This Independent Study project is, as the title implies, an investigation into any possible meaningful content of pure music; in other words, it is trying to find an answer to the question: What is the meaning of music devoid of any lyrical content? It will attempt to answer this in several ways. First, I will analyze the concept of ‘meaning’, ending up with multiple conceptions, and thereby, ways in which pure music may potentially be meaningful. Also preliminary to the primary investigation, I will explicate Hanslick’s formalist view, and argue against it in support of a cognitivism about musical expressive properties. I will follow with an investigation into expression theories, including the classical theory of Collingwood, as well as contemporary theorists such as Kivy, Davies, and Levinson. I will demonstrate how this may be understood as a way in which pure music can participate in one type of meaning. From here, I will discuss the ‘other side’ of musical expression in the form of arousal-based theories, by the likes of Walton and Robinson. Finally, I will briefly look at Goodman’s controversial theory of expression. I will use aspects of his and Walton’s theories to develop a concept of metaphorically possessed qualities that can be appropriately described as part of pure music. These qualities are representational, but have nothing to do with expression.
Solem, Nicholas P., "Can Pure Music Be Meaningful?" (2015). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 6706.
Aesthetics | Other Music | Other Philosophy
Aesthetics, Philosophy of Music, Expression, Musical Meaning
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
© Copyright 2015 Nicholas P. Solem