Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work


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Wagner: Prelude to Parsifal. Elgar: Violin Sonata, 1st movement. Sibelius: Violin Concerto, 3rd movement. Rhythmic augmentation. Non-retrogradable rhythms. Bulgarian Christmas carol. Indeed, it is striking that the art form of music seems like no other to attract philosophers from diverse areas of analytic philosophy. One part of the explanation is undoubtedly that, given the love many philosophers have for music, and in particular for classical music, their attention is specially drawn to its philosophical possibilities.

That is, it seems to present some special philosophical problems not posed by other art forms. Often these overlap with or are germane to problems in more general philosophical areas. For instance: musical works are thought to present special ontological problems, and are often of interest as such to the metaphysician; the issue of what it is to experience music as expressive tends to interest those working on issues in the philosophy of emotion; the question of musical meaning tends to attract those active in the philosophy of language; and so on.

The best works in the philosophy of music combine, as the contributions here do, a deep understanding of music with a keen sense of the relevance of more general philosophical issues to the problems it raises. Musical Ontology One of the most prominent of the problems facing philosophers of music is that of identifying what sort of thing a musical work is. On the face of it, musical works present some puzzling features which makes their ontological categorization less than straightforward.

Namely, a musical work apparently can exist as a performed work, or as a score, or perhaps even just as an intentional object, thought of by a composer. It can be performed, or a recording played of it, on several different occasions, and even in several places simultaneously, or need never be performed at all. Meanwhile, two performances of the same work can sound very different to one another. Opinions differ as to what should count as the relevant tokens: they may be construed as particular dateable, locatable performances, or sound sequence-events that is, sequences of sound, located spatiotemporally , and perhaps scores too.

Meanwhile, that two performances of the same work can sound differently is supposedly explained by their being more or less properly formed tokens of the same type. He claims that sonic properties are the only kind of property normative for a musical work, understood as a type, in that they alone can determine what count as properly or improperly formed tokens of it; this amounts to sonicism, in effect. The version of sonicism that Dodd favours is timbral sonicism, according to which the relevant sonic properties normative within a musical work include timbral ones.

He denies, however, that this supports performance-means essentialism, since, he argues, the connection between timbral properties and instrumentation is contingent rather than necessary; thus, though an intended timbral aspect might be indicated by a particular instrumentation, it could in principle be produced via other means. In fact, Dodd suggests, the employment of a particular instrumentation in a work should not be understood as an end in itself for a composer, but rather as a means of specifying a particular kind of sound with particular timbral properties as normative for that work, based on what instruments are available to the composer at the time.

Dodd responds by insisting that the aesthetic and expressive content of a work is a product of its sound rather than its connection to a performance means. He argues that it is possible, with imagination, to hear a piece as played on a given instrument without it being played on that instrument; and that the aesthetic and expressive properties which, Levinson claims, depend on performance means depend instead on imaginatively hearing the work as performed in a certain way.

The type theory of musical works, of which Dodd is an exponent, comes under powerful attack in the second contribution to this section. The type theory is naturally understood as entailing that musical works cannot be created, but are instead discovered; indeed, this is acknowledged by its adherents Dodd, for example. Yet, Morris argues, if musical works are eternal existents which cannot be created, then they cannot be essentially meaningful in the stronger sense just articulated. The type theorist cannot acknowledge that there is anything in a work to be understood in this sense; though she may acknowledge that musical works have characteristic psychological effects on listeners, she cannot think of them as products of understanding.

Performances, insofar as they let works be heard, allow them to be understood. But more than that, a performance only counts as of a given work if the performer understands the work, to some extent. This creates a problem for the type theory, insofar as it purports to be a reductive theory, aiming to specify the relation between performance token and work type in terms of some common property shared by both, without any reference to the work as such. Not all questions of musical ontology concern the nature of musical works per se.

There are equally interesting questions to be raised about how we should think of those musical objects generated by the various stages of the process of composition. Davies carefully distinguishes the class of work versions from others with which it might be confused. First, work versions are distinct from drafts, which predate completion of a work, and pose no particular ontological puzzle; presumably because, at the time of their production, one cannot yet identify what will turn out to be identity-constitutive features of the work, and so there can be no question of such features being altered in production of the draft.

Second, work versions are distinct from performance interpretations of a work: performances of a work which pace Morris reproduce its identity-constitutive features though which may deviate from what is prescribed by the composer in other ways. Having delineated the work version as a distinct entity, Davies examines its relevance as a category to other art forms, noting that work versions can be found elsewhere in the arts.

From this he draws the interesting consequence that, in one sense, paintings and other handmade visual artworks, traditionally thought of as ontologically singular, can exist in multiples. He denies, however, that no meaningful distinction can be preserved between works in these forms and those which are more usually thought of as multiply instantiable: for, while the former can exist only in successive versions since a change in one version signals the end of it and the production of another , the latter can exist in multiple versions or instances simultaneously.


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Finally, Davies looks to the literary arts, urging us to think of translations as work versions rather than transcriptions of the original work, at least insofar as artistically relevant features of the original work are preserved in translation. This, broadly speaking, is the problem with which contributors in this section of the volume are concerned.

As a question about the language we use to describe music, it tends to attract philosophers actively concerned with questions of meaning. Meanwhile, since many think the question is best tackled by giving an account of what it is to hear music as expressive, it also attracts those interested in analysing musical experience, often in terms of other more general sorts of experience for instance, emotional experience of some sort.

It need not take the form of an account of the properties that cause the experience, since, generally, an account of the cause of a given experience need not illuminate the nature of that experience. Better, he argues, to characterize the experience directly. In his paper here, he indirectly defends this view by comparing it to other leading accounts, and showing that, despite some well-known objections, it is not obviously inferior to them.

Along the way, he provides a helpful map of the territory. Broadly speaking, Matravers categorizes prominent attempts to characterize the experience of sad music into two kinds. This can be cashed out in several ways. One such way, roundly rejected by Matravers, is to say that music is sad in virtue of an experienced resemblance to sad behaviour. Another, proposed by Jerrold Levinson, is that sad music is heard by a suitably informed listener as the sui generic expression of sadness by a musical persona et passim. The second sort of answer considered by Matravers focuses, not on thinking of sad music in terms of behaviour expressive of sadness, but 8 kathleen stock on the sad feelings produced in the viewer on listening.

