MUSIC 332 - Aesthetics of Music

Laura Gray

Estimated reading time: 1 minutes

Table of contents

What is the “Aesthetics of Music”?

What is aesthetics?

From OED

  1. Philosophy of the beautiful or of art
  2. Systems of principles for the appreciation of the beautiful
  3. The distinctive underlying principles of a work of art or a genre
  4. The works of an artist, the arts of a culture, etc

Origins of the word: from Greek, “to perceive sensuously” (with the senses)/sensory perception

Term “Aesthetics” first explicitly used ~1750: OED 1770. Modern term, age of rationalism

What is the Aesthetics of Music?

Many definitions:

  • Lydia, Geohr, Grove article, “Philosophy of Music, III: Aesthetics, 1750-2000,” 2001: = “theoretical reflections on the status of music as an art and as a form of meaningful articulation”
  • 1750: paradigm shift:
    • music’s autonomy from function, language, religion
    • status as a fine art
  • Connection with Philosophy
    • but an area of inquiry with an establish history within the study of/discipline of music
    • broader context in which we examine the nature of, and seek meaning, in music

Our approach

Can we take a general aesthetics of art and apply it to music?

  • principles & questions that apply to all of the arts; artistic movements
  • music’s special attributes (technical language, performing art, occurs in time)
  • music’s changing identity: not always considered an art

Chronological approach

  • aestheticians/theorists building on work of predecessors
  • concerns/questions/obsessions of their time

Broad approach: tendencies in different periods (sociological, political, artistic, technological, scientific…)

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