A Philosophical Account of Listening Musically

Paskalina Bourbon
University of Chicago
What is the distinctive character of musical experiences? An answer: musical experience is distinctive because it is of music. I argue, however, that the difference between musical and nonmusical experience cannot be explained with an ontological account of music per se. Instead, we have musical experiences of sounds whenever we listen and attend to sounds in a particular kind of way. I call this special kind of attention “musical listening.” One can explain why musical experiences are distinctive by explaining what makes musical listening distinctive. This account of musical listening suggests an anti-realist stance towards music; there is no kind of thing “music” and no musical works that are its instances. Ultimately, I give a kind of account of music as a function of an activity of listening that more fully explains our lives with music and sound than do accounts that focus on describing the ontological status of music.
Keywords musical experience  philosophy of music  sound  ontology  musical listening  musical practice
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