Thinking about Music: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Music

Univ of Massachusetts Press
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"This book is for readers who are insatiably curious about music -- "students of music" in the broadest sense of the word. In this category I include those whose musical concerns are more humanistic than technical, as well as those preparing for careers in music ... In a library system of classification, Thinking About Music is apt to be filed under the heading "Music -- Aesthetics, history and problems of," and that is a fair description."--Preface.
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Publisher
Univ of Massachusetts Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 1984
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780870234613
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / History & Criticism
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Musical understanding has evolved dramatically in recent years, principally through a heightened appreciation of musical meaning in its social, cultural, and philosophical dimensions. This collection of essays by leading scholars addresses an aspect of meaning that has not yet received its due: the relation of meaning in this broad humanistic sense to the shaping of fundamental values. The volume examines the open and active circle between the values and valuations placed on music by both individuals and societies, and the discovery, through music, of what and how to value.

With a combination of cultural criticism and close readings of musical works, the contributors demonstrate repeatedly that to make music is also to make value, in every sense. They give particular attention to values that have historically enabled music to assume a formative role in human societies: to foster practices of contemplation, fantasy, and irony; to explore sexuality, subjectivity, and the uncanny; and to articulate longings for unity with nature and for moral certainty. Each essay in the collection shows, in its own way, how music may provoke transformative reflection in its listeners and thus help guide humanity to its own essential embodiment in the world.

The range of topics is broad and developed with an eye both to the historical specificity of values and to the variety of their possible incarnations. The music is both canonical and noncanonical, old and new. Although all of it is “classical,” the contributors’ treatment of it yields conclusions that apply well beyond the classical sphere. The composers discussed include Gabrieli, Marenzio, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, Puccini, Hindemith, Schreker, and Henze.

Anyone interested in music as it is studied today will find this volume essential reading.

This lively and lucid introduction to the philosophy of music concentrates on the issues that illuminate musical listening and practice. It examines the conceptual debates relevant to the understanding and performing of music and grounds the philosophy to practical matters throughout. Ideal for a beginning readership with little philosophical background, the author provides an overview of the central debates enlivened by a real sense of enthusiasm for the subject and why it matters. The book begins by filling in the historical background and offers readers a succinct summary of philosophical thinking on music from the Ancient Greeks to Eduard Hanslick and Edmund Gurney. Chapter 2 explores two central questions: what is it that makes music, or, to be precise, some pieces of music, works of art? And, what is the work of music per se? Is it just what we hear, the performance, or is it something over and above that, something we invent or discover? Chapter 3 discusses a problem pecullar to music and one at the heart of philosophical discussion of it, can music have a meaning? And if so, what can it be? Chapter 4 considers whether music can have value. Are there features about music that make it good, features which can be specified in criteria? Is a work good if and only if it meets with the approval of an ideally qualified listener? How do we explain differences of opinion? Indeed, why do we need to make judgements of the relative value of pieces of music at all? This engaging and stimulating book will be of interest to students of aesthetics, musical practitioners and the general reader looking for a non-technical treatment of the subject.
The scandal over modern music has not died down. While paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, shocking musical works from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, the influence of modern music can be felt everywhere. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalist music has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward. Alex Ross, the brilliant music critic for The New Yorker, shines a bright light on this secret world, and shows how it has pervaded every corner of twentieth century life.

The Rest Is Noise takes the reader inside the labyrinth of modern sound. It tells of maverick personalities who have resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with the purest beauty or battered them with the purest noise, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art.

Ross, in this sweeping and dramatic narrative, takes us from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. In the tradition of Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches and Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, the end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

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