In defence of his view, Matravers sketches out the lines he takes against some wellknown objections to arousal theories. Meanwhile, to accommodate such facts, Matravers suggests that his own view be supplemented by the claim that the feelings sad music induces in a listener can be empathetic or sympathetic.

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Rather, he urges, we should want an explanation of why it is rational for us so to respond. To him, the most promising-looking such account is one which attributes expressive meaning to music. The problem of expressive meaning he then characterizes as that of identifying those properties of sounds which enable one to hear a musical work as expressive of some emotion. The relevant properties are musical properties: those of pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm, and so on. He examines a potential problem for this claim. Roger Scruton has argued that musical properties are not literally possessed by sounds, claiming that they are metaphorically possessed instead ; see Chapter 10, this volume, for an articulation of this view with respect to rhythm in particular.

It might seem to follow, against Boghossian, that we cannot explain the presence of an expressive property in terms of the presence of musical properties. Indeed, Scruton argues that both musical properties and expressive properties are metaphorically rather than literally possessed by musical works, and concludes on this basis that there is no explanation available of why a particular musical or expressive description is apt for a given piece of music.

In response, Boghossian denies that the attribution of such properties to music must be metaphorical. For one thing, he claims, the use of metaphor to describe music must be intentional, whereas the propensity to hear sound as having musical or expressive properties need not be. For another, for a metaphorical description to be applicable to an experience, the experience must possess some literal content, which the former is supposed to illuminate; yet musical experience does not possess such content.

If expressive properties are not metaphorically possessed, then we need not yet deny that the expressive meaning of a work is potentially explicable in terms of some other set of properties. Meanwhile, Boghossian claims, even if musical properties turned out not to be real properties of sounds, this would not compel us to reject his claim about expressive meaning: namely, that a work is heard as having certain expressive properties in virtue of being heard as having certain musical properties.

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For to hear a work as having a certain property is compatible with its not having it. As we have seen, an alternative to resemblance views has been presented by Jerrold Levinson. It apparently would follow from this claim that hearing a work as expressive of E is equivalent to hearing it as being disposed to be heard by a suitably informed listener as if it were an expression of E. Yet, Boghossian objects, it is not clear that the equivalence in fact obtains; indeed, it is not clear how the latter property could be audibly detected at all. In addition, he expresses two further worries.

Unlike Levinson, Ridley is not concerned to argue that such a postulation is necessary to any experience of expressive music whatsoever, and, unlike other commentators, for instance Stephen Davies , nor is he concerned to argue directly that it is not necessary for such an experience. Rather he argues that sometimes it is necessary for full appreciation of a particular piece of expressive music.

This is not simply a compromise position, but a principled stance emerging from his view that any conclusion introduction 11 about what is involved in the experience of expressive music should be motivated primarily by considerations drawn from critical practice in music appreciation, rather than from facts about expressive properties in other objects, or generally. In the most general version of each view, a member of the pro-camp might think that perception of a feature of a bearer whether musical or otherwise as expressive of an emotion E is apt iff the bearer is imaginatively perceived as a person; while a member of the opposing camp might think that perception of a feature of a bearer as expressive of E is apt iff the feature would be expressive of E were it a feature of a person.

In the former case, the postulation of a persona is supposedly prior to the experience of expression; in the latter, it is supposedly posterior to it. Ridley notes that both positions, in such general forms, have little or nothing to say about the nature of the bearer: it might be a willow tree, or a musical work, or something else entirely. Yet this matters, because, although the dispute is usually treated as a conceptual issue, Ridley argues that, for many possible bearers, in fact its resolution is an empirical matter which cannot be decided in advance, since for many possible bearers willow trees, for instance, that might be seen as sad there are no normative constraints governing the precise grounds on which we should see them as expressive, even when we all agree that they can indeed be seen as expressive.

He then turns to music, where, obviously, there are normative constraints governing the perception of musical works, and so where the discussion about whether a persona is involved or not is, to some extent, a conceptual one. Even so, he notes, participants in the debate tend to talk about musical works at their most general level as bearers of expressive properties, without paying attention to the distinctive nature of the bearer in particular cases.

This, he thinks, makes it the case that the debate is bound, eventually, to become an impasse between those who think that the postulation of a persona is prior to the perception of expressive features in a work, and those who think it posterior to such perception. Instead, Ridley advocates paying attention to the nature of a given musical work in deciding whether postulation of a persona is required to properly understand its expressive character. In support of the latter claim, and against generalist accounts, Ridley discusses two pieces of music, one for which the postulation of a persona enhances appreciation, and one where it does not.

Musical Meaning The third section of the volume contains two papers each concerned with musical meaning, in some sense. Meanwhile, in their joint contribution, Tamara Balter and Eddy Zemach address the issue of music which apparently has ironic meaning by presenting a semantic theory of irony, understood as an aesthetic property which may be possessed by many kinds of music, and in many different guises. Robinson accepts a point rejected by Boghossian in Chapter 5: namely, to say that a piece of music has expressive properties is to make a metaphorical claim.

In this, she follows Nelson Goodman. In contrast, she suggests, where a work, understood as a whole, has expressive qualities such as perseverance through adversity, this phenomenon, understood extra-musically, is genuinely referred to by the work. A well-known objection to this sort of view is that the structure of a work must underdetermine what extra-musical features it refers to. Hence, we 14 kathleen stock should say in response to the objection, not that a given work refers to some extra-musical phenomenon absolutely, but that it does so relative to some conceptual metaphor applied either to the work, or to the music of which the work is an example.

None of this, however, forces us to admit that musical works themselves can be metaphors, in a strict sense. They cannot be, since they have no literal meaning to start with. According to them, irony, whether verbal, situational, dramatic, general, parodic, or romantic, has certain necessary features. In this sense, irony is essentially modal. A further characteristic feature of most varieties of irony is iii that the person concerned is caused to think unfavourably of the actual situation which confronts him, in comparison to its projected counterpart.

