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Philosophy of music

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Title: Philosophy of music  
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Subject: Aesthetics, Music theory, Philosophy of education, Theory of painting, Aesthetic emotions
Collection: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Music
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Philosophy of music

Philosophy of music is the study of fundamental questions regarding music. The philosophical study of music has many connections with philosophical questions in metaphysics and aesthetics. Some basic questions in the philosophy of music are:

  • What is the definition of music? (what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for classifying something as music?)
  • What is the relationship between music and mind?
  • What does musical history reveal to us about the world?
  • What is the connection between music and emotions?
  • What is meaning in relation to music?


  • Philosophical issues 1
    • Definition of music 1.1
    • Absolute music vs program music 1.2
    • Meaning and purpose 1.3
    • Aesthetics of music 1.4
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Philosophical issues

Definition of music

One common definition of music is "organized sound". There are many different ways of denoting the fundamental aspects of music which extend beyond tones: popular aspects include melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. However, Musique concrète often consists only of sound samples of non-musical nature, sometimes in random juxtaposition. Ambient music may often consist merely 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 on music, leading to broader characterizations.

Absolute music vs program music

There was intense debate over the matter during the late Romantic Era, with the majority of opposition to absolute instrumental-based music coming from [1]

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.

Meaning and purpose

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.[2] Among those to note this stir was Philip Ball in his book The Music Instinct [3] 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.[4]

Aesthetics of music

See also


  1. ^ "Nietzsche and Music". Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Bennett, Drake (2006-09-03). "Survival of the harmonious". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  3. ^ Ball, Philip (2012). The Music Instinct. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  4. ^ How The Light Gets In, 2013. "Music's Mystery". The Institute of Art and Ideas. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 


  • Pinker, Steven. 1997. How the Mind Works. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0393045358.

Further reading

  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1976. Introduction to the Sociology of Music, translated by E.B. Ashton. A Continuum Book. New York: Seabury Press. ISBN 0816492662.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1981. In Search of Wagner, translated by Rodney Livingstone. [London]: NLB. ISBN 0860910377.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1992. Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, translated by Rodney Livingstone. Verso Classics. London and New York: Verso. ISBN 0860913600 (cloth); ISBN 0860916138 (pbk) ; ISBN 1859841597 (pbk).
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1998. Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music: Fragments and Texts, edited by Rolf Tiedemann; translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804735158.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1999. Sound Figures, translated by Rodney Livingstone. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804735573 (cloth); ISBN 0804735581 (pbk).
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 2001. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, edited and with an introduction by J. M. Bernstein. Routledge Classics. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415255341 (cloth); ISBN 0415253802 (pbk).
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 2002. Essays on Music, selected, with introduction, commentary, and notes by Richard Leppert; new translations by Susan H. Gillespie. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520231597.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 2006. Philosophy of New Music, translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816636664.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 2009. Night Music: Essays on Music 1928–1962, edited by Rolf Tiedemann; translated by Wieland Hoban. London and New York: Seagull Books. ISBN 1906497214.
  • Arena, Leonardo V., La durata infinita del non suono, Mimesis, Milan 2013. ISBN 987-88-5751-138-2
  • Barzun, Jacques. 1982. Critical Questions on Music and Letters, Culture and Biography, 1940–1980, selected, edited, and introduced by Bea Friedland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-03863-7.
  • Beardsley, Monroe C. 1958. Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism. New York, Harcourt, Brace.
  • Beardsley, Monroe C., and Herbert M. Schueller (eds.). 1967. Aesthetic Inquiry: Essays on Art Criticism and the Philosophy of Art. Belmont, Calif.: Dickenson Pub. Co.
  • Bloch, Ernst. 1985. Essays on the Philosophy of Music, translated by Peter Palmer, with an introduction by David Drew. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521248736 ISBN 0521312132 (pbk).
  • Budd, Malcolm. 1985. Music and the Emotions: The Philosophical Theories. International Library of Philosophy. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0710205201 (cloth); ISBN 0415087791 (pbk).
  • Budd, Malcolm. "Music and the Expression of Emotion", Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 19–29.
  • Chadwick, Henry. 1981. Boethius, the Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019826447X (cloth); ISBN 0198265492 (pbk.)
  • Clifton, Thomas. 1983. Music as Heard: A Study in Applied Phenomenology. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300020910.
  • Goehr, Lydia. 'The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works. An Essay in the Philosophy of Music' Oxford, 1992/2007.
  • Kivy, P. Introduction to the Philosophy of Music, Hackett Publishing, 1989.
  • Langer, Susanne K. 1957. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art, third edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674665031.
  • Lippman, Edward A. 1992. A History of Western Musical Aesthetics. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803228635 (cloth); ISBN 0803279515 (pbk).
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. 1967. The Birth of Tragedy, and The Case of Wagner, translated, with commentary, by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0394703693 (pbk).
  • Rowell, Lewis Eugene. 1983. Thinking about Music: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Music. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 0870233866.
  • Scruton, Roger. The Aesthetics of Music, Oxford University Press, 1997.

External links

  • Philosophy of Music from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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