Good 20th & 21st Century Music Inspired by Philosophy?


“What music made in the 20th/21st centuries directly inspired by philosophy is actually any good?”

Kris McDaniel (Notre Dame) asked that question recently on Facebook.

[photo by J. Weinberg]

McDaniel himself is no stranger to philosophically-inspired music as one of the members of the 21st Century Monads, but he was looking for some suggestions after having come across Edith’s Problem, an avant-garde jazz duet by pianist Deniz Peters and saxophonist Simon Rose, based on Edith Stein’s The Problem of Empathy. Abstract, elliptical, and freely improvised, such music is not to everyone’s liking. But, of course, neither is the highly composed and explicitly philosophically-inspired soundtrack to A Theory of Justice: The Musical.

Your suggestions are welcome. Since McDaniel is asking for good music, it would be helpful for you to say a few words not just about what the music’s philosophical content is but why you like it or think it’s good.

(Note, too, that we’re not looking for music with just, say, a single philosophical reference in its lyrics—we explored that here–but rather music that is on the whole directly inspired by some philosophy.)

P.S. By coincidence this coming Sunday is “Fête de la Musique” or “World Music Day,”


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Adjunct4Life
Adjunct4Life
10 months ago

One that immediately comes to mind is Steve Reich’s “Proverb.” The entirety of the lyrics are by Wittgenstein: “How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life.” And since Reich’s music is typically labelled as minimalism, it explores that line in musical directions, too… and it sounds pretty. Report

Jamie
Jamie
Reply to  Adjunct4Life
10 months ago

The Matmos album “The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast” goes in a similar (albeit non-minimalist) direction, especially in the opening track, “Rose and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein.”Report

M
M
10 months ago

I’m not completely sure whether this meets the ‘direct inspiration’ condition or not, but Elliott Smith was pretty interested in Kierkegaard (one his albums is called ‘Either/Or’, for example).Report

David
David
10 months ago

Mahler’s symphonies appear to be deeply influenced by his philosophical ideas, and it seems he sought to embed these ideas in the music (rather than the ideas just serving as general inspiration). I’m not really knowledgeable about this, but looking around, there seems to be substantial scholarly discussion of the philosophical content and inspiration of Mahler’s works. The third symphony (written in the late 19th century not the 20th) references Nietzsche’s TSZ, and is influenced by and expressive of Nietzschean ideas and Shopenhauer throughout (at least according to a Master’s thesis on the philosophical content of the third that I found).
https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/36782/Francisco_washington_0250O_16182.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

As for the goodness of the music, I suppose it’s an understatement to say Mahler is not universally beloved; however it’s hard to argue with his achievement as a composer and his place in the history of music. For myself, I find his symphonies powerful, breathtaking and at times beautiful.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  David
10 months ago

Theodor Adorno wrote a short book about Mahler’s musical and philosophical ideas: https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo3684792.htmlReport

Hasen Khudairi
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
10 months ago

Martha Nussbaum also discusses Mahler’s 2nd in a chapter of ‘Upheavals of Thought’.Report

Matt
Matt
10 months ago

I take issue with anyone who holds that “The Philosopher’s Song” isn’t ‘good.’

That aside, I’d offer the entire album “Animals,” by Pink Floyd. Report

Kenny Easwaran
10 months ago

I actually haven’t had a chance to listen to it, but apparently Hans-Werner Henze’s Second Violin Concerto is about Godel’s Theorem:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/apr/08/hans-warner-henze-violin-concerto-no-2-il-vitalino-raddoppiato-barbican-cd-reviewReport

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
10 months ago

Apparently Bowie was influenced by Nietzsche. “Oh! You pretty things!”, “The supermen” feature references, but the influence appears to have been more significant than just that according to a quick Google Search. We can agree Bowie’s music is good, right?