Hence, on this account, the use of words is not essential to irony: what is essential is the projection of a possible situation against which reality may be compared, usually unfavourably, which is something which might be accomplished by music as well as words. Instead I shall focus on the basic claims they make about different varieties of irony, and about how each may be manifested in music of a certain character. Since music does not have the kind of content that a sentence does, unless it includes lyrics, verbal irony is rarely found in music.

However, it is argued, other types of irony, understanding of which does not depend on understanding sentences, are more frequently found in music, and it is to these that the authors turn next. Broadly speaking, these can be divided into two categories: on the one hand, those in which a possible situation is projected, and which is understood as superior to the actual situation of which it is a counterpart; and on the other, those in which a situation is projected on to the actual one and which is understood as unsatisfactory or deformed in some way.

Situational irony, occurs, it is claimed, when an actual situation is viewed by an onlooker with the thought of an idealized possible situation in mind, against which the former is unfavourably compared. The effect of this is to make the projected situation, and so too the projector, look ridiculous. Meanwhile, into the second category falls parody, and general and romantic irony. A parodic work is one intended to cause its spectator to realize some unpleasant truths about a particular actual situation, by causing her to project an only slightly deformed counterpart which she initially mistakes for the actual situation in question.

Realization of her mistake then causes her to identify the deformation in the projected situation as present in the actual one. In this way, the work powerfully conveys some critical point about actuality. Romantic irony is similar to parody, in that a romantically ironic work is intended to cause its spectator to project a deformed version of some actual entity, so as to mock the latter; the difference being that in this sort of irony, the actual entity which is the target of the mockery is the work itself, or at least, some aspect of it.

A piece of music displays romantic irony where it contains some aspect which is presented as genidentical to some other aspect of the same work, to which it is juxtaposed or in close proximity, and to which it contrasts sharply in order to mock it. Finally, general irony occurs wherever a situation causes an onlooker to project a number of counterpart situations, all of which she considers to be as deformed as the actual one.

In his contribution, Gordon Graham addresses himself to developments in contemporary composition, enquiring, by way of a comparison with our experience of classical music, whether electro-sonic art can be called music at all, properly speaking. Meanwhile, in his paper, Roger Scruton offers us a detailed analysis of a crucial yet neglected aspect of musical experience: musical rhythm.

His answer depends on a prior understanding of the value of music. His is not the claim that the content of music is essentially sui generis; rather, it is the claim that, whatever the content of music, it is necessarily accessed aurally, so that its sonic character is part of its value.

In this respect, it contrasts with most speech tokens, whose valuable properties are only contingently aural ones, usually to do with the communication of information. Graham then moves to discuss electro-sonic art works, understood roughly as composed sound sequences which mainly employ as their basic 18 kathleen stock constituents sounds other than the twelve tones of the chromatic scale. He notes that works in this form are, like musical works, intentionally organized sound sequences necessarily orientated towards the enrichment of aural experience, and not simply intended as a contingent means to valuable non-aural experience: however, he denies that such works count as music, since, in their wholesale abandonment of tones, they differ so radically from existing music.

Such a denial is not meant to entail any particular evaluative stance towards electro-sonic art. This is made clear by subsequent discussion, where Graham gives a partly positive response to the question of whether electro-sonic art can enrich aural experience to the extent that music can, granting that it may share many structural features with music, and may turn out to share expressive features with it too. In particular, he suggests, the production of electro-sonic art allows little conceptual space for performance of it, distinct from composition.

The second contribution to this section is that of Roger Scruton. He grants that the rhythm of a work is often established via its metre, which organizes a work into repeatable segments, and can lead us to hear certain notes within each segment as stressed or unstressed. However, the existence of metre in a work is not yet the experience of rhythm, Scruton argues. Furthermore, within music, Scruton notes, rhythm can be generated or at least enhanced, not just by accents and stress, but by melody and harmony as well. Unlike beat, rhythm can emerge from melodic and harmonic factors as well as metric introduction 19 ones, and the interplay between them, and is a way of hearing a work as moving in a certain way.

An example of ostinato rhythm is that typically found in pop and dance music, where the rhythm is imposed via a percussive beat wholly distinct from melodic or harmonic constituents. Often composers of atonal music are forced to compensate by introducing rhythm from outside, as it were, via ostinato, or some metrical device. An exception here is Messiaen, and Scruton discusses his techniques for generating rhythm internally in some depth. For one thing, he suggests, the prevalence of modern dance music employing ostinato has perniciously narrowed musical preferences towards music of a similar kind.

Dodd, J. Goodman, N. Levinson, J. Kieran ed. Matravers, D. Scruton, R. Wolterstorff, N. Building on this, it must then explain how musical works are individuated: that is, provide an informative account of when we have one and the same work of music and when we have numerically distinct such works. What I shall term the simple view does just this.

This restriction should be understood to apply throughout this paper. However, I see no reason to rule out the possibility that a work could have tokens that were neither performances nor playings. I am unpersuaded by his discussion 86—8 , but will say no more about this local dispute. As Nicholas Wolterstorff has explained 54—8 , granting this latter point is essential, if we are to allow for the fact that a work can be improperly performed. According to a sonicist, whether a sound sequence-event is a well-formed instance of W is solely determined by how it sounds.

Nothing else matters. A properly formed performance of the Hammerklavier Sonata, for example, need not have its constituent sounds produced by the playing of a piano; the sounds constituting such a performance could also be produced by the operations of a space-age Perfect Timbral Synthesizer: a machine that emitted acoustic facsimiles of piano-sounds.

For the sonicist, whether a sound sequenceevent faithfully represents the piece is determined by its acoustic appearance alone. How these sounds are actually produced is by the by. Swimming against a strong intellectual current, I wish to defend a version of this sonicist claim. For the instrumentalist has it that the properties normative within W include not only acoustic properties, but precisely those performance means-properties that the sonicist ignores.

Clearly, if the instrumentalist is right about this, then the sonicist has given, at best, only a necessary condition for work-identity. And my route to this conclusion will be via two claims. It is, I shall claim, the theory that we should accept unless it is defeated. To be sure, sonicism is an unfashionable doctrine. But then again, aestheticians, of all people, should not be fashion victims. The sonicist, we have seen, takes these properties to be purely acoustic in nature: features concerning the pitch and duration of notes, melodic, harmonic and articulational features, and such like.

