Existentialism and jazz

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Open Culture discusses Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea (1938), wherein:

... the stricken protagonist Antoine Roquentin cures his existential horror and sickness with jazz--specifically with an old recording of the song "Some of These Days." Which recording? We do not know. "I only wish Sartre had been more specific about the names of the musicians on the date," writes critic Ted Gioia in a newly published essay, "I would love to hear the jazz record that trumps Freud, cures the ill, and solves existential angst."

Ted Gioia''s fractious fiction piece calls Sartre "the last writer to reach the highest levels of success as both philosophy and literature," and comments that "as a longtime jazz lover, I am secretly pleased at the cure for the existential nausea:"

Sartre called jazz "the music of the future" and made an effort to get to know Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, and listen to John Coltrane. His writings on the subject are more atmospheric than analytical, but it is likely that Sartre saw jazz as the musical manifestation of the existential freedom he described in his philosophical texts. Jazz musicians, he once explained, are "speaking to the best part of you, the toughest, the freest."

Gioia wonders about the possibility that "perhaps jazz does cure existential angst:"

Maybe it delivers more value for money than a trip to the psychiatrist's couch or the latest advertised chemical cure for your woes. In our current age, when people are increasingly looking for alternative treatments, here's one that can be had for a song.

Sartre's "I Discovered Jazz in America" calls jazz our "national pastime:"

At Nick's bar, in New York, the national pastime is presented. Which means that one sits in a smoke-filled hall among sailors, longshoremen, chippies, society women. Tables, booths. No one speaks. [...] No one speaks, no one moves, the jazz holds forth. From ten o'clock to three in the morning the jazz holds forth. [...]

They are speaking to the best part of you, to the toughest, to the freest, to the part which wants neither melody nor refrain, but the deafening climax of the moment. [...] You will leave a little worn out, a little drunk, but with a kind of dejected calm, like the aftermath of a great nervous exhaustion.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 2, 2016 10:08 AM.

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