Philosophy of music is the study of "...fundamental questions about the nature of music and our experience of it". The philosophical study of music has many connections with philosophical questions in metaphysics and aesthetics. Some basic questions in the philosophy of music are:
"Explications of the concept of music usually begin with the idea that music is organized sound. They go on to note that this characterization is too broad, since there are many examples of organized sound that are not music, such as human speech, and the sounds non-human animals and machines make." There are many different ways of denoting the fundamental aspects of music which are more specific than "sound": popular aspects include melody (pitches that occur consecutively), harmony (pitches regarded as groups—not necessarily sounding at the same time—to form chords), rhythm, meter and timbre (also known as a sound's "color"). However, noise music may consist mainly of noise. Musique concrète often consists only of sound samples of non-musical nature, sometimes in random juxtaposition. Ambient music may consist of recordings of wildlife or nature. The arrival of these avant-garde forms of music in the 20th century have been a major challenge to traditional views of music as being based around melodies and rhythms, leading to broader characterizations.
There was intense debate over absolute music versus program music during the late Romantic Era. Advocates of the "absolute music" perspective argued that instrumental music does not convey emotions or images to the listener. They claimed that music is not explicitly "about" anything and that it is non-representational. The idea of absolute music developed at the end of the 18th century in the writings of authors of early German Romanticism, such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Adherents of the "program music" perspective believed that music could convey emotions and images. One example of program music is Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, in which the fourth movement is the composer's depiction of a story about an artist who poisons himself with opium and then is executed. The majority of opposition to absolute instrumental-based music came from composer Richard Wagner and the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Wagner's works were chiefly programmatic and often used vocalization, and he said that "Where music can go no further, there comes the word… the word stands higher than the tone." Nietzsche wrote many commentaries applauding the music of Wagner and was in fact an amateur composer himself.
Other Romantic philosophers and proponents of absolute music, such as Johann von Goethe saw music not only as a subjective human "language" but as an absolute transcendent means of peering into a higher realm of order and beauty. Some expressed a spiritual connection with music. In Part IV of his chief work, The World as Will and Representation (1819), Arthur Schopenhauer said that "music is the answer to the mystery of life. The most profound of all the arts, it expresses the deepest thoughts of life." In "The Immediate Stages of the Erotic, or Musical Erotic", a chapter of Either/Or (1843), Søren Kierkegaard examines the profundity of music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the sensual nature of Don Giovanni.
In his 1997 book How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker dubbed music "auditory cheesecake", a phrase that in the years since has served as a challenge to the musicologists and psychologists who believe otherwise. Among those to note this stir was Philip Ball in his book The Music Instinct  where he noted that music seems to reach to the very core of what it means to be human: "There are cultures in the world where to say 'I'm not musical' would be meaningless," Ball writes, "akin to saying 'I'm not alive'." In a filmed debate, Ball suggests that music might get its emotive power through its ability to mimic people and perhaps its ability to entice us lies in music's ability to set up an expectation and then violate it.
In the pre-modern tradition, the aesthetics of music or musical aesthetics explored the mathematical and cosmological dimensions of rhythmic and harmonic organization. In the eighteenth century, focus shifted to the experience of hearing music, and thus to questions about its beauty and human enjoyment (plaisir and jouissance) of music. The origin of this philosophic shift is sometimes attributed to Baumgarten in the 18th century, followed by Kant. Through their writing, the ancient term aesthetics, meaning sensory perception, received its present-day connotation. In recent decades philosophers have tended to emphasize issues besides beauty and enjoyment. For example, music's capacity to express emotion has been a central issue.
Aesthetics is a sub-discipline of philosophy. In the 20th century, important contributions were made by Peter Kivy, Jerrold Levinson, Roger Scruton, and Stephen Davies. However, many musicians, music critics, and other non-philosophers have contributed to the aesthetics of music. In the 19th century, a significant debate arose between Eduard Hanslick, a music critic and musicologist, and composer Richard Wagner. Harry Partch and some other musicologists, such as Kyle Gann, have studied and tried to popularize microtonal music and the usage of alternate musical scales. Also, many modern composers like La Monte Young, Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca paid much attention to a system of tuning called just intonation.
There has been a strong tendency in the aesthetics of music to emphasize the paramount importance of compositional structure; however, other issues concerning the aesthetics of music include lyricism, harmony, hypnotism, emotiveness, temporal dynamics, resonance, playfulness, and color (see also musical development).
It is often thought that music has the ability to affect our emotions, intellect, and psychology; it can assuage our loneliness or incite our passions. The philosopher Plato suggests in the Republic that music has a direct effect on the soul. Therefore, he proposes that in the ideal regime music would be closely regulated by the state (Book VII).
