The Aesthetics and Kinaesthetics of Drumming


Kant’s Critique of Judgment, also know as the Third Critique since it follows the first on Reason and the second on Morals, is a masterpiece in the philosophy of aesthetics.  With careful reasoning, Kant examines the experience of aesthetic wonder, The Sublime, and attempts to relate it to the careful delineations he has made in his previous works between the phenomenal and noumenal realms.  He appears to allow in the Third Critique what he denies us in the First: a way to go beyond mere experience in order to perceive a purpose in the world.  Along the way, he passes judgment on things like beauty and genius that left an indelible mark on the Romanticism of the 19th century.

Taste, like the power of judgment in general, consists in disciplining (or training) genius.  It severely clips its wings, and makes it civilized, or polished; but at the same time it gives it guidance as to how far and over what it may spread while still remaining purposive.  It introduces clarity and order into a wealth of thought, and hence makes the ideas durable, fit for approval that is both lasting and universal, and hence fit for being followed by others…

Kant goes on to say that where taste and genius conflict, a sacrifice needs be made on the side of genius.

in his First Critique, Kant discusses the "scandal of philosophy" — that after thousands of years philosophers still cannot prove what every simple person knows — that the external world is real.  There are other scandals, too, of course.  There are many questions which, after thousands of years, philosophers continue to argue over and, ergo, for which they have no definitive answers.  There are also the small scandals which give an aspiring philosophy student pause, and make him wonder if the philosophizing discipline isn’t a fraud and a sham after all, such as Martin Heidegger’s Nazi affiliation.  Here the question isn’t why he didn’t realize what every simple German should have known, since even the simple Germans were quite taken up with the movement.  What leaves a bad taste, however, is the sense that a great philosopher should have known better.

A minor scandal concerns Immanuel Kant’s infamous lack of taste.  When it came to music, he seems to have a particular fondness for martial music, das heist, marching bands with lots of drumming and brass.  He discouraged his students from learning to actually play music because he felt it was too time consuming.   We might say that in his personal life, when his taste and his genius came into conflict, Kant chose to sacrifice his taste.

I think I will, also.  In Rock Band, the drums are notoriously the most difficult instrument to play well.  It is also the faux instrument that most resembles the real thing, and it is claimed by some that if you become a good virtual drummer, you will also in the process become a good real drummer.  I’ve tried it but I can’t get beyond the Intermediate level.  I can sing and play guitar on hard, but the drums have a sublime complexity that exceed my abilities to cope.  With uncanny timing Wired magazine has come out with a walkthrough for the drums in Rock Band (h/t to  It mostly concerns working with the kick pedal and two alternative techniques, heel-up and heel-down (wax-on/wax-off?) for working with it.  It involves a bit of geometry and a lot of implicit physics.  I would have liked a little more help with figuring out the various rhythm techniques, but according to wired, I would get the best results by simply learning real drum techniques, either with an instructor or through YouTube. 

I wonder what Kant would say about that.

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