Such a view, I have claimed is prima facie correct. Why is this so? For two reasons. There is something deeply intuitive about the idea that works of music are pure types of sound-event: in other words, that what makes a certain work that work is simply that its performances should sound like that. And I am not alone in thinking this. Here, then, we have a bare intuition pointing towards sonicism. But further weight may be lent to the sonicist cause by considering how well it coheres with a plausible account of the nature of musical experience.

Roger Scruton describes our musical experience as acousmatic 2—3 ; and what he means by this is that, in hearing sounds as music, we attend purely to the sounds themselves, and not to their causal origin. Scruton believes that our experience of sounds as music sees us detach these sounds from the circumstances of their production, and hear them as organized according to pitch, rhythm, melody and harmony We hear the sequence of sounds as an organized whole, something that develops and progresses, so that, rather than focusing on the fact that a middle C is produced by an oboe, for example, we hear it as the response to the B that preceded it, and as calling for the E that follows it Scruton Obviously, if this view of our musical experience is correct, instrumentalism takes on a hugely uncompulsory air.

For if hearing the music as it ought to be heard requires us to attend merely to its qualitative nature, and not to the ways in which the sounds are produced, then nothing about the nature of our musical experience threatens to dislodge us from the default position that is sonicism. For, as we have seen, Scruton believes the only essential features of our musical experience to be organizational features: pitch, rhythm, harmony and melody.

As a result, he comes to regard timbre as an inessential feature of our musical experience, even though he accepts that it can contribute to musical meaning On such a view, a performance of the Hammerklavier would be in no way defective, if produced on a Hammond organ, as long as the resultant sound sequence had the tonal structure and other non-timbral acoustic properties indicated by its score. In my opinion, though, such a position is too extreme to sounds, instruments, and works of music 29 be acceptable. Indeed, as I shall now explain, it is implausible in itself, inadequately motivated, and subject to a serious objection.

That the pure form of sonicism is counter-intuitive almost goes without saying. Such an instruction is essentially context-bound and provisional, its purpose being that of instructing performers how to produce a properly formed sound sequence given the instruments available at the time. The goal of such an instruction—the production of sound sequences of a certain qualitative character—would be met even if such a sound sequence were produced without such instrumental instructions having been followed.

Such sounds should have the timbral quality typical of sounds produced by such an instrument. It is true, of course, that a performance of the Hammerklavier on a Hammond organ would still be recognizable as a performance of the piece; and this, perhaps, is the source of the pull that pure sonicism exerts over some philosophers.


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A performance using the Hammond organ could, indeed, count as a performance of the piece; but acknowledging that this is so is quite compatible with recognizing that a properly formed performance must be made up of piano-like sounds. A work of music is a norm-type, remember: its identity is determined by the properties that are normative within it. It is a familiar fact that a work may have instances that are improperly formed. After all, that there can be performances albeit imperfect ones of the piece that miss out certain passages, play wrong notes, or misconstrue the rhythm does not show that a properly formed token of the work need not obey the score in these respects.

Pure sonicism is thus an under-motivated doctrine. But it also faces a decisive objection whose origin lies in the work of Levinson 73—8. In the next two sections I explain why such a conclusion is unwarranted. Could it not be argued that this manoeuvre equally demonstrates the falsehood of even timbral sonicism? Levinson, for one, thinks that it does. For this instruction is aimed at a particular constituency—namely, potential performers of the piece at the time the piece was composed—and is wholly in the service of the production of sound sequence-events of a certain qualitative nature.

In short, the score was instructing performers in to use a piano simply because no other means of producing sounds with the requisite timbral features existed at that time. However, since the purpose of such an instruction is merely to specify the tone colour that must be had by a well-formed instance of the work, it is an instruction that can, in principle, be overruled as long as sounds with the right timbral qualities are produced.

It may well be the case, for instance, that Beethoven, had he been given the choice, would have preferred, for whatever reason, a performance of the Hammerklavier on the piano rather than one that made use of a Perfect Timbral Synthesizer. Naturally, saying this will not of itself placate the instrumentalist. One such example is provided by sixteenth-century lute tablature, in which the notation tells the performer where to place his hands on the neck of the lute. But such an example provides no new challenge to the timbral sonicist.

Right enough, the producer of such a score addresses himself to someone holding a lute, but it does not follow from this that a properly formed token of the piece must 34 julian dodd be produced by a lute rather than by an artefact that produces lute-like sounds. Whether he recognizes it or not, how the sounds are produced is only of practical, de facto interest to the composer: an interest in performance means subserves the aim of specifying the acoustic appearance of the sounds themselves. And one reason why Levinson takes this line is that he believes it to be the only position that makes sense of the way in which composers actually think of the tone colours that they wish to see produced.

As he himself puts it: [c]omposers are familiar with tone colors only insofar as they are familiar with instruments that possess them. Levinson 74 To my mind, though, this objection sees Levinson mistake an epistemological fact for a metaphysical one. What she denies is that this connection in thought between sound and customary origin need actually obtain for a performance to be properly formed. In the light of this, pointing out what we all know—namely, that we think of tone colours by means of thinking of their customary origin—is beside the point. No doubt, he is right to point out that composers often conceive of a use of instrumentation prior to conceiving of pure types of sound: double-stopping is an example of this, as is pizzicato.

But, to reiterate, this evident fact does not have the implications for the conditions of correct performance that Levinson takes it to have. Facts about how composers conceive of sounds do not determine which kinds of properties are normative within works. Not much. According to the music-making establishment, then, the value of a performance is not simply determined by how it sounds, but by how it is achieved.

In particular, the performer must demonstrate skill in overcoming the handicaps presented by playing the piece on the kind of instrument sanctioned by the musical community Godlovitch, it seems to me, makes a convincing case for his sociological account of the values held dear by musical communities. But the crucial point is that such a descriptive account of how music-making communities come to the opinions that they do on matters of instrumentation can in no way support a philosophical thesis concerning the individuation of works of music.

