Levels and kinds of listeners' musical understanding

British Journal of Aesthetics 48 (3):315-337 (2008)
This article examines an account of the listener's musical understanding put forward by Stephen Davies. I begin by discussing Davies's "expressibility requirement", according to which a musical listener should be able to express his understanding in sentences that are truth-apt. This is followed by a reconstruction of Davies's argument for the idea that high levels of musical understanding can be attained without possessing music-theoretical concepts. Such a conclusion is seen to follow from his belief that although musical understandings may be evaluatively compared in terms of the concepts of music theory, the listeners themselves can always fulfil the expressibility requirement by employing simple "folk-musicological" terminology. I will attempt to show that this premise is questionable in the light of some central cases of music-structural understanding. I conclude by examining the relationship between Davies's expressibility requirement and the claim that musical understandings are evaluatively commensurable.
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