Toying around with the Idea of Philosophy of Music

Toying around with the Idea of Philosophy of MusicAs a subfield of philosophy, philosophy of music is quite different from conventional musicology. Musicology may ask questions regarding music; but philosophy of music could be questioning the same things but seek to find the most fundamental answer to them. Within the confine of philosophy itself, studies of music are closely related to both esthetics and metaphysics. As such, questions such as the following may pop up:
1. What constitutes as music? Are there specific conditions that something needs to necessarily and sufficiently meet so it can be categorized as music?
2. What kind of relationship do the mind and music have?
3. What kind of things does musical history reveal about the world?
4. What kind of connection do the emotions and music have?
5. What can music do to help deliver meaning? Is it capable of doing so?

See, all of the examples given above seek to dig further deep in; they do not stop just on the skin level. The esthetics of music was explored through examining rhythmic and harmonic organization, both in terms of mathematics and cosmology, in ancient times. This was the common practice to approach music among the Ancient Greeks. The paradigm shifted in the 18th century when exploration of music focused more on experiencing music, which lead to questions regarding the beauty of music and its impact on human enjoyment. Baumgarten is thought to be the pioneer behind this philosophical shift with Kant following the trend. It was thanks to these philosophers’ work that the word “esthetics” changes meaning. The word originally meant sensory perception but its modern-day meaning is related to something pleasing and capable of serving enjoyment of sort. A debate about the ability of music to help human express meaning emerged during the 19th century. This topic seems to have stemmed from the many varieties of attempt made by composers to focus on certain aspects of music only.

Music is thought to be able to directly affect human psychology, intellect, and emotions. Music can both incite passions in individuals who listen to it or assuage their loneliness. Plato noticed this and thought that because music affects the soul directly, it should be regulated by the government. As a subfield of philosophy, the esthetics of music tends to focus more on the presence of compositional structure. However, its concerns can also be expanded to color, playfulness, resonance, temporal dynamics, emotiveness, hypnotism, harmony, and lyricism.