Brad Mehldau reflects on the philosophical influences on his marvelous _Elegiac Cycle_ here: https://www.bradmehldau.com/looking-back-on-elegiac-cycleReport

Jing Huang
Jing Huang
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
10 months ago

And most songs by the Doors were inspired by Nietzsche. Black Sabbath’s “God Is Dead” is good, too. Report

Matt
Matt
10 months ago

Eric Satie set a bunch of fragments of Platonic dialogues to music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrate
Report

Kris
Kris
Reply to  Matt
10 months ago

Good call! I love Satie. Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Matt
10 months ago

This reminds me that Leonard Bernstein wrote a violin concerto based on Plato’s Symposium, and it’s quite good!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpROC4gsZhQReport

Jeremy Bowman
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
10 months ago

And he wrote the music for “On the Waterfront” at around the same time — a movie whose main theme is the morally redeeming power of erotic love.Report

S
S
10 months ago

A really good symphonic metal band Nightwish has a recent album that’s entirely themed around On the Origin of Species by Darwin. Not quite philosophical so much as philosophically minded regarding the natural world. It’s heavy music and therefore loud, but the female singer is a classically trained soprano and they don’t really scream or curse, for those adverse to that. It’s a really beautiful album, even if a little melodramatic in parts. Report

S
S
Reply to  S
10 months ago

Oh and the album is title Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Report

Eric Steinhart
Reply to  S
10 months ago

Yes, that Nightwish album is lovely. Report

Fool
Fool
Reply to  S
10 months ago

If Darwin counts then The Knife’s ‘Tomorrow in a Year’ album would count as well. ‘coloring of pigeons’ from that is one of the most obviously ‘good’ pieces of music from the last decade.Report

Rollo Burgess
Rollo Burgess
10 months ago

I love Strauss’s tone poems. The most obviously philosophically inspired is Also Sprach Zarathustra, which just misses the cut off as he composed it in 1896, but many of them are philosophical, broadly construed, I think… Ein Heldenleben is a good example.Report

Jonathan Cohen
10 months ago

at the risk of self-promotion, and without intending to say anything in favor of its goodness, here’s a v recent (covid crisis output) jazz composition, directly inspired by, and entitled after, a form of philosophical argumentation:
http://aardvark.ucsd.edu/tunes/Reductio_ad_absurdum.pdfReport

SLH
SLH
10 months ago

“What Mary Didn’t Know” by Dorian Electra & the Electrodes, is fun, garage-rock-ish, and does a pretty decent job of characterizing the thought experiment and its potential implications about knowledge.Report

Kevin M
Reply to  SLH
10 months ago

My students get a kick out of the song “What Mary Didn’t Know” when we read Jackson’s paper in my intro phil of mind class..Report

Daniel Groll
Daniel Groll
10 months ago

J.E. Sunde has a number of songs that invoke philosophical concepts and terms (see, for example, “I & Thou” with his first band Daredevil Christopher Wright which talks about the “thing in itself”. There’s a song on his first record that mentions Plato’s Cave, although I can’t remember offhand which one it is) and then others that are philosophical in a broader sense (see, for example, A Blinding Flash of Light).

Normally, I run screaming from lyrics that are frankly philosophical, but it doesn’t bother me with Sunde’s stuff. Part of the reason is that he is, in my view, a master songwriter with a very keen sense of melody and the voice, as his Spotify bio puts, of a “weird angel.” Quite apart from his more “philosophical stuff”, I highly recommend his latest song, “I don’t care to dance”, and then two older ones “I’m going to disappoint you” and “Color your nails” (especially recommended for fans of Rufus Wainwright). He’s a gem.

Report

Kris
Kris
Reply to  Daniel Groll
10 months ago

Never heard of him before this. I’m liking I Don’t Care to Dance. Thanks!!Report

Sean McAleer
Sean McAleer
Reply to  Daniel Groll
10 months ago

It’s great to see Jonathon Sunde getting some love here! There’s a lyric in “I and Thou” about “the cave wall shadows” (at around 2:23 ). A favorite of mine is “Stewardess,” a lovely indie pop love song that gets beautifully and deeply dark around the 3-minute mark (https://youtu.be/Gahn9VGa5Zc). Report

Taylan Susam
10 months ago

Here are my personal favorites:

