Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2006


Philosophers of music have traditionally been concerned with the problems Western classical music raises, but recently there has been growing interest both in non-Western music and in Western musical traditions other than classical. Motivated by questions of the relative merits of classical and rock music, philosophers have addressed the ontology of rock music, asking if the reason it is held in lower esteem by some is that its artworks have been misunderstood to be of the same kind as classical musical works. In classical music, the production of the sound event to which the audience listens is the result of two quite distinct groups of actions. First, the composer creates the work by writing a score. Then, a performing artist or group of artists performs the work, of necessity producing an interpretation of it. Often, the composer is closely involved in at least the first performance of a new work, but even then his or her contributions as a composer are clearly distinguishable from those made as a performer. Shortly after World War II, some classical composers began focusing on producing works that did not require any performance. Using technology developed to record and reproduce the sounds of performances, they began creating tapes that when played back produced sound events that could not be considered an accurate record of any performance occurring in the studio, in any sense. Any authentic copy of the master tape produced an authentic instance of the work when played back. In such “electronic music,” the sound of the work, in an important sense, came straight from the composer, without the mediation of a performing artist. The end of traditional compositional techniques was solemnly predicted. In fact, in the classical tradition, electronic music remains a minority culture. It was a different musical tradition that took up the recording studio as its workshop.





Publication Information

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Included in

Philosophy Commons