I am currently in an Aesthetics course, and in the process of discussing the Kantian version of aesthetics, I find myself wondering about these questions again:
What exactly is music? What is the object that is a ‘piece’ of music, a ‘work’ of art? And why do we care so much about it, if we do? Why do we think it is important?
Out of curiosity, I wonder: how would you answer these questions?
One music theorist’s thoughts:
What music is, what and how it means, what meaning is, and why we are interested in musical meaning in the first place: these questions are not meant to be answered definitively nor with a commanding transhistorical attribution but posed periodically to keep us alert and honest. […] While interpretation can be framed dialogically to ensure that original meanings and subsequent accretions are neither ignored nor left uninterrogated, the final authority for any interpretation rests on present understanding. Today’s listener rules.
~ Kofi Agawu, Music as Discourse, p. 4
One theologian/musician’s thoughts:
It is probably true to say […] that classical music is not so much dying as changing its social and cultural role. […] for many, classical music has come to fulfill the role that is common and basic to most music in our culture today (whatever other functions it may perform at the same time): namely, managing our mood.
[…] to be true to the Western tonal tradition, it is best to think of music primarily as an art of actions–the most basic actions being music making and music hearing. These actions nevertheless involve things that have their own particular integrity–sound-producing materials and sound waves, the human body, the dimension of time, and distinctively musical sound patterns. […] the actions of music are closely intertwined with a rich and complex context.
[…] it makes more sense to view music as first and foremost a set of practices or activities from which works may or may not emerge. As Nicholas Cooke expresses it, “Music doesn’t just happen, it is what we make it, and what we make of it. People think through music, decide who they are through it, express themselves through it. . . . It is less a ‘something’ than a way of knowing the world, a way of being ourselves.”
[…] making a conscious effort to do justice to the other side of the matter, music’s embeddedness in a cosmos created out of the inexhaustible abundance of the Triune God.
~ Jeremy Begbie, Resounding Truth, pp. 36, 38, 40, 58