RIP Claude Levi-Strauss

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (b. 1908) has just passed away. Author of The Raw and the Cooked and other influential books, his ideas have had a considerable impact on how social scientists conceive of music in culture.



Link to an article on Levi-Strauss and music:



On music in human life:

“Since music is a language with some meaning at least for the immense majority of mankind, although only a tiny minority of people are capable of formulating a meaning in it, and since it is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man, a mystery that all the various disciplines come up against and which holds the key to their progress.”

On scholarship:

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”

On the place of Europe in the world:

“Being human signifies, for each one of us, belonging to a class, a society, a country, a continent and a civilization; and for us European earth-dwellers, the adventure played out in the heart of the New World signifies in the first place that it was not our world and that we bear responsibility for the crime of its destruction.”

On the relations between historiography and social science:

“The anthropologist respects history, but he does not accord it a special value. He conceives it as a study complementary to his own: one of them unfurls the range of human societies in time, the other in space.”

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