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Aesthetics Applied to Music—East Meets West

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage 1

By Tim Hazell

The Occidental scale, devised by Pythagoras and perfected by Bach, has provided an enduring basis for musical composition in the West. However, it is not the only universal standard. The Middle East, for example, has a vast number of harmonic intervals that sound exotic to the Western ear.

East and West have come up with different ways of addressing the nature of aesthetics applied to music’s general principles and ethno-cultural variables. These theories proffer ideas, but none capture that awareness with absolute certainty.

William Hogarth (November 10, 1697–October 26, 1764) was a celebrated English painter, printmaker, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. Published in 1753, his Analysis of Beauty formed an intellectual centerpiece of what historian Ernst Gombrich described as Hogarth’s “grim campaign against fashionable taste.”

The treatise implements six principles that independently affect the aesthetics of beauty, although Hogarth is not determinate on their specific influence. The first is Fitness, not as a source of beauty in itself, but a material cause of it. The second is Variety, a source that Hogarth contrasts with its opposite notion of “sameness” or a lack of diversity that stultifies the senses.

Regularity is diversity tempered and strengthened by control or restraint. Simplicity enhances the pleasures of variety by using more explicit truths. Intricacy arises from a love of dogged pursuit of beauty in all its forms. Lastly, Quantity is associated with the sublime, which Hogarth does not align with beauty, but with a variant of greatness.

In the eighteenth century, music was considered so far outside the realm of aesthetic theory that it is barely mentioned in Hogarth’s treatise. By the end of the epoch, people had begun to distinguish music’s relationships with beauty as separate from mixed media performance art, such as opera and dance.

East and West converge in the kitchen! This delectable recipe from Irene Kuo’s classic Key to Chinese Cooking compliments many European and American dishes.


Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage


1 small head red cabbage

3 tbsp oil

1 clove garlic, lightly smashed and peeled

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp cider vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1/3 cup water

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil



Discard the cabbage’s outer leaves and cut off the stem. Quarter the cabbage and cut out the core. Shred leaves as for coleslaw. Toss in a colander to separate. Rinse and shake dry (only just before stir frying.) Heat wok or heavy skillet until hot, add oil, and swirl 30 seconds. Press garlic in the oil and scatter in the cabbage. Stir and toss rapidly until coated.

Add salt and stir, then vinegar. Add sugar as cabbage brightens to red. Toss and mingle. Pour in the water, even out the cabbage, then cover and steam cook vigorously for 3 minutes (until the pan begins to crackle). Uncover, add soy sauce, and stir in folding motions until almost all liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle in sesame oil, give a few big turns and pour into serving dish.


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