Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music: Volume 1

The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly: Music and Wellbeing
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Davies —94 and Feagin Music is perhaps the art that presents the most philosophical puzzles. Unlike painting, its works often have multiple instances, none of which can be identified with the work itself. Thus, the question of what exactly the work is is initially more puzzling than the same question about works of painting, which appear at least initially to be ordinary physical objects.

Unlike much literature, the instances of a work are performances, which offer interpretations of the work, yet the work can also be interpreted perhaps in a different sense independently of any performance, and performances themselves can be interpreted. This quickly raises the question of why we should find music so valuable.

This entry focuses almost exclusively on work in the philosophy of music that is recent—from within the last fifty years—and in an analytic vein broadly construed. Useful single-author overviews include Scruton , Kivy , and Hamilton Most of the philosophers whose work is discussed below also put the focus here, for at least three reasons. The first is that pure music often presents the most difficult philosophical problems. It is less puzzling how a musical setting of a maudlin text could be expressive of sadness, for instance, than how a piece of music without even a programmatic text could be, since the emotional expression could somehow be transferred to the music from the text. The second reason is that, though the problems are more difficult, the solutions are likely to be more easily evaluated in the pure case.

Just as apportioning blame is easier when one person is responsible for a crime than when the blame must be divided between a number of conspirators, the success of a solution to the problem of musical expressiveness may be clearer if it can explain the expressiveness of pure music.

Though its text may contribute to the expressiveness of a song, for instance, the musical aspects of the song must play some role. A maudlin text set to a jauntily upbeat melody will clearly not have the same overall expressiveness as the same text set to a plodding dirge. Though I have used expressiveness as an example here, these same points will apply to discussions of musical understanding and value.

For a sustained critique of this general approach, see Ridley Given the global prevalence of rock music, broadly construed, it is plausible that song is the most common kind of music listened to in the contemporary world.

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Film and other motion pictures, such as television and video-games, are also ubiquitous. However, it seems that there is plenty of room for further work on the aesthetics of impure music. Whether or not there is anything interesting to say about Muzak philosophically, as opposed to psychologically or sociologically, remains to be seen. 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 two further kinds of necessary conditions philosophers have added in attempts to fine tune the initial idea. Another is an appeal to aesthetic properties or experience Levinson a; Scruton 1—96; Hamilton 40— As these references suggest, one can endorse either of these conditions in isolation, or both together.

It should also be noted that only Jerrold Levinson and Andrew Kania attempt definitions in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions.

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Both Roger Scruton and Andy Hamilton reject the possibility of a definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. The main problem with the first kind of condition is that every sound seems capable of being included in a musical performance, and thus characterizing the essentially musical features of sounds seems hopeless. Defenders of such a condition have turned to sophisticated intentional or subjective theories of tonality in order to overcome this problem.

If one endorses only an aesthetic condition, and not a tonality condition, one still faces the problem of poetry—non-musical aesthetically organized sounds. Levinson, who takes this approach, excludes organized linguistic sounds explicitly a. This raises the question of whether there are further distinctions to be made between arts of sound. Andy Hamilton defends a tripartite distinction, arguing that sound art , as opposed to both music and literature, was established as a significant art form in the twentieth century 40— This is one reason that Hamilton endorses both tonal and aesthetic conditions on music; without the former, Levinson is unable to make such a distinction.

On the other hand, by endorsing an aesthetic condition, Hamilton is forced to exclude scales and Muzak, for instance, from the realm of music. Kania a suggests that it is a mistake to think that music is necessarily an art, any more than language. He argues that we should distinguish music simpliciter from its artistic uses, just as we do in the cases of language and literature, depiction and painting, and so on.

Kania argues that music is. The latter disjunct allows for two indiscernible works, neither of which strictly possesses basic musical features, yet one of which is music and the other sound art because of the complex way in which the former is intended to be approached. In doing so, however, it may be that Kania has slipped back into defining music as essentially artistic. Stephen Davies suggests that an adequate definition would have to deflect the complex nature of music, appealing at least to its intentional, structural, historical, and cultural aspects.

Most theorists note that music does not consist entirely of sounds. Most obviously, much music includes rests. You might think that silence can function only to organize the sounds of music. One counterargument is that an understanding listener listens to the rests, just as she listens to the sounds Kania Another is to provide putative cases of music in which the silences are not structural in the way ordinary rests are. Musical ontology is the study of the kinds of musical things there are and the relations that hold between them.

