In Kathleen Stock (ed.), Philosophers on Music: Experience, Meaning, and Work. Oxford University Press (2007)

Paul Boghossian
New York University
1. I start with the observation that we often respond to a musical performance with emotion -- even if it is just the performance of a piece of absolute music, unaccompanied by text, title or programme. We can be exhilarated after a Rossini overture brought off with subtlety and panache; somber and melancholy after Furtlanger’s performance of the slow movement of the Eroica. And so forth. These emotions feel like the real thing to me – or anyway very close to the real thing. When one experiences them, it takes time for them to wear off, and one gets irritated with the companion who, because not similarly moved, wants immediately to start discussing where to go for dinner. Like many others, I am drawn to the philosophy of music by a need to understand how such emotional responses are possible. How can absolute music move us in the way that it does, and to the extent that it does?
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