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Reflections on Aesthetics and Jazz Drumming
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Casey Haskins

Looking back, my involvements in studying and writing on aesthetics  and playing jazz (as a drummer) often feel like the activities of two different people who stay in contact only occasionally and at a distance. I was drawn to aesthetics in grad school, and to music in high school, followed by brief stints in a conservatory and in clubs.  I now teach philosophical aesthetics for a living and play music for fun. As a teacher, I’m conversant, as are we all, with the usual range of issues in the discipline. But the aspects of the arts that have  driven my writing have always stemmed more, it seems, from what I found puzzling or upsetting about modern artistic culture (including various justificatory and explanatory problems surrounding the cultural politics of taste) than with  cultural products, practices, and experiences, that I just  love at some prephilosophical gut level. (These include my favorite music, films, novels, paintings, heroes and heroines in these areas and so on).

I know there’s something not fully unified in this picture. Can theory and practice  be so neatly compartmentalized in one’s life as to  keep the practice part pure and sacred for the person living it? As a philosopher of  pragmatic and post-Wittgensteinian temper I say no; as a neoromantic lover of  beautiful things who wants them to live and breathe in their own space, I often want to say yes. But unity isn’t everything. I like this kind of tension, or perhaps a better word is friction, which I’m sure is familiar to reflective  practitioners in all the arts . In any case I find it hard to imagine my own philosophical-and-musical life without it, and I don’t think we should all be too keen about wanting to explain it away too quickly.

2011 © Casey Haskins

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