Community & Government

The Impact of Music on Community

Cornel West

Lesson time 14:06 min

Cornel expands on how the intersection of music and philosophy fosters relationships in a way that allows us to transcend all the pettiness that gets in the way of building healthy communities.

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Topics include: Case Study: Sly Stone


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Once we allow philosophy to go to school would not just science and mathematics and poetry and history, but also music, then we raise the possibility that musicians could be the vanguard of the species. I do believe that. But I know it's a controversial claim. And what that means is, is that the species is able to develop and mature by keeping alive visions and witnesses of love of truth and beauty and goodness and the holy. But it has to be expressed in such a way that it's not an abstract discourse that is distant from human beings and their circumstances, but it is something that is deeply felt at the profound levels of our humanity. But it's also connected to our intellect. It's also connected to our moral ways of being in the world. It's connected to our ethical deeds. And it allows a coming together and a bringing together of the best of humanity by keeping track of these deeper joys of truth, beauty, goodness, love. One small example among many of the role of music, when you look at America and the history of the relation of white brothers and sisters and Black brothers and sisters, most of us would acknowledge that our musicians have done much more to humanize relations than sociologists or philosophers or economists or politicians. It's in American music that you get George Gershwin playing Black musical forms in his rhapsodies, that you get Charlie Parker listening to Stravinsky because the music takes us higher, in the language of Sly Stone. It allows us to transcend all of the pettiness that gets in the way of the humanity of Black and white folk. And we're not talking any kind of naivete here. We know when the song is over Jim Crow is still in place. When the performance is over Friday night, racism can still be in place. But the music itself is going to tease out the humanity of folks. You can actually go and talk to some young white brothers and sisters and say, well, I didn't understand this race issue too much until I listened to Motown and recognized that I couldn't live without Marvin Gaye and I couldn't live without Gladys Knight and the Pips. And yet my friends were saying that Black people were inferior. But how could it be that these creative artists touch me at the deepest level, but they're supposed to be inferior? Somebody's been lying to me. You don't say. White supremacy is a lie. And it cuts the other way. It cuts the other way. You got Black folk highly suspicious of white folk. But, Lord have mercy, boy, you hear some Barbra Streisand hit a high note and say, mm, that Jewish sister from Brooklyn touching me in some deep ways. I don't know what's going on. But let me play that song again. And we can go on and on with other examples. Music constituting both soundtrack as background in our lives, but also musicians as the vanguard of the species by enacting a love for something grander than each and every one of us, a beauty, songs about love, history, challe...

About the Instructor

Cornel West is one of the most profound, diverse, and intellectual thinkers of our time. Now he’s inviting you into the depths of his brilliant mind to teach you how thinking like a philosopher can help you navigate your personal relationships, your decision-making, and your everyday life by looking at the world from a completely different point of view.

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Cornel West

Distinguished philosopher Cornel West teaches you how to think more deeply, connect more closely, and live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

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