That the practice of musicians embodies a commitment to instrumentalism does not entail that this doctrine is correct. To make good this latter thesis we need to come up with sound philosophical arguments, not a sociology of belief. Merely reporting the beliefs embedded in musical practice does not help us decide whether these beliefs are true. As a result, connections that otherwise might be merely contingent take on a different status because they become normative within the relevant practice Within the relevant practices, playing the appropriate instruments is not merely a useful means to the production of the desired result, which is supposedly the creation of an abstract sound structure.

Davies 64—5 I remain unconvinced, however. Authenticity in performance is, indeed, a desideratum, but what sounds, instruments, and works of music 37 I am suggesting is that the features required for a performance to be authentic cannot be simply read off from the score in the way in which Davies suggests. Indeed, at this point he will surely seek to press his claim that the conventions and practices underlying the making and appreciation of music give composers, musicians and listeners an essential interest in how sounds are produced, not just their qualitative appearance.

But the case that Davies presents as an example of such a convention is nothing of the kind, as we shall now see. This claim, though, needs careful handling. Davies argues that such a performance would be a less adequate performance of the piece than a sonically indistinguishable performance making use of a piano; and he takes this to be demonstrated by the fact that we would regard the producer of the synthesized sounds as having cheated in some way.

As a matter of fact, it seems to me that we can distinguish two kinds of case here, neither of which have the implications that Davies believes them to have. Clearly, in this case, if we discovered the deception we would, indeed, regard the performer as having cheated; but, equally, the source of our resentment would not be that the performer had misrepresented the piece by playing it on a synthesizer, but that the performer had, in effect, lied to us about what she was doing. So my point is this: although we could feel cheated by synthesized performances, the fact that this is so is explicable in ways that do not entail the truth of instrumentalism.

At this juncture, Davies may seek to reply by insisting that there is a possible case of our feeling cheated by a synthesized performance that I have not considered, and that does entail the falsehood of timbral sonicism. But I simply deny that we would feel in any sense cheated by such a performance. The performance would be a sound-sequence indistinguishable from a performance using a piano; and it would make demands of the performer that are on a par with the demands faced by pianists. What would there be for an audience to feel resentful about?

Short of simply begging the question, I cannot see a reply for Davies here. There is no case in which our sense of having been cheated by a synthesized performance tells against timbral sonicism. The timbral sonicist is not yet home and dry, however. According to Levinson, the kind of thinking about the determination of aesthetic content that prompted my move from pure to timbral sonicism ultimately commits us to instrumentalism; and so, if he is right, the line cannot be held where the timbral sonicist wishes to hold it.

This piece, Levinson claims, has the artistic property of being virtuosic and, hence, a correct performance of it should have a virtuosic quality too. But, argues Levinson, such a performance could only have this quality, if it made use of a violin: if we did not conceive of the Caprice No. Levinson 77 For Levinson, then, the Caprice Op.

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As for artistic properties, so for aesthetic properties. For, according to Levinson: [t]he aesthetic qualities of the Hammerklavier Sonata depend in part upon the strain that its sound structure imposes on the sonic capabilities of the piano; if we are not hearing its sound structure as produced by a piano, then we are not sensing this strain, and thus our assessment of aesthetic content is altered.

I suggest not. Needless to say, further examples of this kind are easily constructed. So how should a timbral sonicist reply? Two points need to be made at this stage. At best, then, the examples can only demonstrate that performance means-properties are normative within works, not that they are so normative in each possible world in which the works in question exist. In other words, he points to certain features that works are taken to have indisputably, and then claims that works can only have these features, if instrumental properties are normative within such works.

Drums can contribute a pounding or battering content to passages of music; and one might be tempted to follow Levinson b: in supposing that this expressive content can only be fully transmitted if the sounds are actually made with a pounding or battering gesture. To this end, my strategy will be disjunctive. First of all, I shall argue that the kinds of artistic properties to which Levinson appeals are not genuinely possessed by works at all.

When it comes to artistic properties, I thus deny the thesis whose presumed truth supposedly requires the truth of instrumentalism. True enough, a performance may be virtuosic if the performer plays a violin rather than a space-age sound-alike that is easier to play ; but a sonicist will not accept that being virtuosic is normative within the work: i. For, since the sonicist takes the Caprice to be a pure type of sound-event—a type whose normative properties are all acoustic in nature—she precisely repudiates the suggestion that a property concerning how sounds are produced, as opposed to their qualitative nature, can be normative within it.

Of course, if it were true that the piece itself were virtuosic, it would follow that it could only be played on an instrument that required technical excellence of the performer. But it is the antecedent of this conditional that no self-respecting sonicist will accept. It is performances of works that can be virtuosic, not the works themselves. And would not this demonstrate that a correct performance of the former sounds, instruments, and works of music 43 piece—one that preserved its artistic import—would have to be played on the violin alone Levinson 77—8?

But to this we can make what is essentially the same reply as before, albeit with a slightly different twist. Since the sonicist takes works of music to be pure types of sound-event, she denies that they can be analytically tied to instruments, and hence denies that such works can themselves be unusual by virtue of involving surprising instrumentation.

By contrast, a sonicist will insist that it is composers and their compositional acts that, strictly speaking, have the artistic properties concerned. The work itself is a pure sound event-type, and hence cannot have properties such as these. Works certainly can be sublime, craggy and assertive, so a timbral sonicist cannot reply by denying this.

But this conclusion is resistible. Whilst it is true that we must hear a performance of the piece as played on the piano, if we are to grasp the full gamut of its aesthetic qualities, it does not follow that a properly formed performance must actually make use of the piano. A truth about aspect perception is surely this: to see or hear o as an F does not entail that o really is an F. I can see a smile as friendly, and yet the smile be contemptuous; I can hear what is really a cry of surprise as a cry of pain. As long as the sounds produced sound just like those that a piano would produce, it is of no consequence whether they are actually produced by a piano or not.

All that is required is that sounds seem to have, rather than actually have, that origin. However, this second claim is false since a sound can have a honking quality and yet not be a literal—or even quasi-literal—honking. Just as long as a sound seems for all the world to be a genuine honking sound, it has a honking quality; it is not necessary for the sound to be the result of air having been forced through tubes. And such a reply to this case yields a generalizable moral.

