically to Latin words such as concentus and temperamentum, or to the Greek word harmonía, and means originally attunement, accord, harmony» (90). Pantelis and I are very interested in restoring Stimmung from the psychological to the musical sphere, in listening for the harmonic modes of the mood, which actually represents a major part of his tremendous engagement with the voice/Stimme as a collaborative pianist.  Here we are often reminded of how mood and music are interrelated in the concept of the symbolism of tones in German Romanticism.  Our friendship with Pantelis, our making music together, is a shared creation of ἁρμονία with its resonant etymology of joining and fitting things together while leaving possibilities open, as in J. S. Bach’s A-Minor Fantasia (“Prelude”) BWV 922 where “no bar reveals where the next one will go” (Alfred Brendel, New York Review of Books 7/11/2013, p.24).

January 4, 2015

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