Musical Meaning and Expression

Musical Meaning and Expression

3.44 (9 ratings by Goodreads)
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We talk not only of enjoying music, but of understanding it. Music is often taken to have expressive import-and in that sense to have meaning. But what does music mean, and how does it mean?

Stephen Davies addresses these questions in this sophisticated and knowledgeable overview of current theories in the philosophy of music. Reviewing and criticizing the aesthetic positions of recent years, he offers a spirited explanation of his own position.

Davies considers and rejects in turn the positions that music describes (like language), or depicts (like pictures), or symbolizes (in a distinctive fashion) emotions. Similarly, he resists the idea that music's expressiveness is to be explained solely as the composer's self-expression, or in terms of its power to evoke a response from the audience. Music's ability to describe emotions, he believes, is located within the music itself; it presents the aural appearance of what he calls emotion characteristics. The expressive power of music awakens emotions in the listener, and music is valued for this power although the responses are sometimes ones of sadness. Davies shows that appreciation and understanding may require more than recognition of and reaction to music's expressive character, but need not depend on formal musicological training.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 155 x 235 x 26.67mm | 28g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • 4 drawings,
  • 0801481511
  • 9780801481512
  • 836,223

Review quote

"Comprehensive, interesting, and important." * The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism * "The issue most successfully addressed is one's ability to make general conclusions about the response to music, which by its very nature is highly personal." * Choice *
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About Stephen Davies

Stephen Davies is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of Definitions of Art, also from Cornell.
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Rating details

9 ratings
3.44 out of 5 stars
5 11% (1)
4 33% (3)
3 44% (4)
2 11% (1)
1 0% (0)
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