Blog: Aldous Huxley and the Beauty of Music

Luke Oram

Before he penned his Dystopian fairy tale Brave New World, writer Aldous Huxley was a music critic.

Or, rather, a romantic champion of the form. His early writing, which circled around the world of arts and artists, paint poetic pictures of the transcendent power of music. His 1931 treasury ‘Music at Night and Other Essays’ is full of love letters to the experience and beauty that lies in music.

In the title essay, Huxley lets loose with a tribute to Beethovens ‘Missa Solemnis’, painting the musical work as a nightscape:

“The Benedictus. Blessed and blessing, this music is in some sort the equivalent of the night, of the deep and living darkness, into which, now in a single jet, now in a fine interweaving of melodies, now in pulsing and almost solid clots of harmonious sound, it pours itself, stanchlessly pours itself, like time, like the rising and falling, falling trajectories of a life. It is the equivalent of the night in another mode of being, as an essence is the equivalent of the flowers, from which it is distilled.”

Huxley's not the first wordsmith to pay homage to music. It seems fitting that the poets would try and describe the unspeakable mystical pull of notes and chords.
Here's Virginia Woolf describing the rapture of dance music, which, in the early 1900's centred around violins, rather than EDM breakbeats:

"That is the quality which dance music has — no other: it stirs some barbaric instinct — lulled asleep in our sober lives — you forget centuries of civilization in a second, & yield to that strange passion which sends you madly whirling round the room — oblivious of everything save that you must keep swaying with the music — in & out, round & round — in the eddies & swirls of the violins. It is as though some swift current of water swept you along with it. It is magic music."

French poet Victor Hugo coined one of our favourite sentiments:

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."

Nietzsche went even further:

"Without music life would be a mistake."

While Kurt Vonnegut introduced divinity to the lead-sheet:

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

*Lots of inspiration taken from here and here on Brain Pickings.