As long as we hear the music as embodying a certain gesture, it does not matter whether the sounds have actually been produced with that gesture. Envisaging a case in which a sound sequence exactly duplicates a glissando but is produced by other means of performance, he says this: If this imaginative construal [of the sounds as having been produced by a glissando] is in fact unsupported by performance in the appropriate manner, that is, on a sounds, instruments, and works of music 45 keyboard, and we are aware of this, the resultant effect is not that proper to the music, but rather some degree of cognitive dissonance.

Once this clause is inserted, the sonicist can acknowledge that such cognitive dissonance may occur. But such a difference in perceived expressiveness admits of an explanation that avoids any commitment to instrumentalism. Putting things this way, sonicism is unscathed. For the fact remains that a sound sequence produced on a Perfect Timbral Synthesizer could be heard as a glissando, and hence could have the same expressive content as a sonically identical sequence produced in the characteristic way.

All Levinson has shown is that we might fail to hear a sound sequence as making a certain gesture, if we know it not to have been produced by means of such a gesture; and this need not be denied by a sonicist. Ultimately, then, Levinson faces a dilemma. If, in the glissando example and others like it, he argues that the music would fail to have the appropriate expressive content, if we knew it to be produced by nonstandard performance means, the sonicist can grant such a possibility without damaging her position.

If, on the other hand, Levinson claims that the music would fail to have the appropriate content even if we took the sounds to have been produced by a genuine glissando, this claim would seem to be false. For as we have seen already, sounds can be heard as embodying a certain gesture, and hence have a certain expressive content, even if they are not made with that gesture. All that is required is that the sounds are qualitatively indistinguishable from sounds produced with that gesture. I shall consider these objections in reverse order. A performance of the Hammerklavier on a Perfect Timbral Synthesizer, even if indistinguishable from a properly formed performance on a piano, would be inauthentic, Levinson claims, because it would present us with a severe critical quandary.

In short, we would not know how to evaluate it. As Levinson puts it, if a piano were not involved: we would be pretty much completely at sea in regard to assessing the particular expressiveness of the performance For an important dimension of assessment would have been removed: how have the instrumentalists, given their control over and way of internalising the gestural capacities of their instruments, related themselves, at each turn, to the demands of this music, which is conceived for and referred to those capacities?

It would, indeed, be easier said than done to compare the achievements of an Ashkenazy with those of someone who produced a qualitatively indistinguishable sound sequence on a synthesizer: we are accustomed to the problems posed by playing the piece on a piano—our familiarity with both the instrument itself and the attempts made by pianists down the years give us a reasonably clear sense of this—but until we had a clear idea of the problems and constraints faced by an operator of a Perfect Timbral Synthesizer, any such comparison with performances by pianists would be obstructed.

Having said this, it is far from clear why the existence of such a puzzle would demonstrate the synthesized performance to be inauthentic, i. And, of course, to this latter question, the timbral sonicist has a clear answer: such content is determined wholly by how a performance sounds, and to no extent by how these sounds are produced. The glissando-like sounds express the sweeping gesture, and hence give the music an insouciant quality, even though they were not produced with such a gesture.

Aesthetic substance is determined by how the music sounds, not how it is produced. This objection emerges once the following kind of case is considered. And, in any case, even if an audience could succeed in doing this, a performance that required such a thing of its auditors could not be counted as authentic, and hence could not be properly formed: A performance that enforces mental acrobatics on listeners in order that an intended expressiveness should emerge, which expressiveness should emerge effortlessly and unconsciously, can hardly be thought to further authenticity.

Levinson b: —4 But I have two replies to this reasoning. On the contrary, the audience is imagining these sounds to have an alternative source to that which it knows sounds, instruments, and works of music 49 them to have actually. The audience knows the sounds to be synthesized but imagines them to be produced by clarinets and oboes.

And before we are tempted to look askance at such a phenomenon, we should remember that imaginative engagement of this kind is not unfamiliar to audiences of the performing arts: the way in which an audience imaginatively engages with a play—imagining that the people on stage are in real situations, but knowing the participants to be actors—is another example of the same genus. As I have just explained, knowing that p but imagining that not-p is an everyday phenomenon par excellence.

True enough, for the expressiveness of the music to emerge in a synthesized performance, the audience must employ greater imagination than if the sounds are produced by the wind instruments that the composer had in mind. I fail to see why a synthesized performance of a piece that required this of its audience would not be authentic. All that is required for works to have the content they have is that they sound as they do.

How these sounds are produced is incidental. Not just yet. Works of music have been claimed to be continuants Rohrbaugh , actiontypes Currie , and even action-tokens Davies Ultimately, I doubt whether the arguments for these various positions add up, but making the case for this claim is beyond the scope of this paper. Davies, D. Davies, S. Godlovitch, S. See, for example, Currie and Davies Many thanks to all those who attended.

Special thanks are due to David Davies and Kathleen Stock, who gave me extremely helpful written comments. Kivy, P. Rohrbaugh, G. Walton, K. Moravcsik and C. The second aspect of the simple view—sonicism—is criticized by Levinson in his b, and by Stephen Davies in his 60— Kivy responds to such arguments in his Introduction There is something puzzling about musical works. Musical works can be performed on several occasions, though they can exist unperformed. Some musical works are written, but not all are. The leading response to this ontological puzzlement is to attempt to remove it by assimilating musical works to other, supposedly more familiar, kinds of thing.

I shall call this the assimilating response, and those who adopt it assimilators. The dominant version of the assimilating response aims to remove our puzzlement by denying that musical works are particulars. If they are universals, what are their instances? According to the more reductive answers, musical works are types or kinds of sound sequence; or else they have particular sequences of sounds as their instances.

But this looks like a rare case where Heidegger seems to accept uncritically the kind of ontology which elsewhere including elsewhere in this work he is concerned to make us aware of. The assimilating response is motivated by a certain ontological conservatism. It takes certain kinds of things—generally things with clear spatio-temporal boundaries—to be familiar and unpuzzling; and it aims to acknowledge the existence of as few things other than these supposedly familiar items as possible.

This general ontological conservatism is applied at two points to produce the view that musical works are universals, types, or kinds. And then it lets us accept just those non-particular things which we have general theoretical reasons for acknowledging. I shall argue that this approach is altogether wrong.