Recently there has been growing interest in the ontologies of other musical traditions, such as rock and jazz, and discussion of the methodology and value of musical ontology. Musical works in the Western classical tradition admit of multiple instances performances. We might divide musical ontologists into the realists, who posit the existence of musical works, and the anti-realists, who deny their existence.

Realism has been more popular than anti-realism, but there have been many conflicting realist views. I begin with three unorthodox realist views before moving on to more orthodox Platonist and nominalist theories, concluding with a consideration of anti-realism. Idealists hold that musical works are mental entities. Collingwood and Sartre respectively take musical and other works to be imaginary objects and experiences.

The most serious objections to this kind of view are that i it fails to make works intersubjectively accessible, since the number of works going under the name The Rite of Spring will be as multifarious as the imaginative experiences people have at performances with that name, and ii it makes the medium of the work irrelevant to an understanding of it.

One might have the same imaginative experience in response to both a live performance and a recording of The Rite of Spring , yet it seems an open question whether the two media are aesthetically equivalent. David Davies argues that musical works, like all works of art, are actions , in particular the compositional actions of their composers An earlier defender of such a view is Gregory Currie , who argues that artworks are types of action, rather than the particular actions with which Davies identifies them.

Although deciding between theories of musical ontology is always to some extent a matter of finding a balance between the benefits of a theory and its cost in terms of our pre-theoretic intuitions, action theories have a particularly hard row to hoe since they imply that an instance of a work is some action performed by a composer, rather than a performance. In order to make up for such damage to our intuitions the theoretical benefits of an action theory would have to be quite extensive. Guy Rohrbaugh has proposed a new ontological category for musical, and other multiple works of art For criticism of this view, see Dodd — Most theorists think that some kind of Platonist or nominalist theory of musical works is more plausible than those so far considered.

While this view is attractive because it appeals only to the least problematic kinds of entities, it faces serious challenges. Though many of our claims about musical works may be paraphrasable into claims about sets of possible performances, some seem to make intractable reference to works.

For instance, most performances of The Rite of Spring —even including the possible ones—include several wrong notes.

Thus it is difficult to imagine how the paraphrase schema will avoid the nonsensical conclusion that The Rite of Spring contains several wrong notes. The solution to this problem seems to lie in an appeal to the work as independent of its various performances, but such an appeal seems unavailable to the nominalist. For a recent defense of nominalist theories against some standard objections, see Tillman Platonism, the view that musical works are abstract objects, is perhaps the currently dominant view, since it respects more of our pre-theoretic intuitions about musical works than any of the other theories.

On the other hand, it is the most ontologically puzzling, since abstract objects are not well understood. Nonetheless, Platonism has been tenacious, with much of the debate centering around what variety of abstract object musical works are.

The view is motivated by a number of features of musical practice, including the intuition that musical works are creatable, the attribution of various aesthetic and artistic properties to works, and the fine-grained individuation of works and performances e. Davies 37—43; Howell ; Stecker a: 84— In contrast to all these realist views stand those of the anti-realists, who deny that there are any such things as musical works.

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An early proponent of such a view is Richard Rudner , though it is difficult to say whether he is best interpreted as an eliminativist or a fictionalist, the two anti-realist views currently on the table. According to eliminativists, there are no such things as musical works, and thus we ought to stop trying to refer to them.

For critical discussion, see Predelli and Stecker According to fictionalists, the value of discourse about musical works is not truth, and thus we ought not to abandon the discourse despite the non-existence of its subject matter, but rather adopt a different, make-believe attitude towards it or perhaps we already do so. See Kania c, b; for criticism, see Letts In the face of this, some theorists have pointed out that musical works are cultural entities, and thus the methodology appropriate to uncovering their ontological status might be quite different from that of general metaphysics Goehr ; S.

Davies a; D. Davies ; Thomasson , Kania c.

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There currently seems to be as much interest in the methodological questions as in first-order theorizing. For recent examples, see Kania c; D. It might seem that, since musical works are ontologically multiple, once we have figured out their true nature, we will know what relation holds between the work and its instances.

However, since the fundamentalist debate is about the basic ontological category to which works belong, resolving that debate may leave open many questions about the instantiation relation. Would producing harpsichord-like sounds on a synthesizer do just as well? There have been two sources of widespread confusion in the debate over authenticity in performance.

Something may be more authentic in one regard and less authentic in another S.