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The Philosophy of Music

Theme and Variations

Aaron Ridley

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New and distinctive approaches to five central topics in musical aesthetics are provided in this outstanding book. The topics are: understanding, representation, expression, performance and profundity. The theme of the book is the failure of the orthodox view - that pieces of music are more or less self-contained structures of sound - to account for some important features of our musical experience, and to explain why music should matter to us.

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The Philosophy of Music: Theme and Variations
Introduction - Music from Mars
Chapter 1 Understanding
Part 1.Background
Part 2.Central Park in the Dark
I. Music and Words
II. Paraphrase
III. Paraphrase and Art
IV. Paraphrase and Music
V. Understanding Ives
Chapter 2 Representation
Part 1. Background
Part 2. La Cathèdrale Engloutie
I. Detachable Sounds
II. Cryptographical Conventions
III. Musical Thoughts
IV. Resemblances
V. Putting the Title Last
Chapter 3 Expression
Part 1.Background
Part 2 Cynara
I. The Prejudice Against Song
II. Text and Music
III. Appropriateness
IV. Song as Expressive Music
Chapter 4 Performance
Part 1. Background
Part 2. Chaconne
I. Against Ontology
II. Some Objections
III. 'Authenticity'
Chapter 5 Profundity
Part 1. Background
Part 2. Tapiola
I. The Concept of Profundity
II. Expressive Profundity
III. Outlooks and Attitudes
IV. Two Clarifications
V. Sibelius's Profundity
Conclusion The Other Theme.

About the Author

Aaron Ridley is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton. He is the author of Nietzsche's Conscience: Six Character Studies from the 'Genealogy' (Cornell University Press, 1998), R.G. Collingwood: A Philosophy of Art (Orion Books, 1998) and Music, Value and the Passions (Cornell University Press, 1995) and the co-editor, with Alex Neill, of Arguing About Art (McGraw-Hill, 1995; 2nd edition: Routledge, 2002) and The Philosophy of Art (McGraw-Hill, 1995).


Ridley's book is both an introduction to philosophy of music generally and an introduction to an individual, pungently flavoured philosophy of music. His arguments are lively and provocative, and to boot, he writes like a dream. This is the kind of book that reminds one why philosophy matters, especially as applied to the things we love most.
- Jerrold Levinson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland