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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter 2017

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music

From the book Aesthetics Today
Georg Mohr


Can music be “understood”? Does the notion of understanding make sense when applied to music? In everyday communication, understanding seems linked to words and (images of) objects. “Understanding” works of literary or pictorial arts, therefore, seems to be quite “natural”. In instrumental music, however, where words, pictures or narrative programs are missing, we only can refer to sounds, the form of their succession and the interrelations between their elements (tones). Two issues arise here: First, what concept of understanding fits to hearing and interpreting music in general? Second, if there is no general answer to the question of what understanding music in general means, understanding music might be something different depending on what kind of music we are dealing with.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston