Hearing Round Corners: Nick Cave and the Philosophy of Music

Roland Boer


Nick Cave and the philosophy of music – is that not an incongruous and improbable pairing? Possibly, but that is precisely what I propose to undertake in this study: an interpretation of Cave’s entire opus through the ears of Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of music. Why Bloch? There is a deep affinity between Bloch and Cave. Bloch combines philosophical rigour, Marxist analysis, a thorough interest in religion, especially the Bible, and an arresting approach to music. The first three elements of his work may be reasonably well-known, albeit not as well as they should be, but Bloch’s philosophy of music remains one of the hidden gems of his work. As for the affinity with Cave, they both deal with what may be called the ‘afterlives’ of the Bible, and more generally Christianity, deploying themes, reworking them, creating new and fascinating conjunctions. Further, that affinity relies on a deeper appreciation, a hearing around corners, in order to gain the sense that through their very modes of expression, their musical outlook, intensity and hope, they come close indeed. Above all, they share an appreciation of both the theological and utopian, or theo-utopian dimensions of music, a crucial feature of the analysis that follows.


Nick Cave; Ernst Bloch; music; song forms; redemption

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/rsrr1-2-411