Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration

By Stephen Davies | Go to book overview

1 Musical Works

Augsburg, 24 Oct. [1777] The evening of Wednesday last was one of the most agreeable for the local music-lovers. Herr Chevalier [Wolfgang] Mozart, a son of the famous Salzburg musician, who is a native of Augsburg, gave a concert on the fortepiano in the hall of Count Fugger . . .there was opportunity to include a fine concerto for three claviers. . .Apart from this the Chevalier played a sonata and a fugued fantasy without accompaniment, and a concerto with one, and the opening and closing symphonies were of his composition as well. Everything was extraordinary, tasteful and admirable. . .all the hearers were enraptured. One found here mastery in the thought, mastery in the performance, mastery in the instruments, all at the same time.

(Newspaper report quoted in Deutsch 1966 : 167-8)

In this chapter musical works are classified into their basic ontological types. I separate works that are for performance from those that are not, and, within works for performance, those that are for live presentation from those that are not. In addition, I distinguish works rich in properties from those that are not. My account differs from standard ones, which tend to assume musical pieces are of a single type. I sketch the abstract theories of other philosophers at the chapter's close. Mostly, these concern whether musical works are particulars or universals, and whether they are best described as classes, types, or kinds. I claim composers and players conceive of what they are doing more in my terms than in those of such theories. This counts for my analysis, because there is an intimate connection between what we comprehend and enjoy in music and its being purposefully designed to showcase the skills and talents displayed by its creators and performers. I describe distinctions between kinds of music that are crucial to their proper appreciation and I identify as ontologically relevant the sorts of things that make a difference to the way composers, performers, and listeners understand and discharge their socio-musical roles.

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