Musical Understandings

Stephen Davies

in Musical Understandings and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608775
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191729669 | DOI:
Musical Understandings

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I consider what is involved in listening to music with understanding and what is understood. In particular, I consider if the listener must follow the work's structure, what doing so involves, and if her comprehension could be inexpressible. The possible relevance of ear training to music appreciation is also covered. I then discuss what the music analyst attempts to understand and demonstrate, along with the testability of analytical claims about hidden relationships. I also consider the nature of the performer's understanding of music and how this is apparent in the manner of playing. This includes discussion of the conditions for and requirements of authenticity and of the scope for interpretation. Though performance relies more on practical than propositional knowledge – on know how rather than knowing that – this does not mean the performer is incapable of recovering propositional descriptions of what she does. Finally and briefly, I consider if and how the composer's understanding of the music goes beyond that of listeners, analysts, and performers.

Keywords: musical work; understanding; appreciation; listening; knowledge; ear training; performance; interpretation; unhearable musical relationships; composers

Chapter.  22664 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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