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date: 25 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Definitions of music are contested, not least because the notion of definition itself is contested. Rather than define music, it can be more productive to trace how the use of the term has shifted historically. However, this approach may fail to explain why it matters whether something is music or not. Music itself can question the exclusive concentration on discursive understanding of the world. The reasons for this relate to differences between seeing music as an object of study and participating in music. Such differences are also apparent in differences between formalist and other approaches, which are reflected in political stances with respect to music. Historical discriminations between music and non-music (for instance, in relation to language) can also illuminate what we think music is. Rather than just being a philosophical mystery, music can bring its own kind of sense to the world.

Keywords: music, definition, new musicology, philosophy, music and language, observation versus participation, meaning

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