The Philosophy & Aesthetics of Music

The Philosophy & Aesthetics of Music

The Philosophy & Aesthetics of Music

The Philosophy & Aesthetics of Music


Edward A. Lippman's writings on musical aesthetics comprise a wide variety of areas and employ both systematic and historical approaches, reflecting throughout his unrivaled knowledge of the philosophical literature on music and his deep understanding of the musical repertory. These essays span a broad range of subjects, from the ancients' sense of what music encompasses to the experience of rhythm in Anton Webern's work. Lippman surveys the physical and physiological factors that condition musical perception, and he explores the effect of sung text in vocal music. In the more purely philosophical realm, he argues persuasively that music speaks in its own terms, not in any formalistic sense but through the symbolic meanings it conveys. The historically focused essays include investigations of the aesthetic thinking of Wagner and Schumann, an endeavor that leads Lippman to probe the sources and drives behind musical creativity. Elsewhere he explores the development of particular musical styles. The Philosophy and Aesthetics of Music draws upon both philosophy and musicology in demonstrating how the interpretation of music extends far beyond the scope of conventional theory and analysis.


Edward A. Lippman's reputation rests most notably on his four books: Musical Thought in Ancient Greece (1964; reprint, 1975), A Humanistic Philosophy of Music (1977), A History of Western Musical Aesthetics (1992), and Musical Aesthetics: A Historical Reader (3 vols., 1986-90). Prefiguring the philosophical-aesthetic interests that they share was his dissertation, Music and Space: A Study in the Philosophy of Music (Columbia University, 1952). Thus he has long contributed to his chosen field of endeavor.

Until his retirement from teaching in 1988, the music department of Columbia University served as Lippman's academic home. Among his other duties there he offered graduate seminars in a wide range of philosophical areas, so courses as diverse in subject matter as phenomenology and the musical thinking of ancient China readily found a place in the curriculum. Under Lippman's watchful guidance, immersion in primary sources — in a profound sense, learning to read — became, for scores of prospective musicologists and music theorists, an essential stage in their training. In this way a historical sensibility might be developed and a vantage point gained from which the newest or currently most popular historiographical practices could be better judged.

Lippman's teaching was able to rely on example at least as much as on precept, for his unrivaled knowledge of the treatises arose from a fine sympathy with the authors' points of view and a willingness to sift the material in search of its underlying meanings. The care with which his writings, too, treat their topics shows just such respectful thoroughness. The ever-contentious bustling on the musicological scene has been powerless to distract him from his distinctive scholarly pursuits; a public display of scoring points with or against his publishing colleagues has held no attraction for him.

The Philosophy and Aesthetics of Music is composed of articles by Lippman that first appeared over a period of four decades (1953-94) in journals and Festschriften, both American and German. These twelve essays exhibit characteristic facets of his work quite apart from interrelated themes. The well-shaped form of his arguments possesses literary . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.