Philosophy and Aesthetics of Music

"Beauty is in the ear of the listener and the eye of the beholder".


In the musical discourse there is no lack of personal (and often strong) opinions.

Opinions are freely expressed about music itself, performances, performers, composers and so on. Often these opinions take the form of (subjective) judgement and criticism.

Judging and assessing is of course unavoidable for example in the case of competitions and/or auditions.  Also numerous recordings and performances are reviewed in papers, journals and on the internet. The giving of "stars" (1-5) is nowadays a current technique of giving a mark. No underpinning, reasoning or argumentation required. The same goes for voting via the internet in television competitions. Vox populi vox Dei?

If we think we have to form an opinion about music and related aspects, we should be aware of the fundaments on which we build our opinions. If we are not aware of those fundaments we should start searching for them. If you think you don't need those fundaments because you are convinced of your personal pure and exquisite taste and intuition, PLEASE stay away from this elective...  thank you.

Our main activities in this elective will be

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Thinking
  • Talking

about Music focused on topics like

  • Aesthetics  (what is beauty or: the good the bad and the ugly in music)
  • Perception (what do we listen and look for in music and why and how do we do it)
  • Evaluation, opinions and criticism (finding the appropriate words or other ways of communicating)
  • Hermeneutics aiming at the (deeper) shared understanding and appreciation of music

Our textbooks will be:

scruton understandingScruton, R. (2016). Understanding Music: Philosophy and Interpretation. Bloomsbury. (Kindle € 13,06      
Paperback € 17,20)







scruton beautyScruton, Roger, S. (2011). Beauty: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Free on ebooks







The article from GROVE (Oxford Music Online) about aesthetics from 1750-2000 in Philosophy of Music part III:

Additional background reading about hermeneutics:


 caputo hermeneuticsCaputo, J. D. (2018). Hermeneutics: Facts and interpretation in the age of information. St Ives: Pelican an imprint of Penguin Books.