1. Antoine Beuger’s “calme étendue (spinoza).” This work is part of Beuger’s “calme étendue” series for solo performer: beautiful, sparse explorations of solitude. It follows the same musical parameters as the instrumental works, but now for solo speaker, using all the monosyllabic words from the Ethics: https://www.wandelweiser.de/_e-w-records/_ewr-catalogue/ewr0107.html

2. You could probably pick any of John Cage’s post-1950 works, so I’ll go with “Ryoanji,” named after a Zen Buddhist temple—it was the dry garden that captured Cage’s imagination, but Zen Buddhist thought likely permeated all of his musical thinking after his studies with Suzuki. This was for a long time my favorite Cage piece; there is a lot of apparent movement—the melody is made up exclusively of glissandi—but it’s really more of a turning about than going in any particular direction. The percussion represents the rocks and the accompaniment sort of snakes around it, like it’s raking the sand. Unfortunately, I’ve never experienced a Zen garden, but this piece has got to be a good second. (And of course 4’33”—lots has been said about its “philosophical” significance, but I think it’s also particularly brilliant seen as the natural conclusion, from which he did not shy away, of Cage’s views about music and time, and his method of precomposing the time structure of his pieces and only then filling them in.)

3. Robert Wyatt’s “Free Will and Testament.” Just a great song, pure Robert Wyatt—check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv_F29h_qxMReport

Curtis Franks
Curtis Franks
10 months ago

Harry Partch’s “Delusion of the Fury” is an opera about searching for meaning outside of the world, realizing the futility of that search, and then returning to the ordinary world where all attempts at communication are endlessly misinterpreted, but being content with that because of the fact that the meaning that is important to us is attainable despite such indeterminacy. So it is a musical dramatization of a main thread of the Philosophical Investigations (although Partch never said so explicitly). Musically, it is a triumph.

Here the connection is oblique, but all of Jacques Coursil’s work is reportedly connected to his research in general linguistics and the philosophy of math. It is excellent just from the musical point of view.

Taylan Susam mentions Robert Wyatt’s “Free Will and Testament.” One could add a lot more of Wyatt’s work because of its connections with ‘pataphysics and philosophical absurdism. In the same vein is a large portion of the Pere Ubu corpus, though most obviously “Long Live Pere Ubu” which goes straight to Alfred Jarry’s original story and reworks it as an opera.

Political philosophy might be too cheap, but there is something special about Marion Brown’s Georgia trilogy, as he explicitly acknowledges trying to create a post-colonial classical music for the African diaspora. The Art Ensemble of Chicago could be situated in this same vein.

Judging from the song titles, all of Anthony Braxton’s songs are straightforward applications of the Yoneda Lemma.

Finally, Robert Fripp’s “Under Heavy Manners” (sung by David Byrne) touches on the following topics (among others):

Solipsism, Pessimism, Nihilism, Negativism, Positivism, Legalism, Asinism, Cynicism, Neologism, Imperialism, Criticism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Centrism, Socialism, Communalism, Leninism, Marxism, Maotseism, Communism, Trotskyism, Fidelism, Fascism, and Sophisticism as well as some theological topics that pertain to some sorts of philosophical topics: Cataphatacism, Apophatacism, Dogmatism, Apologeticism, Kenoticism, Pneumatologism, Theandricism, Synergism, Monothelitism, Nestorianism, Sacerdotalism, Theurgism, Ecclesiasticalism, Eucharisticism, and Hesychasticism.Report

Curtis Franks
Curtis Franks
Reply to  Curtis Franks
9 months ago

For those interested, I just found out that Coursil died a few days after I wrote the comment above: https://www.musicandliterature.org/features/2020/7/21/a-tribute-to-jacques-coursil

Report

JDR
JDR
10 months ago

I’d suggest the song “It” on the Genesis album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” It has always struck me as inspired by Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics.”Report

Robb
Robb
10 months ago

There’s a group in the UK called “aufgehoben” whose track titles suggest a number of philosophical influences. It’s marvellous, if rather exhausting listening.Report

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago

Nik Bartsch’s band Ronin is described a zen-jazz-funk and inspired by the philosophy of the samurai – budo. Bartsch is not only an inspired performer and composer, he has also studied philosophy at the University of Zurich. On whether the music is ‘good’, there is no question – it speaks for itself.