Aesthetic emotions are emotions that are felt during aesthetic activity or appreciation. These emotions may be of the everyday variety (such as fear, wonder or sympathy) or may be specific to aesthetic contexts. Examples of the latter include the sublime, the beautiful, and the kitsch. In each of these respects, the emotion usually constitutes only a part of the overall aesthetic experience, but may play a more or less definitive function for that state.Aesthetics of music
Aesthetics of music () is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste in music, and with the creation or appreciation of beauty in music. In the pre-modern tradition, the aesthetics of music or musical aesthetics explored the mathematical and cosmological dimensions of rhythmic and harmonic organization. In the eighteenth century, focus shifted to the experience of hearing music, and thus to questions about its beauty and human enjoyment (plaisir and jouissance) of music. The origin of this philosophic shift is sometimes attributed to Baumgarten in the 18th century, followed by Kant. Through their writing, the ancient term aesthetics, meaning sensory perception, received its present-day connotation. In recent decades philosophers have tended to emphasize issues besides beauty and enjoyment. For example, music's capacity to express emotion has been a central issue.
Aesthetics is a sub-discipline of philosophy. In the 20th century, important contributions to the aesthetics of music were made by Peter Kivy, Jerrold Levinson, Roger Scruton, and Stephen Davies. However, many musicians, music critics, and other non-philosophers have contributed to the aesthetics of music. In the 19th century, a significant debate arose between Eduard Hanslick, a music critic and musicologist, and composer Richard Wagner regarding whether instrumental music could communicate emotions to the listener. Wagner and his disciples argued that instrumental music could communicate emotions and images; composers who held this belief wrote instrumental tone poems, which attempted to tell a story or depict a landscape using instrumental music. Hanslick and his partisans asserted that instrumental music is simply patterns of sound that do not communicate any emotions or images.
Since ancient times, it has been thought that music has the ability to affect our emotions, intellect, and psychology; it can assuage our loneliness or incite our passions. The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato suggests in The Republic that music has a direct effect on the soul. Therefore, he proposes that in the ideal regime, music would be closely regulated by the state (Book VII). There has been a strong tendency in the aesthetics of music to emphasize the paramount importance of compositional structure; however, other issues concerning the aesthetics of music include lyricism, harmony, hypnotism, emotiveness, temporal dynamics, resonance, playfulness, and color (see also musical development).Authenticity (philosophy)
Authenticity is a concept in psychology (in particular existential psychiatry) as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics (in regard to various arts and musical genres). In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which an individual's actions are congruent with their beliefs and desires, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures, and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith. The call of authenticity resonates with the famous instruction by the Oracle of Delphi, “Know thyself.” But authenticity extends this message: "Don’t merely know thyself – be thyself."Views of authenticity in cultural activities vary widely. For instance, the philosophers Jean Paul Sartre and Theodor Adorno had opposing views regarding jazz, with Sartre considering it authentic and Adorno inauthentic. The concept of authenticity is often aired in musical subcultures, such as punk rock and heavy metal, where a purported lack of authenticity is commonly labeled with the epithet "poseur". There is also a focus on authenticity in music genres such as "...house, grunge, garage, hip-hop, techno, and showtunes".Babette Babich
Babette Babich (born 14 November 1956, New York City) is an American philosopher known for her studies of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Anders, Adorno, and Hölderlin as well as for her work in aesthetics, including philosophy of music but also film, television, and digital media, as well as life-size bronzes in antiquity (Greek sculpture), and continental philosophy, especially the philosophy of science and technology. She has also made substantive contributions to scholarly discussion of the role of politics in institutional philosophy (the analytic-continental divide) as well as gender in the academy. A student of Hans-Georg Gadamer, she also worked with Jacob Taubes and Paul Feyerabend. In 1996, Babich founded (and edits) the journal New Nietzsche Studies, echoing the spirit of the 1974 book, The New Nietzsche, the pathbreaking collection edited by David Blair Allison.Chinese musicology
Chinese musicology is the academic study of traditional Chinese music. This discipline has a very long history. The concept of music yue stands among the oldest categories of Chinese thought, however, in the known sources it does not receive a fairly clear definition until the writing of the Classic of Music (lost during the Han dynasty).De Mensurabili Musica
De Mensurabili Musica (concerning measured music) is a musical treatise from the early 13th century (medieval period, c. 1240) and is the first of two treatises traditionally attributed to French music theorist Johannes de Garlandia; the other is de plana musica (Concerning Plainchant). De Mensurabili Musica was the first to explain a modal rhythmic system that was already in use at the time: the rhythmic modes. The six rhythmic modes set out by the treatise are all in triple time and are made from combinations of the note values longa (long) and brevis (short) and are given the names trochee, iamb, dactyl, anapest, spondaic and tribrach, although trochee, dactyl and spondaic were much more common. It is evident how influential Garlandia's treatise has been by the number of theorists that have used its ideas. Much of the surviving music of the Notre Dame School from the 13th century is based on the rhythmic modes set out in De Mensurabili Musica.Definition of music
A definition of music endeavors to give an accurate and concise explanation of music's basic attributes or essential nature and it involves a process of defining what is meant by the term music. Many authorities have suggested definitions, but defining music turns out to be more difficult than might first be imagined and there is ongoing debate. A number of explanations start with the notion of music as organized sound but they also highlight that this is perhaps too broad a definition and cite examples of organized sound that are not defined as music, such as human speech, and sounds found in both natural and industrial environments (Kania 2014). The problem of defining music is further complicated by the influence of culture in music cognition.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines music as "the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion" (Concise Oxford Dictionary 1992). However, the music genres known as noise music and musique concrète, for instance, challenge these ideas about what constitutes music's essential attributes by using sounds not widely considered as musical, like randomly produced electronic distortion, feedback, static, cacophony, and compositional processes using indeterminacy (Priest 2013, 132; Hagerty 2007).