Musical works are not types or kinds or universals, and the assimilating response in general is the wrong response to our puzzlement about the nature of musical works. I choose the idea that they are types rather than kinds or universals because that seems to be the best worked out. And I choose the idea that they are types of performance rather than sound sequence because that is less reductionist, and the basic objection I will make to the general view is, in effect, that it is impossibly reductionist.

I will then argue that there are two ways in which the common view cannot accommodate the meaningfulness of works of art. Finally, I will look again at the basic argument for the common view, in order to see where it goes wrong, and I will say something about how we should respond to our puzzlement about the nature of musical works.

The Basic Argument for the Type-Token View I will call the view that musical works are types, of which their performances are tokens, the type-token view. The basic argument for it is that it provides the best explanation of the following facts: i musical works can be heard; ii the existence of a musical work does not depend on any particular performance; iii the same musical work can be performed many times.

Fact i seems undeniable. We might doubt the truth of ii , if there are any performances which can be regarded as musical works in their own right, or of ii and iii , if there are any musical works which are essentially improvisations, but ii and iii remain plausible for the large bulk of what we ordinarily regard as musical works, and might be thought to be essential to anything which can properly count as being both musical and a work. But that relation cannot be identity with any particular performance, because of facts ii and iii. Once we deny that musical works are particulars, it is natural to suggest that they are types.

And when we suggest that they are types of performance, we seem to be able to explain how they can be heard—by being tokened in a particular performance; how their existence is independent of any particular performance—because the existence of a type is independent of the existence of any particular one of its tokens; and how the same musical work can be performed many times—because it is of the nature of types to be capable of having many tokens. Types are individuated by the conditions which things have to meet to count as tokens of them. The claim that musical works are types would be empty at best , if no such condition could be found to unify the things which count as performances of a given work.

What might such a condition be? There is just one natural candidate. In order for a musical work to be capable of being performed repeatedly, it must in some sense bring with it a prescription which indicates how it is to be performed. The prescription can be more or less precise in various ways: the notes and their values can be prescribed more or less precisely, as can tempi and instrumentation—and so on. Let me gather together all the various respects in which ways of performing a work might be prescribed under the crude phrase the notes.

Then we can say that a performance is note-perfect if it meets all the conditions however precise which are prescribed. It seems that the very fact that a work can be performed repeatedly requires there to be such a thing as it were as a note-perfect performance. If we follow this line, it will turn out that only those performances which are note-perfect are really performances of the relevant work.

We could just brazen this out—claiming, perhaps with an eye to fact i , that such works have never really been heard—but we are unlikely to win many people over. This is a variant of the view proposed in Wolterstorff and On this view, to be a performance of a given work is to be a performance of which it can strictly be said either that it ought to be note-perfect or else that if it is not note-perfect that is some kind of defect in it.

We have also—apparently incidentally, though we may claim it as a virtue of the view—found ourselves endorsing a particular approach to the criticism of performances. Fichte and Hegel developed those thoughts to provide a new form of insight into the human condition. The immediate awareness that characterises the position of the subject is, Hegel argued, abstract and indeterminate. It involves no concrete determination of what is known or intended by the subject. If we were pure subjects, existing in a metaphysical void, as Descartes imagined, we should never advance to the point of knowledge, not even knowledge of ourselves, nor should we be able to aim at a determinate goal.

Our awareness would remain abstract and empty, an awareness of nothing determinate or concrete. But as transcendental subject, I do not merely stand at the edge of my world. I encounter others within that world. I am I to myself only because, and to the extent that, I am you to another. I must therefore be capable of the free dialogue in which I take charge of my presence before the presence of you.

That is what it means, to understand the first-person case. And it is because I understand the first-person case that I have immediate awareness of my condition. The position which, for Kant, defines the premise of philosophy and which is presupposed in every argument, itself rests on a presupposition — the presupposition of the other, the one against whom I try myself in contest and in dialogue.

Some of these parables I am reluctant to call them arguments are discussed in the literature of political science, notably that of the master and slave. Many of them convey profound truths about the human condition, and about the social nature of the self. But what interests me is the idea from which they begin: the idea of the subject.

This idea, it seems to me, is the abiding legacy of German idealism in all its forms. And it is the clue to a philosophy of music. My considered view is that we should abandon the idealist doctrine that the ultimate substance of the world is mental, spiritual or in some other way emancipated from the constraints of space and time.

But we should adhere to the idea concealed within that doctrine, which is the idea of the subject, as the defining feature of the human condition, and the feature to which the mystery of the world is owed. Kant argues persuasively in the Paralogisms of Pure Reason that we cannot know the subject under the categories of the understanding — that is, we cannot look inwards so as to identify the I as a substance, a bearer of properties, and a participant in causal relations. To identify the subject in that way is to identify it as an object. The subject is a point of view upon the world of objects, and not an item within it.

Nevertheless, even if the subject is not a something, it is not a nothing either. To exist as a subject is to exist in another way from ordinary objects. It is to exist on the edge of the world, addressing reality from a point that lies just beyond the horizon, and which no one else can occupy. This idea has been beautifully elaborated by J. Valberg in his book Dream, Death and the Self, and I have tried to say a little more about it, both in The Face of God, and in the Stanton Lectures, delivered in Cambridge in and currently available on the web-site of the Faculty of Divinity.

All that matters to us is present to us, in thought, memory, perception, sensation and desire, or can be summoned into the present without any effort of investigation. Secondly, we respond to others as similarly present to themselves, able to answer directly to our enquiries, able to tell us without further enquiry what they think, feel, or intend. Hence we can address each other in the second person, I to you. On those two facts, I maintain, all that is most important in the human condition has been built: responsibility, morality, law, institutions, religion, love and art.

There is a consequence that is of vital relevance to the philosophy of music. What I have in mind is this: in all our responses to each other, whether love or hate, affection or disaffection, approval or disapproval, anger or desire, we look into the other, in search of that unattainable horizon from which he addresses us. We are animals swimming in the currents of causality, who relate to each other in space and time. But, in the I to you encounter we do not see each other in that way.