https://www.nikbaertsch.com/ronin
Report

Chuck
Chuck
10 months ago

Death (the Florida death metal band, not the Detroit proto-punk band) has “The Philosopher.” I don’t think most readers of DN would count it as “good” music (and they would be wrong), but the song does have a chorus we should all appreciate: “The Philosopher! You know so much about nothing at all!” 🙂Report

A Philosopher
A Philosopher
Reply to  Chuck
10 months ago

This song has aged terribly, though. To me, it seems to aim at insulting Chuck Schuldiner’s former bandmate Paul Masvidal and features not just anti-intellectual but also homophobic lines. (Masvidal has later come out as not straight.) Speaking as an LGBTQ+ person, it’s not very fun when it gets into that territory…

…but having said that, I do like Death in general. Though I think that they, like most metal bands, are best when they don’t try to be intellectual. Report

Chuck
Chuck
Reply to  A Philosopher
10 months ago

Very much agreed re: homophobic lyrics. Chuck clearly had an unfortunate and frustrating hang-up on that score (and as I’m sure you know, there are other examples.) In fact, the political views I can glean from Death’s lyrics (e.g. the Spiritual Healing album) seem pretty miserable. As for anti-intellectualism, I’m ok with it in small doses, given that in my particular milieu/personal history, ridiculing CERTAIN intellectual types very much counts as “punching up.” But more generally, one of the things I enjoy about death metal is the fact that it seems to prioritize vocal timbre over lyrical content. That of course doesn’t excuse stupid lyrics, but it is conducive to focusing on what’s important: the fuckin’ RIFFS. Nice to “meet” a fellow fan!Report

Chalmersfan99
Chalmersfan99
10 months ago

Not sure about “good” but we can’t forget David Chalmers’ classic Zombie blues! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiEVkDdmIF8Report

Eric Steinhart
10 months ago

Nietzsche composed quite a bit of piano music, which has been performed, and you can buy the CDs. It wasn’t considered bad.

Bowie was greatly influenced by Western esotericism, which maybe doesn’t count as philosophy.

As for Darwin, there’s the Missa Charles Darwin, structured as an early mass (think Tallis & Byrd), based on Darwin’s works, performed by New York Polyphony, and it’s just gorgeous.Report

Samuel Kampa
Reply to  Eric Steinhart
10 months ago

Nietzsche also composed lieder as a teenager, some of which are quite lovely, others of which show his age at the time. For my undergraduate capstone project, I performed a set of Nietzsche’s lieder and studied them in light of The Birth of Tragedy. (It was an exceedingly undergraduate project, but I remember that time fondly.) Report

Aaron V Garrett
Aaron V Garrett
10 months ago

Viñao’s Arcanum (https://bis.se/composer/vinao-ezequiel/vinao-arcanum) includes settings of Parmenides, Scotus Erigena, Augustine, and Plotinus. It’s a striking piece of music.
Report

Taylan Susam
10 months ago

Almost forgot! Louis Andriessen’s chef d’oeuvre “De Staat” (1975?): perhaps the best-known (if not the best) work to come out of The Hague School, it is inspired by Plato’s views on music; excerpts from the Republic are sung in Greek. This is a classic of Minimalist music—long, fast, and loud (but also beautiful): https://youtu.be/5oXzphF7ukYReport

Tom Cochrane
10 months ago

Deniz Peters’ stuff is very hip.
Many years ago, I recorded some free-improvisations for my PhD on extended and collective emotions. Whether it’s any good or not I cannot say.
https://soundcloud.com/tomcochrane/extended-cognition
https://soundcloud.com/tomcochrane/on-the-weather
Report

Samuel Kampa
Reply to  Tom Cochrane
10 months ago

I’m digging Extended Cognition.Report

Jorgos
Jorgos
10 months ago

Also Sprach Zarathustra – an album by NSK industrial group Laibach originally produced for a theatrical production of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name, by director Matjaz Berger, which premiered in March 2016. The single “Vor Sonnen-Aufgang” was released from the album.Report