An oft cited notable example of the dilemma in defining music is a work entitled 4'33'' (1952) by the American composer John Cage (1912–1992). The written score has three movements and directs the performer(s) to appear on stage, indicate by gesture or other means when the piece begins, then make no sound and only mark sections and the end by gesture. What is heard are only whatever ambient sounds may occur in the room. Some argue this is not music because, for example, it contains no sounds that are conventionally considered "musical" and the composer and performer(s) exert no control over the organization of the sounds heard (Dodd 2013). Others argue it is music because the conventional definitions of musical sounds are unnecessarily and arbitrarily limited, and control over the organization of the sounds is achieved by the composer and performer(s) through their gestures that divide what is heard into specific sections and a comprehensible form (Gann 2010).Elements of music
Music can be analysed by considering a variety of its elements, or parts (aspects, characteristics, features), individually or together. A commonly used list of the main elements includes pitch, timbre, texture, volume, duration and form. The elements of music may be compared to the elements of art or design.International Society for Philosophy of Music Education
The International Society for Philosophy of Music Education (ISPME) is an international scholarly organization for the field of music education philosophy. Music education philosophy is a field of study that examines such fundamental questions as "why and how should music be taught and learned?," while ISPME is an international organization devoted specifically to this specialized subject. ISPME members include professors of music, education, and philosophy at universities in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.Kunstreligion
Kunstreligion is a term used around the turn of the nineteenth century to refer to Art-as-religion, specifically music, but also used to refer to any art that was sacralized.Music and emotion
The study of 'music and emotion' seeks to understand the psychological relationship between human affect and music. It is a branch of music psychology with numerous areas of study, including the nature of emotional reactions to music, how characteristics of the listener may determine which emotions are felt, and which components of a musical composition or performance may elicit certain reactions. The field draws upon, and has significant implications for, such areas as philosophy, musicology, music therapy, music theory and aesthetics, as well as the acts of musical composition and performance.Musica universalis
Musica universalis (literally universal music), also called Music of the spheres or Harmony of the Spheres, is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latin term for music). This "music" is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic, mathematical or religious concept. The idea continued to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing scholars of many kinds, including humanists. Further scientific exploration has determined specific proportions in some orbital motion, described as orbital resonance.Musical expression
Musical expression is the art of playing or singing with a personal response to the music.At a practical level, this means making appropriate use of dynamics, phrasing, timbre and articulation to bring the music to life. Composers may specify these aspects of expression to a greater or lesser extent in the notation of their musical score.
The nature of musical expression has also been discussed at a theoretical level throughout of the history of classical music. One common view is that music both expresses and evokes emotion, forming a conduit for emotional communication between the musician and the audience. This view has been present through most of musical history, though it was most clearly expressed in musical romanticism. However, emotion's role in music has been challenged on occasion by those like Igor Stravinsky who see music as a pure art form and expression as an irrelevant distraction.Musicology
Musicology (from Greek, Modern μουσική (mousikē), meaning 'music', and λογος (logos), meaning 'domain of study') is the scholarly analysis and research-based study of music. Musicology departments traditionally belong to the humanities, although music research is often more scientific in focus (psychological, sociological, acoustical, neurological, computational). A scholar who participates in musical research is a musicologist.Historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and systematic musicology are approximately equal in size. Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context. Systematic musicology includes music theory, esthetics, pedagogy, music acoustics, the science and technology of acoustical musical instruments, and the musical implications of physiology, psychology, sociology, philosophy and computing. Cognitive musicology is the set of phenomena surrounding the cognitive modeling of music. When musicologists carry out research using computers, their research often falls under the field of computational musicology. Music therapy is a specialized form of applied musicology which is sometimes considered more closely affiliated with health fields, and other times regarded as part of musicology proper.Peter Kivy
Peter Kivy (October 22, 1934 – May 6, 2017) was professor emeritus of musicology and philosophy at Rutgers University. He studied particularly the philosophy of music.Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend, but he appears to have been the son of Mnesarchus, a seal engraver on the island of Samos. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras's education and influences, but they do agree that, around 530 BC, he travelled to Croton, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed a number of dietary prohibitions, traditionally said to have included vegetarianism, although modern scholars doubt that he ever advocated for complete vegetarianism.