Our responses to others aim towards that horizon, passing on beyond the body to the being whom it incarnates. It is this feature of our inter-personal responses that gives such compelling force to the myth of the soul, of the true but hidden self that is veiled by the flesh. And because of this our inter-personal responses develop in a certain way: we see each other as wrapped within them, so to speak, and we hold each other to account for them as though they originated ex nihilo from the unified centre of the self.

You may say that, when we see each other in this way, we are giving credence to a metaphysical doctrine, maybe even a metaphysical myth. Moreover, a doctrine that is enshrined in our basic human responses, which cannot be eliminated without undermining the I-You relationship on which our first-person understanding depends, cannot be dismissed as a simple error. It has something of the status that Kant attributes to the original unity of consciousness — the status of a presupposition of our thinking, including the thinking that might lead us to cast doubt on it.

So, why is this relevant to the philosophy of music? Kant notoriously had little to say about music, which he described as the agreeable play of sensations. For E. To see what such philosophers were getting at, however, we have to put aside the ambitious systems that commandeer their arguments and look directly at the phenomena. The first wave of post-Kantian idealism treated the subject-object relation as marking a kind of metaphysical divide, objects on one side, subjects on the other.

In Fichte and Schelling there is a kind of creation myth, according to which the world of objects is brought into being by a primeval sundering of the pure and integral subject. The subject remakes itself as object and so stands in opposition to itself in a condition of alienation. This movement towards division is contained within the very essence of the real.

And it brings about a separation of spirit from itself, comparable to that ascribed by St Augustine to original sin. In Schelling art in general, and music in particular, is engaged in repairing that primordial self-alienation. In art, however, and especially in music, the Absolute is led back into its primal unity as self-identity and self-perception. Poetic and suggestive though that narrative is, I find it impossible to translate into anything remotely approaching a literal truth.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is an important truth to be glimpsed, refracted and distorted, in the glass of idealist philosophy. Properly understood, the subject-object relation implies that we approach the world of our experience in two quite different ways. To objects we apply the canons of scientific explanation, seeing them as held within the spatio-temporal nexus, and moving according to laws of cause and effect.

There is a philosophical question as to how the two approaches can be reconciled, and how one and the same thing — the human being — can be the target of both. But that question is not specific to aesthetics, and demands a general answer that does not depend upon anything we might say about music. The case of music is interesting largely because music attracts the over-reaching intentionality that we direct towards the world of persons, even though it does not represent that world, but lives and moves in a space of its own.

That, so far as I understand him, is the feature of music that occupies Hegel in his far from lucid remarks in the lectures on aesthetics. But it is a feature that is hard to explain in terms acceptable today. Here is how I see the matter. For one thing, music, as it is considered by the idealist philosophers, is only one part of a larger cultural phenomenon, one that is to a certain extent the outcome of a transient social order, and indelibly marked by that order.

The listening culture demands concentrated attention to pure sound, in a place set apart from everyday life, and ringed round by silence. The central event, the concert, has a character that is best understood through the comparison with religious ritual: a collective focussing on an event that is not explained but repeated. I consider some of the implications of this comparison in the last chapter of The Aesthetics of Music, Oxford While we can only guess at the origins of music in human society, it is plausible to suggest that it began with collective dancing and spontaneous singing, in which the whole tribe joined, and that the musician, the rhapsode and the solo singer came later.

But we must always bear in mind that the emphasis on the intrinsic meaning of music, as an object of attention for its own sake, is itself a historical phenomenon, not to be fully understood in isolation from the culture that produced it. Secondly, we must be wary of drawing too sudden and precipitous a conclusion from the fact that instrumental music is an abstract or non-representational medium. Architecture too is such a medium; but the idealists were not inclined to see architecture as having that special relation to the subject of consciousness that they attributed to music.

Music, as we know it, is a non-representational art-form. An art form may be abstract and yet purely decorative, like the art of the carpet-weaver or the lace-maker. Common to Schelling, Hegel and Schopenhauer, however, is the thought that music reaches beyond abstraction in some way: it contains messages which have a special significance since they are not expressed in concepts, and are maybe inexpressible in concepts since they touch in some way on those areas of consciousness which we cannot put into words, but which nevertheless have immense significance in our inter-personal lives.

I take from the idealist discussions two further ideas about music, concerning musical movement, and first-person awareness. Schelling and Hegel both emphasize the special relation of music to time. Musical works unfold in time, but they also contain movement, organised by rhythm and melody into definite episodes. More — and this is an observation that Hegel comes near to making but never does quite make — musical movement takes place in a dimension of its own, in which there are places and relations that have no physical reality. Although there is movement in this musical space, there is nothing that literally moves within it — no note can move from one place to another and still be the same note, and transposition of melodies and harmonies is not, in itself, a form of movement.

At the same time there are forces operating in this musical space — virtual forces of gravitation, attraction and repulsion. There is rising and falling. There are hollow chords and dense chords, heavy melodies and light ones. The phenomenology here is complex and delicate, and I try to say more about it in The Aesthetics of Music. I argue that nothing literally moves in musical space, but that in some way the idea of space cannot be eliminated from our experience of music.

We are dealing with an entrenched metaphor — but not a metaphor of words, exactly, for we are not talking about how people describe music; we are talking about how they experience it. It is as though there is a metaphor of space and movement embedded within our experience and cognition of music. Yet what it describes, the musical movement, is a real presence — and not just for me: for anyone with a musical ear. It should not surprise us that the terms that we apply to music place it firmly in the arena of personal life.

It moves as we move, with reasons for what it does and a sense of purpose which might at any moment evaporate, like the purposes of people.

Kathleen Stock (University of Sussex) - PhilPeople

And that space is ordered by fields of force that seem to radiate from the notes that occur in them. And not every consonance makes a chord — not even if it is composed from the notes of a single triad. A chord, whether consonant or dissonant, fills the musical space between its edges. And it faces other musical objects from those edges.

You can stuff more notes into it, but in doing so you are making it more dense, not occupying previously unoccupied space. Chords have distinctive relations to the fields of force in which they are suspended. They can be soft and sloppy, like 13th chords in jazz — and that regardless of their dissonance.

Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work
Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work

Related Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work



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