Musical Works and Performances

Musical Works and Performances : A Philosophical Exploration

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What are musical works? Are they discovered or created? Of what elements are they comprised? How are they specified by notations? What makes a performance of one piece and not another? Is it possible to perform old music authentically? Can ethnic music influenced by foreign sources and presented to tourists genuinely reflect the culture's musical and wider values? Can recordings substitute faithfully for live performances? These are the questions considered in
Musical Works and Performances.

Part One outlines the nature of musical works, their relation to performances, and their notational specification. Works for performance differ from ones that are merely for playback, and pieces for live rendition are unlike those for studio performance. Pieces vary in the number and kind of their constitutive properties. The identity of musical works goes beyond their sonic profile and depends on their music-historical context. To be of a given work, a performance must match its contents by
following instructions traceable to its creation. Some pieces are indicated via exemplars, but many are specified notationally. Scores must be interpreted in light of notational conventions and performance practices they assume.

Part Two considers authenticity in performance, musical traditions, and recordings. A performance should follow the composer's instructions. Departures from the ideal are tolerable, but faithfulness is central to the enterprise of work performance, not merely an interpretative option. When musical cultures interact, assimilation from within differs from destruction from without. Even music subject to foreign influences can genuinely reflect the musical traditions and social values of a culture,
however. Finally, while most works are for live performance, most performances are experienced via recordings, which have their own, distinctive characteristics.

This comprehensive and original analysis of musical ontology discusses many kinds of music, and applies its conclusions to issues as diverse as the authentic performance movement, the cultural integrity of ethnic music, and the implications of the dominance of recorded over live music.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 155 x 235 x 21mm | 526g
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous musical examples and line drawings
  • 0199274118
  • 9780199274116
  • 1,270,442

Table of contents

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Review quote

Review from previous edition This is a richly detailed work that demonstrates that the aesthetics of music must struggle with ontological issues, and aestheticians must discuss music beyond the usual paradigm cases. Anyone serious about the aesthetics of music must grapple with this book, and I wager that the next generation of scholars will regard it as an indispensable classic. * The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism * Perceptive, rigorous, and accurate ... For anyone interested in the ontology of art, this is an important book. For anyone interested in the ontology of musical works, this is now the basic book, the one with which you must begin. It presents a clear synthesis of many decades of research and provides a great number of new insights. * British Journal of Aesthetics *
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About Stephen Davies

Stephen Davies teaches philosophy at the University of Auckland.
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