The teaching most securely identified with Pythagoras is metempsychosis, or the "transmigration of souls", which holds that every soul is immortal and, upon death, enters into a new body. He may have also devised the doctrine of musica universalis, which holds that the planets move according to mathematical equations and thus resonate to produce an inaudible symphony of music. Scholars debate whether Pythagoras developed the numerological and musical teachings attributed to him, or if those teachings were developed by his later followers, particularly Philolaus of Croton. Following Croton's decisive victory over Sybaris in around 510 BC, Pythagoras's followers came into conflict with supporters of democracy and Pythagorean meeting houses were burned. Pythagoras may have been killed during this persecution, or escaped to Metapontum, where he eventually died.
In antiquity, Pythagoras was credited with many mathematical and scientific discoveries, including the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagorean tuning, the five regular solids, the Theory of Proportions, the sphericity of the Earth, and the identity of the morning and evening stars as the planet Venus. It was said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher ("lover of wisdom") and that he was the first to divide the globe into five climatic zones. Classical historians debate whether Pythagoras made these discoveries, and many of the accomplishments credited to him likely originated earlier or were made by his colleagues or successors. Some accounts mention that the philosophy associated with Pythagoras was related to mathematics and that numbers were important, but it is debated to what extent, if at all, he actually contributed to mathematics or natural philosophy.
Pythagoras influenced Plato, whose dialogues, especially his Timaeus, exhibit Pythagorean teachings. Pythagorean ideas on mathematical perfection also impacted ancient Greek art. His teachings underwent a major revival in the first century BC among Middle Platonists, coinciding with the rise of Neopythagoreanism. Pythagoras continued to be regarded as a great philosopher throughout the Middle Ages and his philosophy had a major impact on scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Pythagorean symbolism was used throughout early modern European esotericism and his teachings as portrayed in Ovid's Metamorphoses influenced the modern vegetarian movement.Representation (arts)
Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements. Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.
For many philosophers, both ancient and modern, man is regarded as the "representational animal" or animal symbolicum, the creature whose distinct character is the creation and the manipulation of signs – things that "stand for" or "take the place of" something else.Representation has been associated with aesthetics (art) and semiotics (signs). Mitchell says "representation is an extremely elastic notion, which extends all the way from a stone representing a man to a novel representing the day in the life of several Dubliners".The term 'representation' carries a range of meanings and interpretations. In literary theory, 'representation' is commonly defined in three ways.
To look like or resemble
To stand in for something or someone
To present a second time; to re-presentRepresentation began with early literary theory in the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and has evolved into a significant component of language, Saussurian and communication studies.Rockism and poptimism
Rockism is the belief in certain values thought to be intrinsic to rock music, making the genre superior to other forms of popular music. A "rockist" may also be someone who regards rock music as the normative state of popular music. Poptimism (or popism) is the belief that pop music is as worthy of professional critique and interest as rock music. Detractors of poptimism describe it as a counterpart of rockism that instead privileges the most famous or best-selling pop, hip-hop, and R&B acts.Magazines devoted to the serious discussion of popular music first developed in the 1960s and 1970s, with some formative rock critics suggesting that enduring pop music art was made by singer-songwriters using traditional rock instruments on long-playing albums, and that pop hits reside on a lower aesthetic plane as a source of "guilty pleasure". The term "rockism" was coined in 1981 by English rock musician Pete Wylie and soon became a pejorative term used humorously by self-described "anti-rockist" critics in the British music press, in particular the New Musical Express. Originally coinciding with the rise of New Pop in the early 1980s, the term was not generally used beyond the music press until the mid 2000s, partly due to the increasing number of bloggers who used it more seriously in analytical debate.In the 2000s, a critical reassessment of pop music was underway, and by the next decade, poptimism supplanted rockism as the prevailing ideology in popular music criticism. While poptimism was envisioned as the "antidote" to rockist attitudes, opponents of its discourse argue that it has resulted in certain pop stars being shielded from negative reviews as part of an effort to maintain a consensus of uncritical excitement. Others argue that the two viewpoints have similar flaws.Stephen Davies (philosopher)
Stephen Davies is a Distinguished Professor of philosophy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He mainly writes on aesthetics, particularly the philosophy of music but also works on political philosophy. He is a past president of the American Society for Aesthetics (2007–2008), and the New Zealand division of the Australasian Association of Philosophy (2001).
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