Musical Expression and Performance: A Philosophical Study

Carl Humphries

This study examines the philosophical question of how it is possible to appreciate music aesthetically as an expressive art form. First it examines a number of general theories that seek to make sense of expressiveness as a characteristic of music that can be considered relevant to our aesthetic appreciation of the latter. These include accounts that focus on resemblances between music and human behaviour or human feelings, on music’s powers of emotional arousal, and on various ways in which music may be imaginatively construed by listeners. It argues that none of these are entirely satisfactory. Then it proposes an alternative account, focusing on what is involved when our appreciation of music as an expressive art is informed by our awareness of it as something expressively interpreted in performance, where the performing in question, which is itself expressive, implies a minimal but actual human presence.



…at last, a satisfactory resolution to the many dilemmas, paradoxes and aporiae associated with the evaluation of music as an expressive phenomenon. [...] As a most reliable, critical, and above all creative solution to a number of problems associated with works of art that have persisted unresolved for several decades, Humphries’ book merits high praise. I would strongly recommend it for its clearly organized, consistently and logically pursued lines of argument, as well as its interesting choice as regards the topics pursued.

Making this study available to the public will, I am sure, bring many benefits, undoubtedly helping to enhance the level of our aesthetic culture generally and the quality of our music criticism in particular, while also testifying to the value of philosophical argumentation that is, at one and the same time, both thoroughly constructed and subtly nuanced.

Dr hab. Piotr Mróz (Jagiellonian University)

first edition
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156x232 mm
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