Why can’t I change Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony?

Philosophical Studies 177 (3):805-824 (2020)
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Musical works change. Bruckner revised his Eighth Symphony. Ella Fitzgerald and many other artists have made it acceptable to sing the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” without its original verse. If we accept that musical works genuinely change in these ways, a puzzle arises: why can’t I change Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony? More generally, why are some individuals in a privileged position when it comes to changing musical works and other artifacts, such as novels, films, and games? I give a view of musical works that helps to answer these questions. Musical works, on this view, are created abstract objects with no parts. The paradigmatic changes that musical works undergo are socially determined normative changes in how they should be performed. Due to contingent social practices, Bruckner, but not I, can change how his symphony should be performed. Were social practices radically different, I would be able to change his symphony. This view extends to abstract artifacts beyond music, including novels, films, words, games, and corporations.

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Author's Profile

David Friedell
Union College

Citations of this work

Intuitions in the Ontology of Musical Works.Elzė Sigutė Mikalonytė - 2022 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (2):455-474.
Establishments as Material rather than Immaterial Objects.Frank A. Hindriks - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (4):835-840.
Establishments as Material rather than Immaterial Objects.Frank A. Hindriks - forthcoming - Tandf: Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-6.

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References found in this work

Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Fiction and Metaphysics.Amie L. Thomasson - 1998 - Cambridge University Press.
Words.David Kaplan - 1990 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 64 (1):93-119.

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