Another post-doc
Another post-doc
10 months ago

The Ocean, an internationally acclaimed European metal band made back to back albums “Anthropocentric” and “Heliocentric” in 2010 which, to quote Wikipedia, are “ about the critique of Christianity from different philosophical and personal angles”. It’s quite amazing! Report

SCM
SCM
10 months ago

Diógenes claramente influyó en la canción “Macarena” del grupo Los del Rio: “Dale a tu cuerpo alegría Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa’ darle alegría cosa buena, Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Macarena”Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
10 months ago

John Coltrane, especially from Love Supreme and onwards, was influenced by African and Asian spiritual traditions, parts of which would count as philosophical (to him, they did at least). It’s not my favorite Coltrane but it’s definitely groundbreaking.

You could probably make the case that the ideas of Harlem Renaissance, including Alain Locke, had some influence on jazz in the 40’s and 50’s (be-bop and beyond).

The failed Derrida-Coleman interview is quite funny. I don’t know what Coleman took away from Derrida—except that in a sense both were engaged in ‘deconstruction’—but you could take the performance itself as a failed philosophically influenced piece of music.
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/a-thing-the-existence-of-which-jacques-derrida-interviews-ornette-colemanReport

Trevor
10 months ago

Not sure if it’s actually inspired by the Sufi poem, but Dave Holland has a song and album called “Conference of the Birds”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYTIXJuxvgY

Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium is mentioned above, but there’s also his operetta Candide! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmc72fCJivA

Not sure it’s good, but there’s this too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bYSsjlqxrkReport

P
P
10 months ago

Marnie Stern’s “Plato’s Fucked Up Cave” is lyrically pretty sparse, but is written from the perspective of someone stuck in Plato’s cave.
It’s good, IMO, if you like guitar-tapping driven noise rock.

Self-Evident is a rock/post-rock band with a lot of existentialist themed lyrics throughout, but the obvious ‘philosophical’ choice, if for title alone, is their album “Epistemology”. Report

John
John
10 months ago

Operation Ivy, Knowledge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HtUnubXAO4
Handsome Boy Modeling School, The Truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HW7nj-GUZY
Propagandhi, The State Lottery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oW3xeZHiAU
Shelter, Knowledge of the Absolute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiQ_Izz_kCw
Lagwagon, The Suffering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq8l9YSFbgc
NOFX, The Decline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b42ciOEx6yE
US3, Knowledge of Self: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kWge7R59gc
Lots of Dylan, I would say
Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  John
10 months ago

Good calls. Also by Propagandhi, ‘Nailing Descartes to the wall / (Liquid) meat is still murder. Report

andy
andy
10 months ago

The Origin of Love, from Hedwig and the Angry Inch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJUNH-Fs4EAReport

James
James
10 months ago

Levi Weaver has an album, ‘The Letters of Dr Kurt Gödel’: https://leviweaver.bandcamp.com/album/the-letters-of-dr-kurt-g-delReport

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
10 months ago

How has no one mentioned Rush? Peart was directly inspired by Rand and others for most of his lyrics. While most of us don’t like to think of Rand as a philosopher, it counts here.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
10 months ago

Yes, but notice that the post specifically asks for *good* music.Report

Felipe Morales
Felipe Morales
10 months ago

One that comes to mind is Vessel’s “Torno-me eles e nau-e (For Remedios)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fpywl84E5o), which is based on a poem by Pessoa that is heavily metaphysical: “I don’t know how many souls I have./I’ve changed at every moment./I always feel like a stranger./I’ve never seen or found myself./From being so much, I have only soul./A man who has soul has no calm./A man who sees is just what he sees./A man who feels is not who he is.”
Report

Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
10 months ago

The UK pop singer, Howard Jones, is a Buddhist and two of his songs have lyrics about the Buddhist theme of non-attachment: “Why Look for the Key” and “Hunger for the Flesh.” He also has a later song called “You’re the Buddha.”
I never know how to defend music as good or bad so I’ll simply say YMMV.Report

Ostad
Ostad
10 months ago

Shajarian (and many other Avaaz singers) sings a lot of Khayaam and Rumi in Farsi. Report

James Hutton
James Hutton
10 months ago

Jay Z on ‘No Church in the Wild’:

“Is pious pious cos God loves pious /
Socrates aksin whose bias y’all seek”

Not just a name check either. Imo he’s really drawing out an analogue of the euthyphro problem in his discussion of Black America’s religiosityReport

Jim Vernon
Jim Vernon
10 months ago

The general field of rap music, and the broader field of Hip hop culture are richly alive with philosophical references as well as content, and both seem to me to sadly underrepresented as references in academic philosophy. Just a few examples:

Rakim’s recent (excellent) memoir reveals that he was reading everyone from Shakespeare to Sartre as he was developing his lyrical style. Lupe Fiasco used to run a highly successful weekly philosophy salon on Twitter, and tracks like Streets on Fire and Mural are as conceptually rich as they are lyrically intricate. Wu-Tang affiliated rappers frequently refer in detail to various texts and thinkers in the Asian philosophical tradition, and their producer/spiritual leader RZA has written his own Tao of Wu. The rapper Akala has become one of the most influential and rigorous public intellectuals in the UK, and his Oxford Union address on the nature of historical scholarship and the media representation of it is worth checking out. Mobb Deep’s Prodigy’s final album is called ‘The Hegelian Dialectic’, and Hegel is often taken up as a reference by others (e.g. Kool A.D.’s Hot Tub Rhyme machine). Cornel west released a rap album with a number of ‘conscious’ rap artists. And there are, of course, thousands of artists who reference Black Liberation philosophers from Garvey to Malcolm to King to Huey P. Newton to Ella Baker, some of the more notable artists who frequently invoke such figures and traditions include Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, Common, Public Enemy, dead prez, David Banner, Immortal Technique, Quelle Chris, Jean Grae, Ras Kass, The Coup (who frequently talks of Marx and Mao), and Killer Mike (or Run The Jewels). Varied traditions of mystical thought is reflected in the so-called indigo rap movement (e.g. Flatbush Zombies, Underachievers). The rapper Milo recorded his early mixtapes while doing an undergrad in philosophy, and so frequently drops both names and subtle references for insiders. Many of these artists, of course, are organic intellectuals within the culture in their own right, having released books, university lectures, and media pieces.

But, most importantly, Hip Hop culture has produced its own, evolving, but explicit system of philosophical ideas. The Zulu Nation, Hip Hop’s first political/community institution has codified much of it into what are called the ‘Infinity Lessons’: http://www.zulunation.com/infinity-lessons/ Which gained more argumentative weight when KRS-One released a book of Hip Hop Culture philosophy a few years ago, called Ruminations, that included commentary on Aristotle, Descartes and others. His first single to break the mainstream, of course, was also called ‘My Philosophy’, and he regularly name-checks thinkers from Aristotle to Du Bois, but his more directly philosophical work (which, for me, would include his ‘biblical’ text the Gospel of Hip Hop: First Instrument), paired with his activist work with organizations like Human Education Against Lies give credence to his claim to be the culture’s philosophical ‘teacha’. The single promoting HEAL is well worth hearing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89QCzvwdHDEReport

Jamie
Jamie
Reply to  Jim Vernon
10 months ago

Worth including Digable Planets in your pantheon, as they name dropped Sartre, Camus, bell hooks, and others already in the early/mid 90s.Report

Sofia Tzima
Sofia Tzima
Reply to  Jim Vernon
10 months ago

A further example is Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. A poem is constructed slowly throughout the album that talks about becoming, through the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. It is subtly Hegelian, as a professor of mine pointed out to me.
The album is a beautiful ode to Blackness, bringing in a lot of elements of black musical culture and amazing lyricism
Report

Dale E Miller
10 months ago

There is, of course, “The Philosopher’s Drinking Song.”Report

Jason
Jason
10 months ago

This album, and in particular this track about time travel, which plays backwards in the last few minutes.

https://christmasfullerproject.bandcamp.com/track/pop-philosophyReport

Matthew
Matthew
10 months ago

In her fascinating dissertation, Tekla Babyak argues that Debussy was influenced by Nietzsche:

“Nietzsche wrote that music should be ‘Mediterranized,’ a dictum that became extremely famous in fin-de-siècle France…In my dissertation, I show that Nietzsche’s dictum was widely discussed in the French press between 1893 and 1920. In periodicals from that time period, music critics such as Louis Laloy and Lionel de la Lawrencie contend that many French composers are following Nietzsche’s dictum by writing exotic music. I aim to show that Debussy was one of the composers who followed this dictum.
***
Nietzsche’s influence on French musical culture has, surprisingly, been overlooked in current-day musicological literature. His influence was, however, noted (and much discussed) in fin-de-siecle French music journals…In particular, Nietzsche’s 1888 monograph ‘The Case of Wagner’ (translated into French in 1893) was enormously popular in French musical circles, and is frequently discussed in journals of the time period…As I will argue, The Case of Wagner engages with questions of French exoticism, nationalism, and anti-Wagnerism—the very questions that preoccupied Debussy. In my opinion, Debussy’s attempt to grapple with these questions was profoundly shaped by Nietzsche’s writings. To support this claim, I will present evidence that Debussy was intimately acquainted with Nietzsche’s ‘Case of Wagner’ and ‘Zarathustra’, and viewed these works as an important influence on his struggle to create a coherent national identity.
***
In fact, Debussy is documented to have read an 1892 French translation of Nietzsche’s
polemic ‘Case of Wagner’, and (as we will discover later in this chapter) several
letters and articles by Debussy refer admiringly to Nietzsche’s musical aesthetics.”

Here’s a download link (PDF) for Babyak’s dissertation:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj62oKj3pbqAhVnknIEHTWfAOQQFjAMegQIARAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fecommons.cornell.edu%2Fbitstream%2Fhandle%2F1813%2F37184%2Ftbb8.pdf%3Fsequence%3D1%26isAllowed%3Dy&usg=AOvVaw3lQXMsFYCgu86nfjPAK77eReport

Jamie
Jamie
10 months ago

There are lots of songs honoring MLK, not all of them good. Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” and U2’s “Pride in the Name of Love” are probably the most famous of them.Report

Hasen Khudairi
10 months ago

There is Matmos’ ‘For Alan Turing’, which can be heard here for free:

https://matmos.bandcamp.com/album/for-alan-turing

The track, “Cockles and Mussels” is beautiful, and Turing performed the piece for the police officers who came to his home with charges of gross indecency:

https://matmos.bandcamp.com/track/cockles-and-musselsReport

Peter Milne
Peter Milne
10 months ago

I’m surprised no-one has mentioned Elisabeth Lutyens’ Op. 27 Motet ‘Excerpta Tractatus Logico-philosophici’.
There’s also Erwin Schulhoff’s Op. 82 Cantata ‘Das kommunistische Manifest’. (I think there may be other settings. of the Communist Manifesto.)Report

Hasen Khudairi
10 months ago

There’s also Iván Fischer’s ‘Spinoza Vertalingen’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFKadvoQfHsReport

Hadi Adanali
Hadi Adanali
10 months ago

If we change the question “music inspired by philosophy” to “philosophy inspired by music”, many songs come to my mind but here is one:
“A Horse with No Name” by America. Because it reminds me of Frege’s sense and reference distinction, and the paradoxical nature of “A Horse with No Name” as a private name in the Fregean sense. Not to mention the concept of horse is not a horse! Also it makes reference to tautologies “the heat was hot” and it plays on the opposites “desert and ocean.” It begins with metaphysical questions meaning of life, (“looking at all the life”) and gives an ontological list: “plants and birds and rocks and things”. Is a dry river still a river? Does it mean anything? A desert full of philosophical fun.Report

Eric Steinhart
9 months ago

Just discovered this metal album based on Plato’s Timaeus (opinions will differ about its “goodness”):
http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/khora-timaeus/Report

David Macauley
David Macauley
9 months ago

One of my favorite bands, Radiohead, certainly has some philosophical themes and lyrics in their songs. In fact, there is a popular culture book devoted to the subject:
http://www.opencourtbooks.com/books_n/radiohead.htm
Lana del Ray studied philosophy at Fordham, I believe. Not sure how much of her music is philosophical, though.

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