The Musical Representation: Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2007-12-01
  • Publisher: MIT PRESS
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How human musical experience emerges from the audition of organized tones is a riddle of long standing. In The Musical Representation, Charles Nussbaum offers a philosophical naturalist's solution. Nussbaum founds his naturalistic theory of musical representation on the collusion between the physics of sound and the organization of the human mind-brain. He argues that important varieties of experience afforded by Western tonal art music since 1650 arise through the feeling of tone, the sense of movement in musical space, cognition, emotional arousal, and the engagement, by way of specific emotional responses, of deeply rooted human ideals. Construing the art music of the modern West as representational, as a symbolic system that carries extramusical content, Nussbaum attempts to make normative principles of musical representation explicit and bring them into reflective equilibrium with the intuitions of competent listeners. Nussbaum identifies three modes of musical representation, describes the basis of extramusical meaning, and analyzes musical works as created historical entities (performances of which are tokens or replicas). In addition, he explains how music gives rise to emotions and evokes states of mind that are religious in character. Nussbaum's argument proceeds from biology, psychology, and philosophy to music--and occasionally from music back to biology, psychology, and philosophy. The human mind-brain, writes Nussbaum, is a living record of its evolutionary history; relatively recent cognitive acquisitions derive from older representational functions of which we are hardly aware. Consideration of musical art can help bring to light the more ancient cognitive functions that underlie modern human cognition. The biology, psychology, and philosophy of musical representation, he argues, have something to tell us about what we are, based on what we have been.

Table of Contents

Preface: Unwrapping the Riddlep. xi
General Introduction: What Is a Naturalistic Philosophical Theory of Musical Representation?p. 1
The Musical Affordancep. 23
Three Varieties of Musical Representation
The Musical Utterancep. 87
How Music Means
The Musical Workp. 143
From Musical Representation to Musical Emotionp. 189
Nausea and Contingencyp. 259
Musical Emotion and Religious Emotion
General Summary and Conclusionp. 301
Solving the Riddle
Notesp. 303
Referencesp. 355
Indexp. 375
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