Music, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M030-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved May 17, 2022, from

9. The value of music

Why do we listen to music generally, besides the fact that a lot of it is enjoyable or heard socially? It has been claimed that the abstract realm of sound that music takes us into liberates us from our everyday concerns as we focus on musical form, expression, development, logic, tension and relaxation, a view that can be traced back to Schopenhauer’s pessimism about the real world (Goldman 1992; Kivy 2002) (see Schopenhauer, A.§5). Others have claimed, however, that the value of music consists at least in part of clarifying aspects of our world, such as, for example, the nature of emotions and expression (Levinson 1990), or in reinforcing messages, or telling us about human nature.

It has also been claimed that the value of music lies in part also in broader things such as developing a sense of community with others (Higgins 1991), as well as having a civilizing effect on persons, shaping their values and outlook. One must also here mention the view of Adorno (1948), whose Marxist orientation led him to believe that music would logically progress to culminate in serial music being the liberating music of the future, and who rejected popular music such as jazz as exploitatively alienating the masses from serious music. It seems clear now with the passage of time, however, that Adorno’s predictions are not just false but also reflect bias, even if there is something to his concerns about music and our broader culture being watered down greatly to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Related questions concern the evaluation of particular pieces of music. Here such features as beauty, expressiveness, originality, development and subtlety seem to enhance the aesthetic value of individual works.

Citing this article:
Trivedi, Saam. The value of music. Music, aesthetics of, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M030-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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