Every Wednesday evening, a group of students make music. These students, predominately music majors, experiment with the salsa and jazz improvisation. They listen to each other and allow their instruments and voices to speak to one another through pure musical dialogue.
Why, one might ask, does this group of musicians enjoy the sounds of Latin American music? Why does it give them pleasure? Does this congregating of music makers create an intimate bond between the musicians? Among those playing in the Latin American ensemble is Philip Alperson, a musician who asks such profound questions like those listed above.
Alperson teaches music and philosophy students (among others) how to form questions out of questions in an endless and brain teasing cycle of philosophizing music.
For the first time ever at Temple, Alperson offers the Philosophy of Music course to under grads and grad students alike.
When asked why he philosophizes about music, Alperson replied, “It’s such strange practice that people go around making noises and other people repeat them. It’s not just that it’s bizarre; it’s a very moving profound kind of experience.”
Alperson has taken instrumental lessons since fourth grade. His love for music has brought him to a myriad of destinations. Prior to teaching, he performed in rock ‘n’ roll, blues and wedding bands to name a few.
As it turns out, Alperson’s dedication to the classroom does not permit him enough time to pursue music professionally anymore. Nonetheless, he finds time to take the stage whether it’s with Temple musicians or his fellow philosophers.
As editor of The Philosophy of Visual Arts and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Alperson has been granted the opportunity to attend prestigious conventions for the American Society of Aesthetics.
Proving himself a true musician by discerning a route to music wherever he ends up, Alperson and some friends have taken to “jam sessions” at some of these conventions.
Despite his busy schedule and resulting limited practice time, Alperson has few, if any, complaints.
“I love teaching,” said Alperson. “One of the things that I enjoy in this course is that it gives me a chance to rethink my own thoughts about some things that I care about.”
An authentic educator at heart, Alperson talks about what lures him, in particular, to his philosophy of music class.
“I just love going in there. It’s a real treat. There are so many different people of different areas and specialization,” he said.
He explains that there are highly trained musicians as well as doctorate students in philosophy who are taking philosophy of music as their last class before they write their dissertation. There are people of assorted majors, who together form an intriguing conglomeration of students who raise questions from every angle.
With such a heterogeneous classroom and rapidly changing world of music before him, Alperson stands well aware of the challenge that he faces.
“In this class, I have to reconsider views in light of what’s coming up. You can go on your computer and hear music from Tibet, China and from India with the click of a mouse. I think that to teach this course now requires that you take a more anthropological view of music because music is becoming more diversified everywhere in the world,” said Alperson.
With a reading list that tackles the 18th century views of Hanslick on classical music to Gracyk’s opinions on rock ‘n’ roll, Alperson’s students will undoubtedly be well equipped to question the realms of music with new conviction and sensitivity.
When all of the questions have been asked and all the blue books filled, philosophy of music students will no longer hear music sounding from their car radio with the same monotony that plagued them before. Alperson will see to that.
“Most people like music, most people really love it, and very few people think about it.” Alperson corrected himself: “That’s not true, some do.”