Philip Armstrong

Aesthetic State

“Aesthetic State” [Ästhetische Zustände] for orchestra was written in 2017. The music takes its point of departure from the notion of an aesthetic state developed by Weimar resident Friedrich Schiller. Writing in 1795, Schiller despaired at the horrors of the Reign of Terror in France. He reflected that a society can only achieve civil freedom after its citizens have taken on-board the inviolability of moral action, which in turn requires the capacity for moral freedom. He argued that it is the mental state of the aesthetic that enables the will and its thoughts and feelings to be free, which in turn enables it to choose a moral path.

A second section features a new aesthetic by way of a flute melody, which continually adapts according to context such that it might find common ground with a community of others. In this way the music makes reference to the political theory of deliberative democracy, which is a regulative ideal of discursive consultation enabling a community of voices to find agreement from a great disparity of starting positions. It argues that suffrage alone is not sufficient criteria for a mature democracy. It is a model that owes much to the writing of Jürgen Habermas, who argued that societies must develop a pragmatic approach to deliberation that can both contribute towards social congruence and justify the sovereignty of the state and its laws.