1st Edition

Philosophy of Western Music A Contemporary Introduction

By Andrew Kania Copyright 2020
    360 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    360 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This is the first comprehensive book-length introduction to the philosophy of Western music that fully integrates consideration of popular music and hybrid musical forms, especially song. Its author, Andrew Kania, begins by asking whether Bob Dylan should even have been eligible for the Nobel Prize in Literature, given that he is a musician. This motivates a discussion of music as an artistic medium, and what philosophy has to contribute to our thinking about music. Chapters 2-5 investigate the most commonly defended sources of musical value: its emotional power, its form, and specifically musical features (such as pitch, rhythm, and harmony). In chapters 6-9, Kania explores issues arising from different musical practices, particularly work-performance (with a focus on classical music), improvisation (with a focus on jazz), and recording (with a focus on rock and pop). Chapter 10 examines the intersection of music and morality. The book ends with a consideration of what, ultimately, music is.

    Key Features

      • Uses popular-song examples throughout, but also discusses a range of musical traditions (notably, rock, pop, classical, and jazz)
      • Explains both philosophical and musical terms when they are first introduced
      • Provides publicly accessible Spotify playlists of the musical examples discussed in the book
      • Each chapter begins with an overview and ends with questions for testing comprehension and stimulating further thought, along with suggestions for further reading

    1. Song and the medium of music

    2. Emotions in the music

    3. Emotions in the listener

    4. Musical understanding

    5. The value of music

    6. Performance

    7. Authenticity

    8. Improvisation

    9. Recordings

    10. Music and morality

    11. The definition of music


    Andrew Kania is Professor of Philosophy at Trinity University in San Antonio; his principal research is in the philosophy of music, film, and literature. He is the editor of Memento (in Routledge’s series Philosophers on Film, 2009) and co-editor, with Theodore Gracyk, of The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music (2011).

    "Andrew Kania's Philosophy of Western Music is the book that I and my students have been waiting for. Scholarly, lucid, and pleasingly opinionated, it will both enlighten and enthuse anyone with a serious interest in the analytic philosophy of music."
    Julian Dodd, University of Manchester

    "Andrew Kania has pulled off the hat trick of presenting a thoughtful overview of philosophy of Western music, interweaving it with an introduction to music theory, and keeping his own voice clear throughout. The target audience is an undergraduate philosophy class, but the general concepts are so clearly exemplified that this text could easily be used by music-appreciating students with no philosophical background . . . . Kania fairly and fully presents the panoply of analytic music philosophy, with meticulous references and a delightfully nimble style."
    Jennifer Judkins, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

    "Kania’s book is an excellent introduction to the philosophy of music and I wish I had it on hand a couple of years ago when I last taught the subject. . . . Thinking of teaching philosophy of music and need a textbook? Reach for this one." Anton Killin, in Teaching Philosophy