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

Learning Materials

The article from GROVE (Oxford Music Online)  Philosophy of Music:

Additional background reading about hermeneutics:

Aesthetics and music:

The Routledge companion to Philosophy and Music:

Check this video about Consolation and Beauty (group discussion at the end of the series)

The complete playlist on Youtube.

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